Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Thursday, August 02, 2012

UNE research illuminates the spread of the humble chook

This has been a sadly neglected blog over recent months. Looking back, my posting really collapsed last September. I won't apologise. There were reasons for the collapse. However, slowly, my historical work has got underway again. This post deals with the story of the humble chook.

Recently, my train reading has been David Christian's Maps of time: an introduction to big history (University of California Press, paperback, 2005). There one of David's themes has been the domestication of birds and animals, including the humble chook.  

Following this, I was fascinated to read that Dr Alice Storey, an archaeologist at the University of New England, has been tracing the global migration routes of domestic chickens back through thousands of years towards their origins in the jungles of South-east Asia. The story of her work is covered in Tracing the “great, great grandmothers” of the chicken world. This includes a link through to the academic journal article on which the UNE press release is based.

The spread across the Pacific is fascinating for the sheer romance of the journeys involved. Did you know that after the Easter Islanders wiped out their environment, this story comes from David Christian rather than the article, their diet was essentially reduced to two foodstuffs of which chook was one? Even fish was beyond their reach since having cut down all the trees they could no longer build boats!  

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