New fossil evidence suggests that humans developed a taste for domesticated pork about 500 years earlier than anticipated, according to Ben Krause-Kyora, an archreologist and biochemist at Christian Albrechts University in Germany. Krause-Kyora came to his conclusion after examining DNA from bones and teeth of 63 pigs found at Ertebølle settlements in northern Germany, which showed that some of the pigs were “domesticated animals that had both Near Eastern and European ancestry and which were similar to pigs bred by Neolithic farmers living in central Europe.”
The Ertebølle were Meslothic hunter-gathers who lived in southern Scandanvia as well as the Baltic region and Northern Germany and Holland between 5300-3950 BC, and believed to get most of their food sources from the sea.
"This is really the first evidence that we have for the Ertebølle culture having domesticated animals at this early date," said exclaimed Krause-Kyora. However, there is no way of telling whether they captured the animals or obtained them through trade with other cultures.
He did note, however that the fossils showed that the teeth and bones of the domesticated swine were smaller than those of boars living in northern Germany at the time.
“This size reduction is characteristic of the first phase of domestication for many species,” clarified Almut Nebel, a molecular biologist at Christian-Albrechts-University, who co-wrote the study.
The pair now plan to use DNA sequencing to compare the genomes of the ancient pigs against the genomes of modern breeds to determine more information on how their domestication evolved.