Ancient DNA rejects the Phoenicians as the first to introduce donkeys into the Iberian Peninsula – University of Copenhagen

GeoGenetics > News > Ancient DNA rejects th...

19 August 2013

Ancient DNA rejects the Phoenicians as the first to introduce donkeys into the Iberian Peninsula

Researchers from the Orlando Group and colleagues in Portugal and France have combined morphological analyses and next-generation sequencing of ancient DNA molecules to confirm the presence of donkeys (Equus asinus) in the Iberian Peninsula almost 1500 years earlier than previously thought.

An equid tooth radiocarbon dated to the Chalcolithic (or Copper age) ca. 2340-2060 years BC found in the fortified site of Leceia, Portugal, was rejected as belonging to horses (Equus caballus) or wild asses (Equus hydruntinus), the only two species known previously to be present in the Iberian Chalcolithic. Instead the sample unambiguously clustered in phylogenetic analyses with both African Nubian wild asses and domestic donkeys.

Phoenicians are known to have introduced domestic donkeys into the Iberian Peninsula 900-750 years BC. These new findings show that donkeys were already introduced 1500 years prior to this, suggesting earlier introduction routes, possibly from North Africa. This is in line with recent archaeological ivory findings in Iberia supporting trade at that time.

This work has been recently published online in Journal of Archaeological Science

Photo: African wild asses. (Photo by: Terry Costales, bcx.org).