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Study finds link between ancient and current domesticated goat populations

06 July 2018

A recent study, with contributions from the Groningen Institute of Archaeology (GIA), will have their results published in the major academic journal Science, this Friday 6 July, 2018. Canan Çakırlar, Head of Groningen’s Zooarchaeology Lab, contributed to the genetic study, which investigates the process of goat domestication in Southwest Asia, attempting to find the link to the current goat population in Europe, and highlighting early selected genes. At GIA, Çakırlar and others conduct research on the early development of farming in the Netherlands and Turkey, providing to significant results in the field of Archaeology.


Mammals domesticated in Southwest Asia (a.k.a. Middle East) ca 10,000 years ago are still major parts of our diet, landscape, and culture. How did domestication happen at all? Did it happen once or multiple times? To address these questions, Çakırlar and the team obtained the genetic data from ancient goat remains from various archaeological sites in Southwest Asia and the Balkans. Genetic analysis determined that these archaeological goats were domesticated in a dispersed process, scattered over the various regions of the Fertile Crescent. This resulted in genetically and geographically-distinct goat populations. These ancient goat populations are the ancestors to the goats we see in all over the world today. Importantly, the team also detected evidence for early selection within the goat population for traits including pigmentation, stature, reproduction, milking and response to dietary change.

Çakırlar received her PhD from Tübingen University in 2007 and held post-doctoral positions at the Smithsonian Institution and the Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences prior to her appointment at the UG as lecturer in Zooarchaeology and director of Zooarchaeology at the Groningen Institute of Archaeology in 2013. She studies how humans and other animals interacted with each other in the past using archaeological animal bones, and supervises three PhD students working in this field of research at the UG. She has published extensively on how farm animals such as pigs and cattle came to Europe from the Middle East 9000 years ago and how they change along the way. Çakırlar collaborates closely with paleogeneticists and biochemists to reconstruct rich and accurate narratives of our multi-species past. She has been an elected member of the International Council of Archaeozoology since 2010.

More information
Canan Çakırlar
Groningen Institute of Archaeology

Last modified:06 February 2019 2.49 p.m.

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