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FACT: Before humans ate chickens, we treasured them as exotic pets
By Rachel Feltman
This fact started with an article called “How a Shipping Mistake 100 Years Ago Launched the $30 Billion Chicken Industry” by Kenny Torrella on Vox, which is as wild and interesting as it sounds. But in an effort to not just copy this fantastic report, I decided to pull some random facts from further back in chicken history. My mind is blown.
It turns out that the origin of domesticated chickens is highly disputed. Until recently, it was widely accepted that people were keeping jungle birds in Asia as far back as 10,000 years. However, there was no evidence of killing that long ago, so some suggested the birds were bred for cockfighting, not eating. The oldest signs of chicken bones that people had slaughtered and eaten came from the ancient city of Maresha, which is located in the Judean Lowlands and stood at the crossroads of the trade routes from Egypt and Jerusalem during the Age of Darkness. Iron, peaking between 400 and 200 BC.
But in 2022, an international group of researchers called it missing. They used radiocarbon dating to confirm the ages of 23 of the first proposed chicks found in western Eurasia and northwestern Africa. In addition to discovering that many bones were younger than previously thought, the researchers also showed that those 10,000-year-old cockfighting bones were actually from pheasants.
According to the new analysis, the oldest bones of a definitive domestic chicken have been found in central Thailand, dating to between 1650 B.C. C. and 1250 a. c.
Based on the timing, which coincides with the rise of rice and millet cultivation in the dry fields of that region, the researchers believe that domestication could have started when a few jungle birds were lured down from the trees to human settlements. by the abundance of free grain. – kind of like the way the tamer wolves began to haunt human campfires.
But we know, based on archaeological evidence, that people didn’t start eating chicken meat for hundreds of years. And according to the new study, as domesticated birds spread across Asia and then throughout the Mediterranean along routes used by early Greek, Etruscan and Phoenician sea traders, there was a clear pattern of birds arriving several centuries before people began eating them.
At early sites in Southeast Asia, partial or complete skeletons of adult chickens were found placed in human graves. And in Europe, several of the earliest chickens, from around 50 B.C. C. until 100 d. C., were buried alone or in human graves and show no signs of having been sacrificed. One chicken in the grave even showed evidence of a healed broken leg, suggesting that someone lovingly cared for it during its lifetime.
The researchers argue that these domesticated jungle birds would have been some of the most colorful and friendliest birds people have ever encountered, making them a species of domestic parrot. So even if cultures didn’t actively revere them, it would have been understandable for them to be seen as exotic, cute, and great to keep.
During the rise of the Roman Empire, we know that eggs became an extremely popular snack. It appears that the widespread adoption of chicken meat as a human food likely followed naturally from that industry. In England, chickens were not eaten regularly until around 1700 years ago, and that was in urban and military sites influenced by Roman occupation.
Fast-forward through the shipping error that started it all and a deliciously bizarre competition to raise the best chicken possible, and we arrive at the modern poultry industry. It’s not… great. Here’s what to look for on labels if you want to ensure your chicken is raised as ethically as possible.
FACT: Women’s clothing sizing is based on a lot of nonsense.
By Heather Radke
From the beginning of my book’s research, I was sure that eugenicists must have had something to say about buttocks. After all, they were obsessed with bodies, and obsessed with putting bodies in hierarchies. Buttocks are complex and tense symbols, and when American eugenics became massively popular in the early 20th century, they became widely associated with racial categorization and female fertility, both major concerns of the eugenics movement. However, despite my certainty, it took me a long time to find the connection between butts and eugenics. I read histories of eugenics, talked to archivists, and finally interviewed a woman named Kate O’Connor, who was a doctoral student at the University of Michigan studying the history of sterilization. It was in my interviews with Kate that I learned of two statues, named Norma and Norman. The statues were created by a gynecologist and sculptor and were meant to be representations of the more normal American man and woman: representations of bodies and butts that were averagely perfect. To achieve this ideal for Norman, the creators pulled data from the military and were able to relatively easily create a sculpture of an “ordinary American male.” Norma turned out to be a much more complicated project. At first, it appeared that there was no data set that offered a similar set of statistics for women as the military data for men. But then the sculptor and gynecologist came across a WPA project, put together by a woman named Ruth O’Brien, that was designed to solve a century-old problem: the fit of women’s clothing. O’Brien had been trying to create standardized sizes for women’s ready-to-wear. She sent “measuring teams” across the United States to measure thousands of women in order to design a sizing system that would fit as many women as possible. The squads took dozens of measurements and wrote them all down for submission to O’Brien in Washington, with one exception. O’Brien had instructed everyone to rule out data on non-white women. Her size chart excluded women of color. For the gynecologist and the sculptor, both committed eugenicists, this exclusion was a feature, not a bug: they were only interested in representing more normal white women. And that is exactly what they did. They made a sculpture of the most normal woman with the most normal butt and put it on display at the American Museum of Natural History.
FACT: Parrots seem to really enjoy video conferencing with other parrots.
By Chelsey B Coombs
Pet loneliness is a big problem because humans simply can’t be there for their animals 24/7. There are more than 20.6 million parrots kept as pets in the US, but they often don’t enrich themselves enough as they would in the wild with a flock. That can lead to negative behaviors like pacing, excessive sleeping and vocalizing, feather plucking, and even self-mutilation.
So scientists from North Eastern University, the MIT Media Lab, and the University of Glasgow decided to create and test a parrot-to-parrot video calling system to find out if that could help.
During the introductory phase, the birds learned to use a bell to ask their keepers to video chat with other birds using Facebook Messenger. In the main phase of the study, a group of birds and owners would schedule a three-hour window in which everyone would be available to make and receive calls. During that time the doorbell and phone or tablet would go out, and the parrots could choose which of the other birds they wanted to call.
And it ended up being a real hit! 100% of participating keepers said they believed their birds had had at least a moderately positive experience, with some birds even learning new bird behaviors they had never known before. And while all of these calls were still facilitated by keepers, this study could help inform new technology that would allow parrots to video call their friends whenever they wanted.