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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Kunga was a status symbol long before purebreds existed.

In ancient Mesopotamia 4,500 years ago, long before horses arrived in the region, another energetic member of the horse family, the kunga, played a major role in pulling four-wheeled wagons into battle.

Archaeologists suspected that these animals – depicted in art, their sale recorded in cuneiform, their bodies sometimes resting in rich burials – were the result of some kind of crossbreeding. But the evidence was lacking.

On Friday, a team of researchers reported in the journal Science Advances more than a decade of research, concluding that ancient DNA studies showed that kunga was a cross between a female donkey (Equus Africanus asinus) and a male Syrian wild donkey (Equus hemionus hemippus).

The researchers found that kunga is the first known example of a human-made hybrid of two species that goes far beyond traditional animal domestication processes.

Eva-Maria Geigl, an ancient genome specialist at the University of Paris and one of the scientists who conducted the study, said kung breeding was actually “early bioengineering” that evolved into a kind of ancient biotech industry.

Like mules, which are hybrids of horses and donkeys that were created much later, kungs were sterile. Each new kunga was a unique mating of a wild stallion and a donkey.

The stallions had to be captured and kept in captivity, despite being very aggressive, as evidenced by contemporary records. Dr Geigl said the zoo director in Austria, where the last captive Syrian wild donkeys died, described them as “enraged”. Archaeological evidence shows that the breeding center at Nagar (now Tell Brak, Syria) sent young Kungs to other cities. They were prized animals, status symbols, and were used in war and military ceremonies.

According to Dr Geigl, the kungas maintained their high status for at least 500 years. Horses appeared about 4000 years ago to take their place in battles and ceremonies and to contribute to the creation of other hybrids. Until the current study, the oldest known hybrid was a mule from Turkey, which lived 3,000 years ago. Members of the same team reported this find in 2020.

The research team had to deal with the very poor preservation of fossils from the desert areas, but they used a variety of methods to study the ancient DNA. Laurent Franz, a palaeogenomics expert at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, who was not involved in the study, said that despite these difficulties, “the results were very compelling,” showing that people were “experimenting with hybrid equids long before the arrival of the horse.”

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Fiona Marshall, an archaeologist at Washington University in St. Louis who has researched donkeys’ prehistory and domestication, said the study was “extremely important” in part because it showed breeders had clear intentions. The early process of domestication was always nebulous—probably part accident, part human intervention—but this study showed what the ancient Syrians were aiming for.

“People wanted the qualities of a wild animal,” she said. Donkeys may have been more tame than their African wild donkey ancestors, but breeders in Mesopotamia wanted strength and speed—and perhaps size—from other wild donkeys. Although the last known living examples of the Syrian wild ass were very small, a little over three feet at the withers, older animals of the same species were larger.

Dr. Geigl, who collaborated on the study with Thierry Grange of the University of Paris, E. Andrew Bennett, now at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, Jill Weber of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, and others. said the team sequenced DNA from numerous sources, including modern donkeys, horses and several species of wild donkeys, as well as museum specimens.

Of particular importance were the bones of 44 kungs buried in a rich burial in Syria called Umm el-Marra. These skeletons had previously led Dr. Weber and others to the hypothesis that they were hybrids and that they were the kungs described in tablets and represented in art.

There were bite marks on their teeth, indicating that they were being fed a special diet. The new study used the DNA of these kungs to compare with other species and determine that these animals, as expected, were the result of the breeding of female donkeys and male Syrian wild donkeys.

The research team also sequenced the DNA of a Syrian wild donkey found at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, an 11,000-year-old site where people used to gather for purposes still being studied, and the last two animals of the species kept in a zoo in Turkey. Vein.

This is a species that no longer exists. According to Dr. Bennett, it is impossible to recreate kungu. Of course, donkeys are plentiful, but the last known Syrian wild donkeys died in the late 1920s. One was shot in the wild and the other died at a zoo in Vienna.

“The recipe for kung has been unknown for thousands of years,” said Dr. Bennett. “And we finally deciphered it even 100 years after one element died out.”

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
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