Chickens were first commercialized in ancient Israel, researchers say

A red junglefowl. Credit: Dibyendu Ash via Wikimedia Commons.

( Chickens were first commercialized in southern Israel during the Hellenistic period around 2,300 years ago, according a study published by researchers from the University of Haifa.

“Chicken remains found from the Hellenistic period (4th century BCE) in the Judean lowlands shed light on the beginnings of this economic revolution, and show the earliest evidence of the western world’s large-scale industrial poultry,” the university said, the Jerusalem Post reported. 

The domesticated chicken is descended primarily from the red junglefowl from Asia at least 7,400 years ago and were brought to the Middle East around 5,000 years ago, although they were considered exotic and primarily used for worship and cockfights. 

According to the university, “Globalization that characterized the Hellenistic regime in our region, compounded with developments in international science and commerce, created the right conditions for change in the status of the rooster to generate income, and serve as food.”

Researchers Profs. Ayelet Gilboa and Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa unearthed large quantities of chicken bones near the Judean town of Lakhish. Along with signs of fire and slaughter, the bones indicate that the chickens were also eaten at the site.

“The large quantity of bones reinforces the assumption that some of the major industries used the chickens for export,” the researchers said. 

Researchers also found evidence that female chickens were raised to produce mass quantities of eggs. Similar chicken facilities did not reach Europe for another two centuries. 

Posted on July 21, 2015 .