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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2023 / Using ancient DNA to identify Bos primigenius in ancient cattle remains from Belgium

Gontran Sonet, Thierry Backeljau, Anton Ervynck, Mietje Germonpré, Quentin Goffette, Carl Vangestel, and Bea De Cupere (2023)

Using ancient DNA to identify Bos primigenius in ancient cattle remains from Belgium

In: The Abstracts Book of the SMBE23 Congress - Entangled histories: insights into the evolution of humans and their domesticates through paleogenomics, 23-27/07/2023, Ferrara (Italy), pp. 339.

Aurochs (Bos primigenius) are the wild ancestors of the domesticated taurine cattle (Bos taurus). During the Holocene, populations of aurochs gradually declined until their extinction at the turn of the 17th century. DNA data suggest that domestic cattle in Europe descended from Near East aurochs that were domesticated and brought to Europe by the first farmers during the Neolithic period. Hybridization occurred more recently in Europe between domestic cattle and local wild aurochs. Most aurochs can be distinguished from domestic cattle osteometrically, but large-sized domestic cattle may be misidentified as aurochs. Based on mitochondrial DNA, most European aurochs differ from domestic cattle (haplogroup “P” versus “T”). With the aim to provide new data on the former distribution of aurochs in Europe, we used mitochondrial DNA to identify large bovid bones attributed to aurochs and dating from Epipaleolithic to medieval times. DNA was extracted from the bones of 11 specimens from Belgium in an ancient DNA lab. Shotgun DNA sequencing provided raw reads comprising 0.02-10% of endogenous DNA. For three samples, reads covered 74-98% of the bovid mitochondrial genome and enabled the identification of one aurochs from the Bronze Age (haplogroup “P”) and two cows from Roman and medieval times (haplogroup “T”). Among the other samples (covering 2-18% of the mitogenome), three Roman specimens could be assigned to the haplogroup “T” based on a few diagnostic positions. This study provides the first mitogenomic data for a Belgian aurochs and contributes to the identification of exceptionally large Roman bovid remains.
RBINS Collection(s), Open Access, PDF available, Abstract of an Oral Presentation or a Poster