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Keywords:

  • domestication;
  • domestic goose;
  • histological analysis;
  • identification;
  • medullary bone;
  • zooarchaeological remains

Abstract

The ideal indicator of domestic individuals is the presence of traits that must appear in the first generation of the domestic lineage. Most wild geese are migratory, breeding in the subarctic zone and wintering in the temperate zone. If goose remains from archaeological sites in a non-breeding region are from individuals shown to have died during the breeding season, the bones are likely to be from domestic birds. Medullary bone is secondary woven bony tissue formed in the marrow cavity of breeding female birds. It develops 1 or 2 weeks before the first egg is produced and disappears 1 or 2 weeks after egg production. As wild geese remain in their breeding regions for about 3 months after egg production, medullary bone would be expected to disappear before birds arrive at the stopover and wintering areas. Therefore, the presence of medullary bone in goose remains found in non-breeding regions would be a reliable indicator of domestic birds. In this study, we examined goose (Anserini spp.) remains from 15 archaeological sites in Japan (3400 bc to 1912 ad) using binocular observation and histological analysis. We found medullary bone in two femora from the Oranda–shokan–ato site (1650–1850 ad). The results indicate that the two femora were from domestic geese. By using secondary bone as an indicator of the domesticity of geese, knowledge regarding the origins of domestic geese can be expanded, and the morphological and/or genetic changes, as well as the domestication process, can be revealed. According to the literature, domestic geese were kept in Japan from the early eight century ad and were popular after the 17th century ad. The scarcity of medullary bone in the samples can be explained by the small number of domestic geese in Japan and/or by butchering practices that excluded the eating of breeding female geese. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.