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Early Mexicans May Have Bred Rabbits and Hares in Ancient Times

Aug 19, 2016 04:44 AM EDT
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A study published this week in journal PLOS ONE reveals that early Mexican civilization may have bred rabbits and hares for food, fur and bone tools.

According Science Daily, Teotihucuan is a pre-Hispanic civilization that existed from A.D. 1 to 600. Archeologists found that there were already evidence of animal butchering and a rabbit sculpture found in the middle of the Teotihuacan's ruins.

Animal husbandry is one of the keys in the development of complex human societies but Mesoamerica lacks large mammals fit for husbandry. Thus, it is possible that wild rabbits can be likely candidates for food and other necesities. Because of this notion, scientists from the University of California, San Diego led by Andrew Somerville set out to find evidence of animal husbandry of much smaller mammals in the ancient city.

Researchers studied carbon and oxygen isotope levels in 134 rabbits and hare bone specimens that were discovered in Teotihuacan. Results of the isotope levels are then evaluated in 13 modern wild specimens from Central Mexico, UPI reports. This is done because there is a need to compare the potential diets and ecology of the specimens.

Teotihicuan rabbit and hare specimens' carbon isotope values specify that the animals had a high number of crops such as maize in their diet. Even though Teotihicuan rabbits and hares may have eaten locally farmed crops by prowling fields or wild plants, isotope differences reveal that the early Mexicans may have bred rabbits to provide them food, fur and bone tools.

"Because no large mammals such as goats, cows, or horses were available for domestication in pre-Hispanic Mexico, many assume that Native Americans did not have as intensive human-animal relationships as did societies of the Old World," said Andrew Somerville. "Our results suggest that citizens of the ancient city of Teotihuacan engaged in relationships with smaller and more diverse fauna, such as rabbits and jackrabbits, and that these may have been just as important as relationships with larger animals."

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