The study finds that the Mesopotamians bred powerful donkey hybrids for fighting

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The people of ancient Mesopotamia created an extremely powerful hybrid animal by crossing domestic donkeys with wild donkeys, a new genome sequencing study reveals.

Researchers in Paris studied genomes from the skeletons of ungulates found in a 4,500-year-old cemetery in Umm el-Marri in the north Syria.

The results show that the skeletons once belonged to a domesticated hybrid animal called a ‘kunga’ – a cross between female donkeys and Syrian wild donkey males – and therefore provide the earliest known evidence of hybrid breeding.

According to experts, people did not ride on kungs; instead, the animals were probably used to transport goods and equipment and to tow wagons in battle.

Due to the size and speed of the kungs, these hybrid animals were a better choice than donkeys to tow four-wheeled war wagons.

Kungs were produced by companies in Mesopotamia – a historic region of West Asia – 500 years before the arrival of domesticated horses in the region.

It is already known that the Sumerians – the inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia – have been using military wagons drawn by ungulates on the battlefield for centuries, as evidenced by the famous ‘Standard of Ur’, a 4,500-year-old Sumerian mosaic.

Umm el-Marra (northern Syria) is a 4,500-year-old princely funeral complex. Several equines were found at the site, buried in their own facilities

The Sumerians - the inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia - have used four-wheeled military wagons on the battlefield for centuries, as evidenced by the famous ‘Standard of the Hour’, a 4,500-year-old Sumerian mosaic.

The Sumerians – the inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia – have used four-wheeled military wagons on the battlefield for centuries, as evidenced by the famous ‘Standard of the Hour’, a 4,500-year-old Sumerian mosaic.

WHAT WERE KUNGS?

Kungas were ‘highly prized’ domesticated hybrid animals used in ancient Mesopotamia for diplomacy, ceremonies and fighting.

A new genome analysis showed that they were a cross between donkeys and Syrian wild donkey males. They cost up to six times more than the price of a donkey.

Large-sized male kungs were used to tow ‘nobility and gods’ vehicles.

Researchers say: “The exact taxonomic identification of the kung and its identification in archaeological records has been uncertain so far.”

The new study was conducted by paleogenetics at the Jacques Monod Institute in Paris, France.

“Kungs were F1 hybrids between domestic donkey females and hemippes males [Syrian wild ass], thus documenting the earliest evidence of hybrid animal husbandry, ”they say.

‘The big male kungs were used to tow’ nobility and gods ‘vehicles, and their size and speed made them more desirable than donkeys to tow four-wheeled war wagons.’

Mesopotamia was a historic area of ​​the Middle East that encompasses most of what is known today as Iraq, but it also stretched to parts of Syria and Turkey.

Domestic horses in the region date back to 4000 years ago, according to previous findings of the same research group published in 2020while a new find dates the kungas to the region 4,500 years ago.

It is known that clay tablets from 4500 years ago, which contain a stylistic writing system called cuneiform, refer to prestigious ungulates with a high market value as “kung”.

Ancient tablets and seals prove that kung, which cost up to six times the price of a donkey, was deliberately bred in Mesopotamia in the early Bronze Age.

Although it was believed that one of the parents of the kung was probably a donkey, the identity of the other parent remained unclear.

Ancient plate

Ancient plate “Wild Donkey Hunt” (British Museum, London), showing captured Asian wild donkeys

Mesopotamia was a historic area of ​​the Middle East that encompasses most of what is known today as Iraq, but it also stretched to parts of Syria and Turkey.

Mesopotamia was a historic area of ​​the Middle East that encompasses most of what is known today as Iraq, but it also stretched to parts of Syria and Turkey.

RIFLE SEQUENCE

Experts have combined nuclear DNA sequencing with a high-sensitivity polymerase chain reaction (PCR) rifle.

The rifle sequence involves breaking down the genome into a collection of small DNA fragments that are sequenced individually.

A computer program looks for overlaps in DNA sequences and uses them to place individual fragments in the correct order to reconstitute the genome.

Source: genome.gov

To find out more, the researchers analyzed the complete skeleton genomes of 25 male hybrid ungulates from Umm el-Marr to determine if the ungulates are kungas and investigated their taxonomic origins.

Because the DNA was extremely poorly preserved due to the hot Syrian climate, the researchers combined nuclear DNA sequencing with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) rifle, targeting mitochondrial DNA (to investigate the mother) and the Y chromosome to investigate the father. ).

Although degraded, the genome of kung could be compared to the genome of other ungulates – horses, domestic donkeys and wild donkeys from the hemion family.

The latter includes the remains of an 11,000-year-old equine from the oldest known temple, Göbekli Tepe (southeast of present-day Turkey), and two of the last surviving Syrian wild donkeys that disappeared in the early 20th century and are preserved in Vienna’s Natural History Museum.

The results confirm the previous hypothesis that the ungulates in the cemetery were hybrids, and reveal the origin of the kung.

According to analyzes, Umm el-Marra ungulates are first-generation hybrids derived from a cross between a domestic donkey and a male hemion.

Fence D with T-shaped pillars in Göbekli Tepe, southeast of present-day Turkey.  This archeological site includes the oldest known temple in the world

Fence D with T-shaped pillars in Göbekli Tepe, southeast of present-day Turkey. This archeological site includes the oldest known temple in the world

Because the kungs were sterile and the chemons were wild, the domestic female had to be crossed with a pre-captured hemion each time.

Instead of domesticating the wild horses that inhabited the region, the Sumerians produced and used hybrids that combined the traits of both parents to produce offspring that were stronger and faster than donkeys (and much faster than horses).

Kunge eventually supplanted the arrival of the domestic horse, which was easier to breed when it was imported into the region from the Pontic steppe.

The researchers say their study, published in Advances in science, can help clarify the extent of hybrid breeding in Mesopotamian societies of the third millennium BC.

Mesopotamia is known as the ‘cradle of civilization’, but what made it so great?

A historic area of ​​the Middle East that encompasses most of what is known today as Iraq, but also extends to parts of Syria and Turkey.

The term “Mesopotamia” comes from Greek, meaning “between two rivers”.

The two rivers to which the name refers are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Unlike many other empires (such as the Greeks and Romans), Mesopotamia consisted of several different cultures and groups.

Mesopotamia should be understood more correctly as a region that has created several empires and civilizations, rather than any single civilization.

Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of civilization” primarily because of two events: the invention of the “city” as we know it today, and the invention of the script.

Mesopotamia is an ancient region of the Middle East that encompasses much of present-day Iraq and parts of other countries.  They invented cities, bicycles, and agriculture, and gave women almost equal rights

Mesopotamia is an ancient region of the Middle East that encompasses much of present-day Iraq and parts of other countries. They invented cities, bicycles, and agriculture, and gave women almost equal rights

He is believed to be responsible for many early developments, and is also credited with inventing the bicycle.

They also gave the world the first mass domestication of animals, cultivated large areas of land, and invented tools and weapons.

In addition to this practical development, wine, beer and the demarcation of time into hours, minutes and seconds were born in the region.

It is believed that the fertile land between the two rivers allowed hunters and gatherers a comfortable existence, which led to the agricultural revolution.

The red thread of the whole area was equal treatment of women.

Women enjoyed almost equal rights and were able to own land, file for divorce, own their own businesses, and enter into trade contracts.

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