eesti teaduste
akadeemia kirjastus
SINCE 1997
Archaeology cover
Estonian Journal of Archaeology
ISSN 1736-7484 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-2933 (Print)

In search of Estonia’s earliest chicken; pp. 160–181

Full article in PDF format | 10.3176/arch.2021.2.04

Freydis Ehrlich, Eve Rannamäe, Margot Laneman, Mari Tõrv, Valter Lang, Ester Oras, Lembi Lõugas


It has been hypothesised that the chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) was introduced to the area of what is now modern-day Estonia around the Pre-Roman or Roman Iron Age. However, none of the earliest chicken bones found in the area had been radiocarbon dated and due to a complex contextual background, the question of its first appearance has been left open. With the aim of finding the earliest evidence for the chicken in Estonia, we looked into the zooarchaeological material from twelve archaeological sites, including burial grounds, settlement sites, and hillforts. The earliest evidence had been reported at four of these sites, but during the taxonomic reassessment, no chicken bones were identified. From the remaining eight sites, nine chicken bones were radiocarbon dated by AMS. The sample from a stone-cist grave at Rebala (northern Estonia) was dated to 200 calBCE – 5 calCE, which means that this individual is the earliest confirmed chicken in Estonia. The other dates range from the Pre-Viking Age to the Modern Period, with some of them illustrating the complicated nature of faunal remains in archaeological contexts. Although this study elucidates the first appearance of the chicken in Estonia and in the Baltic region in general, its origin, ways of exploitation, and the extent of its spreading remain to be studied.


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