Porteur: Thomas Cucchi
The domestication of plants and animals is a major evolutionary step in Human History. But because domestication is a continuum of interactions between animal and human societies it is very challenging to decipher from the archaeological record, especially the early step of human control for which bioarchaeologists lack reliable genetic or phenotypic markers. However, a breakthrough may be possible using markers which can detect the earliest anthropogenic environmental stress in the course of an animal’s lifetime; but only if these can be clearly associated with human control and disentangled from other environmental causal factors.
To bridge this gap, The DENSS project will explore the environmental stress of captivity as a catalyst of the domestication process, by focusing on lifetime changes recorded in a wild animal enduring captivity and targeting the biomechanical stress of mobility reduction and its prints on the bone anatomy and the genome: (1) How do the locomotor changes induced by captivity affect the skeleton developmental trajectories compared to selective ones? (2) How far can these phenotypic reaction norms help us explore the anthropogenic impact in the archaeological record? (3) Will mobility reduction leave idiosyncratic prints on the genome and make epigenome trackable in the archaeological record?
To address these questions DENSS will rely on an unique experiment of captivity effect over the musculo-skeleton growth of a wild ungulate model: the wild boar. DENSS will have access to the in vivo longitudinal record (CT, MRI, blood samples, muscular biopsies) as well as the cross-sectional record of the skeleton reaction norms in modern wild and domestic populations from France and Germany. Finally, DENSS will have access to the CT scans of skeleton remains from 4 Mesolithic and 9 Neolithic contexts in France and Germany, covering 4000 years of Neolithisation in Western Europe.
DENSS multidisciplinary project team (functional ecology, evolutionary biology and bioarchaeology) will bring together the latest developments in 3D image morphometrics and genomics to undertake four tasks: (1) Deciphering functional, ontogenetic and artificial selection signals in the 3D shape and microstrusture of two tarsal bones, (2) Identify the effect of captivity on skull development and integration, (3) Explore the anthropisation process of wild boar populations and the emergence of domestic phenotype during the Neolithisation of Western Europe, (4) Identify the transcriptomic and epigenetic signature of captivity.
Emergence, International and Public outreach
The DENSS project could provide a methodological breakthrough in one of the most interdisciplinary and vibrant areas of research in archaeology and anthropology. By capturing anthropogenic impacts happening at the ecological scale it will bridge the gap between archaeology and anthropology, contribute to international research on anthropogenic micro-evolutionary forces since the Late Glacial and provide the link between genotype and phenotype.
Beyond academia, domestication is a topic that engages a large portion of society. Furthermore, DENSS will provide direct evidence for the effect of a sedentary lifestyle on our body and on the epigenome, which is currently a hot topic in medical science and with the wider general public.