Humans 'Domesticated' Mice 15,000 Years Ago
Ancient rodent populations may now help us fill in gaps in the archaeological record as humans shifted from hunter-gatherers to farmers.
Most people are all too familiar with house mice. We know them as the eaters of crumbs, gnawers of cords, and leavers of droppings. They create the pitter-patters we hear in the night and the messes we find in the morning.
Conventional wisdom has said that mice and people began living together when humans learned to farm. But new research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that our relationship with these rodents may be even more ancient.
By studying the fluctuations of house mouse fossils found in archaeological sites in the eastern Mediterranean, scientists have revealed that Mus musculus domesticus first cozied up to humans around 15,000 years ago.
That would be about 3,000 years before