Scientists discovered cassowary eggshells in New Guinea, indicating that the deadly bird was tamed 18,000 years ago.The southern cassowary is regarded as the most hazardous bird in the world. The bird, which is native to the woodlands of New Guinea and Northern Australia, is extremely aggressive in captivity. Cassowaries, close relatives of the violent dinosaurs shown in Jurassic Park, have been observed severely wounding other animals and even humans, such as the captive cassowary who mortally wounded its owner in Florida or the cassowary who killed an Australian teenager in 1926.
Cassowaries can weigh up to 150 pounds. They may reach nearly six feet in height thanks to their reptile legs. Their four-inch talons are by far their most lethal weaponry. When threatened, cassowaries charge with lightning speed, talon first, into their prey.Every year, cassowary assaults occur in Australia, leading in significant injuries such as puncture wounds, lacerations, broken bones, and death.This is not a bird you want to come into contact with.However, thousands of years before the domestication of the chicken, tribes in New Guinea raised cassowaries from infancy to adulthood.
Humans first appeared in New Guinea 42,000 years ago. The jungles would have been home to hazardous southern Cassowary birds for the settlers. Nonetheless, these people discovered a way to employ them as early as 18,000 years ago.Susan Bulmer, an archaeologist, discovered a number of artefacts and bird remnants while excavating a primitive rock shelter, including over 1,000 fragments of cassowary eggshells.She carried the eggs back to the lab, curious about what the humans who lived in these early rock shelters were doing with them.
The shells were scanned with 3D laser microscopes to determine how far advanced each egg was before hatching. Some eggs bore burn marks, indicating that they had been fried and eaten. While others were nearly fully grown. “There’s a good chance that people were hatching those eggs and rearing cassowary chicks,” said archaeologist Dr. Kristina Douglass of Penn State University.Scientists point to Indigenous tribes in the country that use cassowary meat and feathers in commerce and rituals as more evidence.
These organisations continue to breed cassowaries from eggs retrieved from wild nests. Because they imprint on the humans who raise them, the hatchlings are easy to handle.Stealing cassowary eggs is a difficult task. The nests are deep in the forest and protected by merciless, vicious males. Cassowaries would have had to be tracked and studied attentively by ancient New Guineans.
Because of the precision necessary, these early settlers had an intimate understanding of their surroundings, which they were able to exploit.If the early people of New Guinea did collect eggs, hatch chicks, and hand-rear cassowaries, they were likely among the first known humans to tame and domesticate unclean and wild birds.