By analyzing archaeological remains, the scientists also uncovered clues to a previously unknown lineage that lived in the Near East some 2,000 years ago.
The influence of that line is thought to extend far beyond the area. Even today, pieces of her genetic heritage can be found in donkeys across Eurasia.
The analyzes also showed that the Romans were able to breed lineages of huge donkeys at a time when mules were essential to the Roman economy and the Roman army.
These discoveries call for new archaeological digs to find the very first source of domestication in Africa, the researchers say. They also believe that other early donkey genomes on both sides of the Mediterranean should be sequenced to better understand the role of donkeys in the history of trade between Europe and North Africa.
The researchers’ study is published in science. This article is based on a press release from the Center national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS).