Scientists from the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, found the ancient DNA preserved in 48 archaeological chicken bones matches the DNA signature present in bones from Europe, Thailand, the Pacific, Chile, the Dominican Republic and Spanish colonial sites in Florida.
It has been a challenge to determine the ancient origin and dispersal of chickens, domesticated at least 5,400 years ago, as almost all civilizations were involved in carrying them around the globe, researchers said.
"What we found is that one of the sequences in the different chicken bones was very similar over a wide geographic area," researcher Alison Story told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"This tells us that the chickens that we found in archaeological sites all over the world shared an ancient ancestor who was domesticated somewhere in southeast Asia a long time ago," she said.
"All of our domestic chickens are descended from a few hens that I like to think of as the 'great, great grandmothers' of the chicken world," Story said.
The findings also give clues to the history of human migrations, the researchers wrote in the journal PLos One.
"Understanding when chickens were transported out of domestication centers and the directions in which they were moved provides information about prehistoric migration, trade routes, and cross-cultural diffusion," they said.
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