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Tracking the near Eastern origins and European dispersal of the Western house mouse

Cite this dataset

Cucchi, Thomas et al. (2023). Tracking the near Eastern origins and European dispersal of the Western house mouse [Dataset]. Dryad.


The house mouse (Mus musculus) represents the extreme of globalization of invasive mammals. However, the timing and basis of its origin and early phases of dispersal remain poorly documented. To track its synanthropisation and subsequent invasive spread during the develoment of complex human societies, we analyzed 829 Mus specimens from 43 archaeological contexts in Southwestern Asia and Southeastern Europe, between 40,000 and 3,000 cal. BP, combining geometric morphometrics numerical taxonomy, ancient mitochondrial DNA and direct radiocarbon dating. We found that large late hunter-gatherer sedentary settlements in the Levant, c. 14,500 cal. BP, promoted the commensal behaviour of the house mouse, which probably led the commensal pathway to cat domestication. House mouse invasive spread was then fostered through the emergence of agriculture throughout the Near East 12,000 years ago. Stowaway transport of house mice to Cyprus can be inferred as early as 10,800 years ago. However, the house mouse invasion of Europe did not happen until the development of proto urbanism and exchange networks — 6,500 years ago in Eastern Europe and 4000 years ago in Southern Europe — which in turn may have driven the first human mediated dispersal of cats in Europe.


The acquisition of GMM data for the molar shape analysis of the first lower molars (m1) was performed on 2D images of the occlusal view of the m1, following Cucchi el al. (2013). The images were acquired by a Leica EZ4D stereoscope digital camera and the LAS operating software. The 2D external outline of the occlusal view of the m1 was recorded using tpsDig v. 2.30

Cucchi, T., Kovács, Z.E., Berthon, R., Orth, A., Bonhomme, F., Evin, A., Siahsarvie, R., Darvish, J., Bakhshaliyev, V., Marro, C., 2013. On the trail of Neolithic mice and men towards Transcaucasia: zooarchaeological clues from Nakhchivan (Azerbaijan). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 108, 917–928.

Usage notes

This dataset include the shape variables (procrustes coordinates) of the 1341 modern and archaeological m1 teeth of the genus Mus studied. These shapes coordinates have been obtained after Procrustes superposition using Bending Energy Minimization method follonwing Cucchi et al. (2013)


LabEx ANR-10-LABX-0003-BCDiv, Award: ANR-11-IDEX-0004-02