Uluburun shipwreck stowaway house mouse: molar shape analysis and indirect clues about the vessel's last journey

T. Cucchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Human translocation by stowaway transport is the widely accepted vector of the Current worldwide distribution of commensal rodents but its historical process has never been directly evidenced. The anecdotal find of the small murine (mice and rats) mandible among the wealthy cargo of the Uluburun shipwreck provide us with an unexpected opportunity to directly evidence the species associated with this stowaway and provide indirect clues regarding the ship's route. Taxonomic identification and geographic Sourcing has been performed using outline molar shape analysis by Elliptic Fourier Transform comparing the Uluburun mouse molar phenotype with extant populations from eastern Mediterranean sibling species. Results showed that the mandible belonged to the house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) with significant phenotypic similarities with extant Syrian house mouse populations. These results provide the earliest direct evidence for stowaway transports highlighting the historical process of the house mouse invasion of the Mediterranean. Using modern behavioural comparisons, combined with archaeological and historical sources, it has been argued that the servicing port of Ugarit (Minet el Beida) was a likely step on the vessel's last journey. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2953-2959
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number11
Early online date27 Jun 2008
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


  • zooarchaeology
  • maritime trade
  • invasive species
  • geometric morphometric
  • Elliptic Fourier Transform
  • mus-musculus-domesticus
  • Anatolian tree-rings
  • 1st upper molar
  • genus mus
  • rodent populations
  • oriental Europe
  • mice
  • Macedonicus
  • chronology
  • evolution


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