November 27, 2008

Historian traces turkey history overseas

The turkey headlining Thanksgiving feasts across the United States Thursday has left its mark in Britain, Spain and appropriately, Turkey, a historian says.

East Carolina University history professor Larry Tise said British scientist Thomas Harriot has been credited with tabbing the large birds as turkeys in 1585 while in North Carolina, the bird actually has a global history, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot said.

Tise said Harriot actually named the birds after the names it had earned in Britain, turkey cockes and turkey hennes.

When our people arrived here, they already knew what tobacco was, he said of the traditional Thanksgiving animal. They already knew what corn was. They knew what turkeys were.

Tise traced the turkey's popularity in Britain to explorer Christopher Columbus, who brought some of the poultry to Britain during the 15th century.

From there, the animals were embraced by the Ottoman Empire of Turkey, where turkey breeding soon was perfected.

Tise told the Virginian-Pilot that the turkey's surprising history didn't stop there.

It's very confusing, he said. We know that the Aztecs had turkeys and they were domesticated. We know that an explorer took a turkey to Spain.