New research by the University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with University College London, has revealed that humans started living with dogs nearly 11,500 years ago, in what is now northeast Jordan. As per the archaeologists, the abundance of skeletal remains of hares and other small prey at the site also indicates that dogs likely served as hunting aids.
Existing research states that dogs were domesticated around 14,000 years ago in the Near East, a region that currently ecompasses Western Asia. However, researchers remain divided over whether the domestication was deliberate or accidental. According to the latest study, humans likely valued – and exploited – the tracking and hunting prowess of early dogs much longer than previously thought.
Survey of the Shubayqa 6 settlement in the northeastern region of Jordan, for instance, uncovered numerous animal bones dating back to the start of the Neolithic period. This, in turn, points to the possibility that humans and dogs hunted together, ever since the latter’s domestication some 14,000 years ago. Shedding light on the findings, which were recently published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, the project’s lead author and zooarchaeologist Lisa Yeomans said –
The study of the large assemblage of animal bones from Shubayqa 6 revealed a large proportion of bones with unmistakable signs of having passed through the digestive tract of another animal; these bones are so large that they cannot have been swallowed by humans, but must have been digested by dogs.
Based on the team’s observations, Yeomans believes that the settlement was occupied year-round, which could only mean that the dogs were co-existing with the humans. She further explained –
The dogs were not kept at the fringes of the settlement, but must have been closely integrated into all aspects of day-to-day life and allowed to freely roam around the settlement, feeding on discarded bones and defecating in and around the site.
During their research, Yeomans and her team stumbled upon another interesting information. Concurrent to the appearance of dogs at the settlement of Shubayqa 6, there was a drastic increase in the region’s hare population. According to the archaeologists, hares were not only hunted for their meat, but their bones were also used to make breads. Speaking on the matter, Yeomans added –
The use of dogs for hunting small, fast prey such as hares and foxes, perhaps driving them into enclosures, could provide an explanation that is in line with the evidence we have gathered. The long history of dog use to hunt both small as well as larger prey in the region is well known, and it would be strange not to consider hunting aided by dogs as a likely explanation for the sudden abundance of smaller prey in the archaeological record. The shift may also be associated with a change in hunting technique from a method such as netting, which saw an unselective portion of the hare population captured, to a selective method of hunting in which individual animals were targeted. This could have been achieved by dogs.
Via/Image Source: Phys.org