Evidence of 9,400-year-old domesticated dog found by grad student

diet of ancient humans

A 9,400-year-old domesticated dog was identified from a bone fragment in human dung unearthed at an archaeological site in Texas. Image: CC Mx Warren/Flickr

Evidence of a 9,400-year-old dog domesticated by prehistoric North Americans has been found by graduate student. However, the 9,400-year-old dog wasn’t exactly man’s best friend. The pooch was identified by a bone fragment found in a petrified piece of human dung.

Carbon dating, DNA analysis confirm 9,400-year-old dog

The 9,400-year-old dog was identified by Samuel Belknap III, a graduate student at the University of Maine. He was researching the diet of ancient humans who inhabited the Lower Pecos region of Texas. Belknap was scrutinizing the contents of stools dug up from an archeological site. He found a tiny bone fragment. Carbon dating indicated the fragment was 9,400 years old. A DNA analysis showed the bone came from a dog, rather than a wild animal such as a coyote. Those facts lead Belknap and other researchers to believe that dogs were likely domesticated at the time for utility, security and meat.

The domestication of dogs

Based on DNA evidence, scientists propose that domestication of dogs by humans began when they started breeding dogs from gray wolves up to 40,000 years ago. A site in Belgium yielded dog remains up to 31,000 years old. Further east in what is now the Czech Republic, 26,000-year-old domesticated dog remains were found. The archaeological record in Siberia includes dogs dating back 15,000 years. Archeologists believe dogs may have arrived in North America with ancient settlers via the Bering land bridge from Asia about 10,000 years ago. Before the 9,400-year-old dog was found, other digs on the continent dated dogs at about 8,000 years old.

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Belknap’s research on the 9,400-year old dog will be presented in detail later this year in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. He estimated that his 9,400-year-old dog weighed in at about 25 to 30 pounds. That would meet the description of dogs known to be kept by Great Plains Indians. Archeologists have found evidence suggesting Indians used dogs for hauling goods much like Alaskan Inuits use sled dogs. Tribes would select an unlucky dog for dinner on special occasions or when other food was scarce.


Associated Press

National Geographic


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