Dogs have been man’s best friends for a lot longer than the last for centuries, according to Canadian anthropologist Rob Losey.
The anthropologist at the University of Alberta says the human-dog bond dates back to ancient times.
“We share the same kind of basic biological response to each other,” Losey told CBC Radio Active. “It’s not a one directional kind of thing. I think that’s what makes the relationship we have with our dogs so special.That capacity arose in dogs and people a long time ago. It’s not something that arose in the last few centuries. It’s very, very ancient.”
Losey started studying the connection between man and man’s best friend more than 15 years ago at a massive excavation site near Lake Baikal, Siberia – the largest freshwater lake in the world.
Ancient burial grounds found to be between 5,000 and 8,000 years old were discovered buried deep beneath the lake bed. Those burial grounds hold some of the earliest evidence of the domestication of dogs, and demonstrate that canines were held in esteem even in ancient societies.
University of Alberta/Youtube
“I was really struck by the amount of evidence in this particular region for really close bonds between dogs and humans,” said Losey. “I was really sucked in by it. It was something that was totally new to me.”
Dogs, often wearing decorated collars, trinkets and keepsakes, were buried alongside humans. One man was found buried in the same grave as his two dogs, laid carefully on each side of their owner.
“For about a thousand-year period, people were regularly burying their dogs, and not only were they burying them, they were burying them in cemeteries, in exactly the same way they were burying their human dead,” said Losey. “They would make a grave for them, they would bury them with other items. They obviously were well cared for.”
Through chemical analysis of the ancient dog bones, Losey was able to determine that the Siberian dogs were fed the same food as humans. This suggests that begging for table scraps has also been part of the human-dog relationship for a long time.
“I think they were working companions, they engaged with people in their everyday tasks, whether it was hunting or hauling things, or protecting people from other humans or animals,” said Losey.”They were part of a working group, but also a close personal companion that people had close emotional ties to.”
Previous research have found that dogs evolved from wolves 10,000 and 15,000 years ago – after packs of wild dogs started cohabitating with humans, feeding off leftovers from humans.
“Initially this was up to the wolves,” said Losey. “Some groups of wolves started to forage around human living places, feeding off of human waste, and over time some of those animals evolved to have less fear of humans.”
Now Losey is investigating a different dog burial site in the Siberian Arctic. With more than 100 ancient dogs, it’s believed to be the largest archeological collection of its kind ever unearthed in the Arctic. The anthropologist has also found some evidence of sled dogs wearing what appear to be harnesses.
But Losey admits that the archeological picture is still incomplete, and more research on the evolution of the dog-human partnership is necessary.
“It’s a complicated story,” said Losey. “Right now it’s something that is very hard to quantify.”
Losey has a passion for dogs extends beyond his academic life.
“I have a black Lab named Guinness,” he said. “She brings me a lot of joy and companionship and I hope I do the same thing for her,” he said
Source: CBC Canada