Evidence of domestication of dogs during Paleolithic period found

(PhysOrg.com) -- Paleontologists working in the Czech Republic have unearthed what appears to be evidence of the domestication of dogs, from a period much earlier than has been previously thought. In a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the team, comprised of Mietje Germonpréa, Martina Lázničková-Galetováb and Mikhail V. Sablinc, from Belgium, the Czech Republic and Russia respectively, say that they’ve found the remains of three dogs from the Paleolithic period, one of which had been buried with a large bone in its mouth.

The Paleolithic period is the time in human history that spans from the earliest evidence of tool use, which was approximately two and a half million years ago, up to around 10,000 BP. Prior to this find paleontologists have believed that the domestication of dogs didn’t come until thousands of years later.

Because the remains found don’t fit the physical description of wolves, the researchers believe they must be dogs. And because of the shape of the heads - short with short snouts and a wide braincase, the team believes they were domesticated. They also believe they were rather large, weighing some 77 pounds and as tall as 24 inches at the shoulders.

The truly intriguing part of the find however, is the large bone in the mouth of one of the dogs. The team believes it’s probably from a rhino, bison or even a mammoth. The fact that it was clearly placed in the dog’s mouth after death indicates that a human being was involved in the burial, as no other known animal would be capable of doing such a thing. The skulls also show signs of perforations for brain removal, another uniquely human act. If other animals wanted to eat the brains they would have had to either crack the skull open or wait for it to decompose to the point it could be poured out. Humans on the other hand, would likely not have done so for consumption purposes (there were far better choices of meat around) but rather for spiritual purposes, indicating some degree of emotional ties with the deceased animal.

Paleontologists suspect that dogs were used by early humans for hauling stuff around, such as the carcasses of large animals or materials for building shelters. The research team believes the they found were between four and eight years old at the time of death.

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More information: Palaeolithic dog skulls at the Gravettian Předmostí site, the Czech Republic, Journal of Archaeological Science, In Press, doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.09.022

Whether or not the wolf was domesticated during the early Upper Palaeolithic remains a controversial issue. We carried out detailed analyses of the skull material from the Gravettian Předmostí site, Czech Republic, to investigate the issue. Three complete skulls from Předmostí were identified as Palaeolithic dogs, characterised by short skull lengths, short snouts, and wide palates and braincases relative to wolves. One complete skull could be assigned to the group of Pleistocene wolves. Three other skulls could not be assigned to a reference group; these might be remains from hybrids or captive wolves. Modifications by humans of the skull and canine remains from the large canids of Předmostí indicate a specific relationship between humans and large canids.

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Oct 10, 2011
Co-evolving species. With GM and neural interfaces in the future, who knows what role they will end up fufilling for us in the long run.

Oct 10, 2011
This amazing comment made my day! Are you perchance an Orions Arm fan?

Oct 10, 2011
No sir, never heard of it.

Oct 10, 2011
Yes, I think we were almost certainly co-evolving. Maybe it began with chance encounters during carrion scavenging. Perhaps a genetic mutation in a population of wolves made them more trusting of us. Maybe wolves were simply the first animal with enough curiosity to allow us to domesticate them, which suggests a beginning as simple livestock which only then allowed for more intelligent uses. Maybe it started with a human tribe finding an abandoned litter, and the first wolf pup's imprinting is all that was needed to start things off.

Oct 11, 2011
It would be nice if they mentioned if they had pinpointed the date of the finds to a little better accuracy than 'somewhere between 10,000 and 2.5 million years ago'.

Oct 11, 2011
I have a time problem with this. How are wolves from around this time supposed to be related to domesticated dogs in the New World? And it is hard to see how the same wolves could have been the ancestors of Dingos. The timing really doesn't work. Dogs HAD to have been domesticated, at least to the point of being safe around families, BEFORE they got to Australia.


Oct 11, 2011
Co-evolving species. With GM and neural interfaces in the future, who knows what role they will end up fulfilling for us in the long run.

Implant Fido's brain into a combat exoskeleton and you've got yourself the most loyal and dutiful bodyguard imaginable. Or sled dog brains implanted into huge cooperative transport machines commanded by a human operator.

Sheep dogs are already incredibly intelligent, their brains could be used in computer systems. Perhaps something like an orbital defense/manipulation system, the dog's brain would herd and repel objects and feel just like he's managing sheep.

Would it be ethical to awaken an animal into sapience? They are blissful in ignorance right now, simple and content. They don't know they will die and they don't fear the judgement of supposed gods.

Oct 11, 2011
What I can foresee, and I am sure there are people working on it, is fitting exoskelotons to animals and insects, harvesting the movements, removing the exoskelton and going from there.

For example, why not build two identical telemetry style suits, one for an animal, one without the animal in it.


I am honestly thinking this winter about attempting to try this. I can build a simple glovebox from a modified dorm fridge, use it to temporarily subdue something like a mantis, strap it down to a mount/base, attach a very simple rig to one arm using micro servos with analog reader servo commander software. Hell I could build a scaled up mantis front leg O:.

Idk, crazy, but not at all outside the bounds of possibiity. I have plenty of time on my hands.

Oct 11, 2011
@Isaacsname: Do you honestly believe that the movement of something even as simple as a single mantis leg could be replicated with a few (or even a few dozen) micro-servos?

Good luck with your experiments.

Oct 11, 2011
@Isaacsname: Do you honestly believe that the movement of something even as simple as a single mantis leg could be replicated with a few (or even a few dozen) micro-servos?

Good luck with your experiments.

Yes, yes I do. It will probably be crude too. The main problems I see with copying/translating natural movement is the limited range of motion tradtional servos/joint configurations offer. I think I have an idea for a new type of joint that would work very well in the field of robotics.

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