A 9,400 year old dog skull fragment has been found amongst fossilised human waste. According to researchers, this is proof that humans have had domesticated dogs almost 10,000 years ago.
According to Samuel Belknap who is a graduate student of University of Maine, the dog skull bone fragment provides evidence that this dog is the oldest identifiable domesticated dogs ever found in the Americas.
Belknap said, “This is an important scientific discovery that can tell us, not only a lot about the genetic history of dogs, but of the interactions between humans and dogs in the past.” Belknap is working under Kristin Sobolik at the University of Maine’s Department of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute.
Belknap concluded that dogs would most likely have been human companions similarly to how dogs are man’s best friend today. In addition, domesticated dogs would have also served as hunting assistants, provided protection, and also as a source of food.
The discovery was made when Belknap was conducting research on the dietary habits of ancient humans. This involved analysing samples of human waste from Texas’ Lower Pecos Region. “I didn’t start out looking for the oldest dog in the New World”, he said, adding that significant scientific discoveries can be found when no one is looking for them. “I started out trying to understand the human diet in south west Texas. It so happens that this person who lived 9,400 years ago was eating dog.”
A fellow researcher and Belknap found that the bone was a fragment from the skull of a dog – not a fox, wolf, or a coyote. Based on the dog skull fragment, the dog was most likely weighed around 25 to 30 pounds.
In the issued statement, Belknap also noted the important for taking direct dating of samples. “For a long time there were several dog bones from Jaguar Cave in Idaho that were believed to be over 11,000 years old, but once they were directly dated they were found to be only 1,000 to 3,000 years old,” he said. “So it’s a cautionary tale of the need to directly date things. It’s important to do it.”
As for his thesis paper, it has been scientifically reviews and accepted. It will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology later this year.