May 18, 2012

Were Neanderthals Domesticating Dogs?

Since they hunted large animals, I have often wondered if Neanderthal people had dogs. The conventional answer has been no:
Until 2009, dogs were believed to have been domesticated about 17,000 years ago, long after Neandertals were already extinct.
Now some paleontologists are re-thinking that.
None of these ancient dog skulls date exactly to the period of modern human–Neandertal overlap, but the domestication process must have been underway even before the first identifiable dog entered the fossil record. The rapidly developing consensus is that dogs were domesticated during the period when both modern humans and Neandertals [new spelling] lived in Europe. So far, all of these early dogs are from modern-human sites. Several lines of evidence suggest that dogs and wolves were especially revered by those humans.
 More on ritual burial of dogs and calculations from Finland on dogs' utility in hunting large animals. (Hat tip, Patrick Burns.)


Retrieverman said...

In How the Dog Became the Dog, Mark Derr, talks about how certain caves inhabited by Neanderthals were full of wolf remains. A bit stochastic, perhaps?

Well, maybe not.

I don't know about this eye theory, though. It's pretty darn hard to falsify, and I don't know if we even know the genetic basis behind it. If we found out that neanderthals had eyes like our, then the whole theory goes out the window. I think it's much more likely an adaptation to hunter-gatherer behavior that evolved independently of whether we had dogs or not.

Retrieverman said...

As someone who has some ancestry in the actual Newman Valley (Neanderthal), I refuse to use that spelling. If people are too stupid to learn that it's a German word-- well German and Greek-- then screw 'em!

Retrieverman said...

The text about Neanderthals: