Revising my understanding.
Regular visitors to this blog probably now don’t notice my home page where I state, in part:
Dogs live in the present – they just are! Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value. Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.
Just as likely, I expect, readers do not go across to my sideline Dogs and integrity that includes, in part:
Dogs are part of the Canidae, a family including wolves, coyotes and foxes, thought to have evolved 60 million years ago. There is no hard evidence about when dogs and man came together but dogs were certainly around when man developed speech and set out from Africa, about 50,000 years ago. See an interesting article by Dr. George Johnson.
Recently Patrice Ayme published a post under the title of Neanderthal Superiority. In that post he set out very convincing arguments about the origins of the Neanderthals and I do recommend you read it in full.
However, what I would like to republish is the part of Patrice’s essay that explains the origins of the domesticated dog, as it is very different to what I have been presenting on Learning from Dogs. Here it is:
Previously unknown Neanderthal technologies are found every year. Neanderthals invented needle and thread, way back (80,000 years ago, at least; probably much older). Necessity was the mother of invention: Europeans (aka Neanderthals) needed clothing more than Africans did, as the latter wore none. Moreover, appropriate fibers are more easily found in the temperate zone (everything rots quickly in the very warm, wet tropics, including DNA).
NEANDERTHALS INVENTED DOGS, COAL BURNING, SHELL FISH DINING:
Some of the arguments against Neanderthals have been outright ridiculous: not only we were told, without any evidence, that they could not talk, but that the superiority of Africans came from eating shell fish, about 70,000 years ago (along the East Coast of Africa).
However, it has since been discovered that Neanderthal cavemen supped on shellfish on the Costa del Sol 150,000 years ago, punching another torpedo hole in the theory that only Africans ate (supposedly) brain-boosting seafood.
Neanderthals also used coal, as long ago as 73,000 years. Once again, making a fire in present day France, then suffering from a pretty bad glaciation, made more sense than trying to stay warm in the Congo.
Earlier and earlier prehistoric art has been found. It’s getting ever harder to claim that Neanderthals had nothing to do with it. This is from the enormous Chauvet cave in France, at least 32,000 years old:
(42,000 year old art was also found in Spain.)
Neanderthals also domesticated, and genetically engineered dogs, from European wolves. That’s very clear.
How do I know this? Simple. The Goyet dog, pictured below was dated around 32,000 years. In 2010, an even older dog was found in the Altai mountains. Both dogs were derived from Canis Lupus Familiaris, the European wolf, but were quite distant from it, genetically, they had been evolved probably on a time scale of more than 10,000 years, thus well before any arrival of Sapiens Sapiens from Africa.
Those dogs were completely compatible with people, just as contemporary dogs are. Proof? Ancient, 26,000-year-old footprints made by a child and a dog deep in the Chauvet Cave, France. (OK, by then Neanderthals had been deemed “extinct” by some… However, these are still the same dogs Neanderthals invented.)
It is perplexing that other human groups did not domesticate the local canids. There are (still!) wolves in Africa and India. And also Lycaons (“African Wild Dogs”). Those are supremely intelligent, and sort of domesticate readily in the wild (I tried this myself as a child).
The argument that Africans would have moved to Europe to domesticate European wolves, when they had a similar fauna, including wolves, to domesticate in Africa, is simply extravagant.
In the next few days I will amend those static pages to incorporate this fascinating update to my knowledge. I shall also seek permission to republish the articles linked to by Patrice as they are full of detailed knowledge about the oldest man-animal relationship; by far!