Tag: Meilan Solly

We go back a very long time

The ancient history of man and dog!

And when I say ‘man’ I am of course referring to the species.

For a couple of weeks ago Meilan Solly of The Smithsonian wrote about the relationship 4,500 years ago of man and dog.

In Neolithic times there was an important relationship, as there is today. Maybe our dogs have become more of the ‘pet’ rather than the working dog that they are assumed to be then.

But here’s the article.

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Thanks to Facial Reconstruction, You Can Now Look Into the Eyes of a Neolithic Dog

The collie-sized canine was buried in a cavernous tomb on Scotland’s Orkney Islands around 2,500 B.C.

Experts believe the Neolithic dog is the first canine to undergo forensic facial reconstruction (Santiago Arribas/Historic Environment Scotland)
By Meilan Solly
SMITHSONIAN.COM, 

Some 4,500 years ago, a collie-sized dog with pointed ears and a long snout comparable to that of the European grey wolf roamed Scotland’s Orkney Islands. A valued member of the local Neolithic community, the canine was eventually buried alongside 23 other dogs and at least eight humans in a cavernous tomb known as the Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn.

Now, 118 years after archaeologists first chanced upon its resting place, the prized pup’s image is being reimagined. As Esther Addley reports for the Guardian, experts believe the dog is the first canine to undergo forensic facial reconstruction. Its likeness, commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and the National Museum of Scotland, is set to go on view in Orkney later this year.

“Just as they’re treasured pets today, dogs clearly had an important place in Neolithic Orkney, as they were kept and trained as pets and guards and perhaps used by farmers to help tend sheep,” Steve Farrar, interpretation manager at HES, explains in a statement. “But the remains discovered at Cuween Hill suggest that dogs had a particularly special significance for the farmers who lived around and used the tomb about 4,500 years ago.”

It’s possible, Farrar adds, that the Neolithic group viewed dogs as their “symbol or totem,” perhaps even dubbing themselves the “dog people.”

Cuween Hill dates to around 3,000 B.C., Sky News reports, but radiocarbon dating places the dog’s actual interment some 500 years later. It remains unclear why the animal was buried so many centuries after the tomb’s creation, but archaeologists posit the timing may point toward the ceremony’s ritual value within the community. As HES observes, the fact that the Orkney residents placed canine remains alongside those of humans could also speak to their belief in an afterlife for both parties.

According to the Scotsman, forensic artist Amy Thornton drew on a CT scan to create a 3-D print of the animal’s skull. After layering clay approximations of muscle, skin and hair onto this base, she cast the model in silicone and added a fur coat designed to mimic that of the European grey wolf. Interestingly, Thornton notes, the process played out much as it would for a human facial reconstruction, although “there is much less existing data” detailing average tissue depth in canine versus human skulls.

The model is the latest in a series of technologically focused initiatives centered on Orkney’s Neolithic residents. Last year, HES published 3-D digital renderings of the chambered cairn on Sketchfab, enabling users to explore the tomb’s four side cells, tall central chamber and entrance passage. First discovered in 1888 but only fully excavated in 1901, the impressive stone structure held 24 canine skulls and the remains of at least eight humans.

In an interview with the Guardian’s Addley, Farrar explains that the reconstruction aims “to bring us closer to who [the dog’s owners] were and perhaps give a little hint of what they believed.”

“When you look at a Neolithic dog, it somehow communicates human relationships,” Farrar concludes. “… I can empathise with the people whose ingenuity made Orkney such an enormously important place. When this dog was around, north-west Europe looked to Orkney.”

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“When you look at a Neolithic dog, it somehow communicates human relationships,” Farrar concludes.

That’s a powerful statement.

Now if one goes across to the website for Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn one reads this:

History

An ancient site for burials

Built between 3000 and 2400 BC, this is an excellent example of a Neolithic chambered tomb. It has four cells opening off a central chamber, which is accessed down a passage. Entrance into the tomb today is through the original passage.

Secondary burials at the Cuween Hill could reflect a continued reverence for the site. A recently discovered settlement nearby is probably contemporary with the cairn, and would likely have been connected.

Tomb of the dogs

Exploration at the tomb in 1901 found:

  • Remains of at least eight humans – five skulls on the floor of the chamber, one at the entrance and two in side cells
  • The skulls of 24 dogs on the chamber floor

The dog remains suggest the local tribe or family perhaps had a dog as their symbol or totem, or there may have been a belief in an afterlife for animals.

The tomb is completely unlit, which serves to both add to the atmosphere and discourage vandalism and graffiti. It also means the tomb is largely free of green algal growth.

The stonework at Cuween Hill is of particularly high quality. The roof of one of the cells is likely to be original, elsewhere the walls and corbelled roofs have survived to a considerable height.

As I said, we go back a very long time!

On European Dogs

In the sense of the effect that they had on canines already living in the Americas.

I am taking the liberty, hopefully without getting my wrist slapped, of republishing a recent article that appeared on The Smithsonian Magazine website.

Simply because it offers some very interesting insights into the history of canines in The Americas.

Enjoy!

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European Dogs Devastated Indigenous American Pup Populations

Disease, cultural change wiped out pre-contact populations, leaving no trace of ancient dogs’ DNA in modern counterparts

A dog buried in Western Illinois 10,000 years ago is one of the oldest dogs known in the Americas, and the oldest dog burial in the world. These native American dogs were almost entirely wiped out when European colonists arrived. (Del Baston, courtesy of the Center for American Archeology)

By Meilan Solly, SMITHSONIAN.COM

The first humans to populate the Americas arrived from Siberia via the Bering land bridge around 16,000 years ago. Man’s best friend, the domesticated dog, didn’t arrive for another 6,000 years or so, crossing over just in time to avoid the land bridge’s collapse, but archaeological evidence suggests that the two species lived in harmony for thousands of years—at least until 1492, the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

According to a study published in Science on Thursday, “pre-contact” American dogs possessed a unique genetic signature derived not from the North American wolf, as previously thought, but from domesticated Siberian ancestors. Today, that singular genome has all but disappeared, eradicated by the 15th-century arrival of European settlers and their canine companions.

National Geographic’s Maya Wei-Haas explains that European dogs, like their human owners, probably carried diseases that pre-contact dogs were unequipped to fend off. The colonists preferred European breeds and discouraged their pets from mating with the native dogs, which study co-author Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at Durham University, says were viewed as “wild” and “vicious.”

“This study demonstrates that the history of humans is mirrored in our domestic animals,” Greger Larson, director of the Palaeo-BARN at Oxford and senior author of the study, said in a statement. “People in Europe and the Americas were genetically distinct, and so were their dogs. And just as indigenous people in the Americas were displaced by European colonists, the same is true of their dogs.”

To trace the story of these pre-contact dogs, researchers studied DNA found in the mitochondria of 71 North American and Siberian dog bones. The remains, which date from roughly 10,000 to 1,000 years ago, included those of the Koster dogs, a group of four domesticated canines discovered at a burial site in western Illinois during the 1970s. (A second study, newly published in pre-print server Biorxiv, further discusses these early dogs.) As Science’s David Grimm notes, the Koster pups lived about 10,000 years ago, making them the oldest known dogs in the Americas. Perri, referencing the animals’ small, slender stature, tells Grimm that “it wouldn’t be surprising if they were all used as hunting dogs.”

DNA analysis allowed the scientists to identify pre-contact dogs’ closest relatives: a group of dogs native to Zhokhov Island, a frigid Arctic site situated about 300 miles north of the Russian mainland. The Atlantic’s Ed Yong writes that these dogs were the first to be bred for a specific purpose, namely pulling their humans’ sleds.

In addition to shedding light on the first American dogs’ origins, the study offers insights on pre-contact dogs’ connections—or rather, lack of connections—with modern dogs. Researchers compared the 71 ancient genomes with DNA from more than 5,000 modern dogs, including breeds like chihuahuas and Carolina dogs, which are commonly thought to be descended from indigenous populations. The highest level of pre-contact DNA conclusively found in any of the modern dogs was four percent, a negligible result, the New York Times’ James Gorman reports.

The team’s findings suggest that modern American dogs are descended solely from Eurasian breeds introduced by European settlers. Perri tells Wei-Haas that the scientists expected to find evidence of interbreeding between the pre-contact pups and the new arrivals. Instead, they realized that the native dogs had virtually vanished.

“It is fascinating that a population of dogs that inhabited many parts of the Americas for thousands of years, and that was an integral part of so many Native American cultures, could have disappeared so rapidly,” Laurent Frantz, study co-author and evolutionary geneticist at Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.

Oddly enough, scientists found that the closest surviving trace of pre-contact dogs’ DNA is found in a sexually transmitted canine cancer. The Los Angeles Times’ Deborah Netburn writes that the disease, known as canine transmissible venereal tumor, stems from the genetic mutation of a single North American dog that lived up to 8,225 years ago. The tumor cells spread through mating and carry a copy of that original DNA, allowing researchers to paint a clear picture of the “founding dog,” or patient zero.

Elaine Ostrander, chief of the cancer genetics and comparative genomics branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute, tells Wei-Haas, “It’s the world’s oldest continuously propagated cell line, which is really, really remarkable.”

………

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-european-dogs-devastated-indigenous-american-pup-populations-180969561/#8bYPIFJtvBrqzb3I.99
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“This study demonstrates that the history of humans is mirrored in our domestic animals,”

Best not to go too far into that observation from Dr. Greger Larson!