January 10, 2018

Archeologists Discover Oldest Images of Dogs

Hunting scenes etched into rock walls in Saudi Arabia are believed to depict the earliest images of dogs.
By Amanda Carrozza
Archeologists in northwestern Saudi Arabia have uncovered rock-wall etchings believed to be the oldest images of dogs. The hunting scenes, estimated to be 8000 years old, show humans and dogs working together to stalk prey such as lions, gazelles, and horses. 

Surprisingly, some of the images depict dogs on leashes tied to the waists of hunters. Researchers speculate the leashed dogs might indicate young dogs in training, older ones at risk of injury, or dogs being used as protection.

According to Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History who discovered the carvings, the presence of leashes indicates that humans were training dogs prior to establishing farming communities.

“The leashing of dogs not only shows a high level of control over hunting dogs… but also that some dogs performed different hunting tasks than others,” Guagnin and her co-authors wrote in a report published in the Journal of Anthropological Archeology.

Nearly 350 images of dogs were counted at 2 rock-art sites, all of which resemble the modern Canaan breed, which have pricked ears, deeply-angled chests, short snouts, and curled tails. Archeologists noted that the images are clearly of domesticated dogs because of the distinction between hyenas and wolves drawn in other areas of the rock-art.

This discovery is one of the first demonstrations archeologists have of humans using dogs to hunt, and opens the door to questions about the exact time period and location of the world’s first domesticated dogs.

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