Prehistoric canids and the early domestication of the wolf

The intriguing findings of the pilot projects on Palaeolithic dogs (Germonpré et al., 2009, 2012) warrant further in depth investigation in order to fully comprehend the domestication processes of the wolf. We propose a multidisciplinary study, integrating results from fields such as osteometry, osteomorphology, geometric morphometric (GMM) techniques, archaeozoology, palaeopathology, genetics, biogeochemistry and traceology.

The overarching goal of the proposed project is to understand how and why prehistoric people used dogs and wolves. Several hypotheses can be tested.

The prehistoric dogs and/or wolves have had:

  1. practical use: using the dogs as beast of burden, using them as help with the hunt, using the fur and/or meat of dogs/wolves;
  2. ritual/symbolic use: using these animals in rituals, using their body parts (teeth, claws, etc.) as symbolic objects.

The canid remains will be examined in the light of these hypothetical uses of the large canids by a multitude of approaches. Archaeological contextual information will be combined with data on the canids’ size and shape, genetic identities, ages at death, diets, incidences of disease and trauma, and post-mortem human handling. Furthermore, the project will significantly develop our knowledge of the beginning of the history of relationships between humans and dogs, which are the oldest domesticated animals.

Related publications

  • Germonpré, M. et al. Palaeolithic dogs and the early domestication of the wolf: a reply to the comments of Crockford and Kuzmin. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, 786-792 (2013).
  • Losey, R. J. et al. Burying Dogs in Ancient Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Temporal Trends and Relationships with Human Diet and Subsistence Practices. PLoS ONE 8, e63740 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063740 (2013).
  • Thalmann, O. et al. Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of Ancient Canids Suggest a European Origin of Domestic Dogs. Science 342, 871-874 (2013).
  • Germonpré, M., Lázničková-Galetová, M. & Sablin, M. Palaeolithic dog skulls at the Gravettian Předmostísite, the Czech Republic. Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 184-202 (2012).
  • Losey, R. J. et al. Canids as persons: Early Neolithic dog and wolf burials, Cis-Baikal, Siberia. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 30, 174-189 (2011).
  • Germonpré, M. et al. Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium, the Ukraine and Russia: osteometry, ancient DNA and stable isotopes. Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 473-490 (2009).
Internal member(s)
Mietje Germonpré
Wim Van Neer
Mircea Udrescu
Gontran Sonet
Other member(s)
Martina Galetová, Mikhail Sablin, Olaf Thalmann, Hervé Bocherens, Robert Losey, Greger Larsson, Jannikke Räikkönen
RBINS, NERC, Synthesys
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