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Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family

A University of Alberta archaeologist is studying the largest collection of dog remains from a site in the circumpolar North.

Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family
Excavations at the archaeological site of Ust-Polui, in the Russian city of Salekhard, have found the remains of more than
 115 dogs scattered around the prehistoric village [Credit: University of Alberta/Robert Losey]
The bones of about 115 dogs were uncovered at the Ust’-Polui archaeological site in Salekhard, a Siberian town of about 40,000 people located along the Ob River, above the Arctic Circle.

The remains suggest there was a complex relationship between the people and dogs in the area roughly 2,000 years ago, said Robert Losey, speaking from Salekhard.

Losey’s interest in the relationships between ancient people and animals seems like a logical continuation of his own longstanding connection with animals, from growing up on a cattle ranch in Kansas to his bond today with his dog Guiness.

Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family
A roughly 7,500 year old dog burial site at Lake Baikal in Siberia. The dog was buried under a stone slab, with a round 
pebble in its mouth, and other artifacts near its head [Credit: Robert Losey/University of Alberta]
About five of the dogs were found at the Salekhard site were carefully buried, the same as a person might have been, Losey said.

“They were placed in simple graves in and around the living area. It seems entirely likely that people really loved some of these dogs and treated them like a member of the family.”

Other remains were found “scattered about…just like all other food remains at the site,” Losey said.

Some of the dogs have cut marks, indicating they were eaten, possibly as part of a ritual sacrifice, perhaps “in order to appease the spirits or to ask for some particular favour,” he said.

Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family
A dog burial at the Ust’-Polui site in Salekhard, Siberia 
[Credit: Robert Losey/University of Alberta]
Losey hasn’t seen evidence of ritual dog killings in another, older site further south in Siberia.

The dog remains found near the Lake Baikal site, which are about 8,000 years old, were all buried carefully. It appears the dogs died of natural causes.

“There’s a very different cultural setting in which those dogs lived, much more of a companion and a loved one I think than what we’re seeing in this area (Salekhard),” he said.

Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family
Excavations at the Ust-Polui archaeological site [Credit: Scientific Research of the Arctic,
Salekhard/Andrey Gusev]
The differences between the two sites suggest the relationship between dogs and people has varied between cultures, over time, since dogs were domesticated from wolves some 15,000 years ago, Losey said.

Testing has revealed that dogs found in both areas were similar in size and form to Siberian huskies, with largely black and white fur, he said.

Chemical testing on the remains revealed both dogs and people at the Salekhard site largely ate fish, which means the dogs must have been fed.

It’s likely dogs were also used for transportation in the area, perhaps alongside reindeer, Losey said.

Author: Ainslie Cruickshank | Source: Edmonton Journal [June 20, 2016]

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1 comment :

  1. we heard from a family who does business in Thailand, that dogs were dearly loved, but when they died, they were eaten. The Thai people would not waste perfectly good meat. In fact, they fed their other dogs the meat from the dead dog, also


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