Paleontologists have recently unearthed the fossils of three prehistoric dogs, one of which had a mammoth bone locked in its jaws. Researchers believe the bone may have been placed in the dog’s mouth after its death by a human, in a ritual-like burial.
The bone, and other procedures which were performed on the dog’s body before burial, imply that the relationship between dogs and humans may go back farther than previously believed.
Mietje Germonpre, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, explained that the mammoth bone could reveal “that the dog was ‘fed’ to accompany the soul of the dead person on its journey.” She added that a perforation was found in the dog’s skull, which implies a ritual to release the dog’s spirit after the death of its body.
Rob Losey, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, said the study certainly reveals that dog domestication occurred much earlier than once believed.
He said: “The distinctive treatment given to some of the remains also is compelling and this indicates to me that a special connections had developed between people and some canids quite early on- long prior to any good evidence for dogs being buried.”
Researchers believe the dogs were used for hauling loads such as meat, bones and mammoth tusks, as well as firewood.