Dogs that lived alongside Middle Eastern villagers roughly 11,500 years ago may have helped to transform how those humans hunted, researchers say.
Fragmentary canine bones unearthed at Shubayqa 6, an ancient site in northeastern Jordan, date to a time when remains of hares and other small prey at the outpost sharply increased, say zooarchaeologist Lisa Yeomans of the University of Copenhagen and her colleagues. Many animal bones from Shubayqa 6 also display damage caused by having been swallowed by dogs and then passed through their digestive tracts, the scientists report in the March Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.
“The use of dogs for hunting small, fast prey such as hares and foxes, perhaps by driving them into enclosures, could explain the evidence at Shubayqa 6,” Yeomans says.
The bone fragments challenge a long-standing idea that, in the early stages of domestication, dogs were first used to hunt large animals that yielded lots of meat per kill, she says. In that scenario, population growth and climate fluctuations led to food shortages for foraging groups. People seeking a wider array of plants and animals in their diet then incorporated dogs into small-game hunts too. That dietary shift heralded the rise of farming, researchers have suggested.
But no signs of food shortages have been found at Shubayqa 6. People who lived there starting around 11,500 years ago must have enjoyed a consistent supply of gazelles, hares, foxes and game birds, the researchers say. Dogs may have enabled humans at the site to devise new ways to hunt small game effectively enough to forgo large-animal hunts altogether, Yeomans’ team argues. [Continue reading…]