These may be the worlds first images of dogs—and theyre wearing leashes

first_img Carved into a sandstone cliff on the edge of a bygone river in the Arabian Desert, a hunter draws his bow for the kill. He is accompanied by 13 dogs, each with its own coat markings; two animals have lines running from their necks to the man’s waist.The engravings likely date back more than 8000 years, making them the earliest depictions of dogs, a new study reveals. And those lines are probably leashes, suggesting that humans mastered the art of training and controlling dogs thousands of years earlier than previously thought.“It’s truly astounding stuff,” says Melinda Zeder, an archaeozoologist at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. “It’s the only real demonstration we have of humans using early dogs to hunt.” But she cautions that more work will be needed to confirm both the age and meaning of the depictions.  Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) These may be the world’s first images of dogs—and they’re wearing leashes By David GrimmNov. 16, 2017 , 8:00 AM Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe The ancient hunting dogs of Saudi Arabia (bottom) may have resembled the Canaan breed of dog (top). Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Email The hunting scene comes from Shuwaymis, a hilly region of northwestern Saudi Arabia where seasonal rains once formed rivers and supported pockets of dense vegetation. For the past 3 years, Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany—in partnership with the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage—has helped catalog more than 1400 rock art panels containing nearly 7000 animals and humans at Shuwaymis and Jubbah, a more open vista about 200 kilometers north that was once dotted with lakes.Starting about 10,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers entered—or perhaps returned to—the region. What appear to be the oldest images are thought to date to this time and depict curvy women. Then about 7000 to 8000 years ago, people here became herders, based on livestock bones found at Jubbah; that’s likely when pictures of cattle, sheep, and goats began to dominate the images. In between—carved on top of the women and under the livestock—are the early hunting dogs: 156 at Shuwaymis and 193 at Jubbah. All are medium-sized, with pricked up ears, short snouts, and curled tails—hallmarks of domestic canines. In some scenes, the dogs face off against wild donkeys. In others, they bite the necks and bellies of ibexes and gazelles. And in many, they are tethered to a human armed with a bow and arrow.The researchers couldn’t directly date the images, but based on the sequence of carving, the weathering of the rock, and the timing of the switch to pastoralism, “The dog art is at least 8000 to 9000 years old,” Guagnin says. That may edge out depictions of dogs previously labeled the oldest, paintings on Iranian pottery dated to at most 8000 years ago. “When Maria came to me with the rock art photos and asked me if they meant anything, I about lost my mind,” says co-author Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Perri has studied the bones of ancient dogs around the world, and has argued that early dogs were critical in human hunting. “A million bones won’t tell me what these images are telling me,” she says. “It’s the closest thing you’re going to get to a YouTube video.” (Top to bottom): Alexandra Baranova/Wikimedia Commons; M.Guagnin et al., Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 2017 The dogs look a lot like today’s Canaan dog, says Perri, a largely feral breed that roams the deserts of the Middle East. That could indicate that these ancient people bred dogs that had already adapted to hunting in the desert, the team reports this week in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Or people may even have independently domesticated these dogs from the Arabian wolf long after dogs were domesticated elsewhere, which likely happened sometime between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago.But Zeder notes that the engravings may not be as old as they seem. To confirm the chronology, scientists will need to link the images to a well-dated archaeological site—a challenge, she says, because “the archaeological record in this region is really spotty.”Paul Tacon, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Gold Coast, Australia, agrees that “dating rock art is often a guestimate.” But based on his nearly 4 decades of studying such images around the world, he says, “Their chronology is sound.”Even if the art is younger than Guagnin and her colleagues think, the leashes are by far the oldest on record. Until now, the earliest evidence for such restraints came from a wall painting in Egypt dated to about 5500 years ago, Perri says. The Arabian hunters may have used the leashes to keep valuable scent dogs close and protected, she says, or to train new dogs. Leashing dogs to the hunter’s waist may have freed his hands for bow and arrow.But Tacon cautions that the lines in the engravings could be symbolic. “It could just be a depiction of a bond.” Either way, he says, that bond was clearly strong, as the artists appear to have depicted dogs they actually knew, with particular coat patterns, stances, and genders. “These creatures were very important, beloved companions.”Such a relationship would have been critical to helping people survive a harsh environment. Dogs could take down gazelles and ibexes too fast for humans, Perri says. Details of the images also suggest that the ancient hunters tailored their strategies to the landscape, Zeder says. At Shuwaymis, where the dogs may have been used to drive prey into the corners of uneven terrain, the art depicts large packs. At Jubbah, the images show smaller groups of dogs that may have ambushed prey at watering holes. “People were able to venture into these inhospitable areas by strategically marshalling dogs to survive,” Zeder says. “And now we’re seeing a real picture of how it happened.”last_img