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Archive for Saturday, January 28, 2006

Man’s best friend stands test of time, study says

KU professor sees long link between dogs, humans

January 28, 2006

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The man was buried in Sweden with a dog laid out across his legs.

It could have been yesterday, but that burial site actually dates back 7,000 years to the Mesolithic period.

"It's a social bond," Kansas University professor Darcy Morey said of the relationship between humans and dogs, the study of which is his area of expertise. "It just keeps going. It's an amazing thing."

Morey, an assistant professor of anthropology, recently published his research on man's best friend in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Among other things, his research shows that pet cemeteries are no recent invention but have existed for eons.

It reveals the poignant connection between humans and dog and adds to the debate over when the dog was first domesticated.

Buried meaning

To unearth the relationship of dogs and humans, Morey surveyed how dogs were treated after death in earliest times.

"Nothing," he wrote in his paper, "signifies the social importance that people have attached to dogs more conspicuously than their deliberate interment upon death."

There are burial sites on every continent, except Antarctica, where the ground surface makes burial practically impossible.

Morey's map of dog burial sites includes spots in current-day Greenland, Sweden, Sudan, Siberia, Japan and the United States, including Alaska. Some date back 14,000 years.

Cedric Devin, owner of Christal K-9 Inc., a Lawrence pet grooming business, dries a golden retriever named Tre as his work companion and personal dog JoJo sits nearby. Devin explained that JoJo, who is 12 years old, frequently comes to work with him to keep him company. "It just feels like you have a friend around all the time," Devin says. A Kansas University professor recently published research showing the lengthy relationship between humans and canines.

Cedric Devin, owner of Christal K-9 Inc., a Lawrence pet grooming business, dries a golden retriever named Tre as his work companion and personal dog JoJo sits nearby. Devin explained that JoJo, who is 12 years old, frequently comes to work with him to keep him company. "It just feels like you have a friend around all the time," Devin says. A Kansas University professor recently published research showing the lengthy relationship between humans and canines.

"He's done a major yeoman's task in pulling together this material and showing what is virtually a worldwide phenomenon," said Mark Derr, freelance writer and author of books about dogs.

The graves are similar in the deliberate care put into burying each dog.

"It seems clear that they are about as close to being considered a person as a nonhuman animal can be," he wrote.

In one grave site in what is present-day Israel, an elderly person was buried with a hand lying on the body of a puppy. The bones are between 11,000 and 12,000 years old.

At Indian Knoll in Kentucky, which dates 3500 B.C. to 2500 B.C., there are many buried dogs. In one grave, two dogs were buried with children.

Another site in Israel, called Ashkelon, dates back to the Persian era and includes about 1,000 dogs buried individually in a sort of dog cemetery.

There is no sign of abuse, Morey said. But it is difficult to determine why the dogs were buried as they were.

"That's the K-9 conundrum," he said. "It's just not clear what's going on there."

In some cases, it appears that dogs were killed when a person died in order to be included in the grave. Morey believes dogs held a spiritual status.

Domesticated debate

But dogs have seen other fates. Sometimes they've been eaten for food, skinned for their furs or sacrificed. But, as Morey points out, people also have sacrificed each other.

Morey's research disputes some genetics research that has suggested dogs have been domesticated for at least 100,000 years. Archaeology suggests that domestication occurred within the past 14,000 years, Morey said, adding that there is no physical "hard" evidence indicating it happened earlier.

"We'll see whether he's correct or not," Derr said. "That's the fun part."

Special dogs

Morey did not ignore cats. Ancient Egyptians mummified cats and buried them in cemeteries. And several thousand years earlier, cats were buried in Cyprus.

Cedric Devin's dog JoJo, who is now almost 12 years old, is still able to get around relatively well, but also is showing his signs of aging in daily activities.

Cedric Devin's dog JoJo, who is now almost 12 years old, is still able to get around relatively well, but also is showing his signs of aging in daily activities.

But Morey calls cat burials a "localized phenomenon" not as widespread as dog burials. Why? Wolves and dogs are pack animals that hunt by day, Morey said, while cats are solitary and hunt mostly at night.

Morey's research shows the deep ties between humans and dogs - from prehistory to today.

"It's a mutual thing," he said. "Dogs do not get along well without people. It's a real domestic relationship. : When they're deprived of it, they don't fare well."

It's a bond that Cedric Devin, owner of Christal K-9 Inc. in Lawrence, knows well.

"When you see that wagging tail and that smiling face, it brings a little joy into that tough day," he said.

Devin displays an old photograph of JoJo in his show dog years on display with Devin's daughter Claire.

Devin displays an old photograph of JoJo in his show dog years on display with Devin's daughter Claire.

And there's an "internal bond" that he can't easily explain.

"It's almost an intrinsic thing that's hard to describe," he said.

Comments

costello 8 years, 11 months ago

I love my dogs!!! In fact, my favorite dog is named Costello. That's how I chose my login name.

Jamesaust 8 years, 11 months ago

"dogs have been domesticated for at least 100,000 years."

Not so - dogs were created 6,000 years ago but an "intelligence" who happened to like dalmations and poodles. wink

What's interesting is considering how dogs have managed this relationship. The article assumes that humans have bestowed this connection from on high and the dogs merely receive it.

Anyone who has stood to the side as an observer and seen how people behave with their favorite dogs realizes that the dog is a master manipulator, appearing to think humans (especially THEIR human) as the greatest thing since bone marrow and appearing to behave almost as if they were people themselves (anthropomorphism).

As one person once remarked aspirationally -- I hope to be the person that my dog thinks I am.

If dodos could have adopted this type of behavior, there'd be hundreds of millions of dodos alive today.

Confrontation 8 years, 11 months ago

I wish people cared this much about children.

SteelHorseRider 8 years, 11 months ago

I believe the dog referred to in the article that was buried in Sweden with his/her owner was a Norwegian Elkhound. We buried our Elkhound buddy, Thor, a couple summers ago and my wife, grown children, and I miss him very much. Simply irreplaceable!

costello 8 years, 11 months ago

Confrontation: It isn't an either-or thing. I love kids too and am adopting a teenaged boy from foster care. When that adoption is finalized, I hope to adopt more. BTW, my son loves dogs too. And his favorite is also Costello!

moron 8 years, 11 months ago

Hey C_man,

funny stuff, thanks for the laugh.

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