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28 January 2019
Early dogs helped humans hunt

A study of animal bones from an 11,500 year old settlement in northeast Jordan suggests that humans and dogs hunted animals together. Dogs were domesticated by humans as early as 14,000 years ago in the Near East.
     Zooarchaeologist and lead author Lisa Yeomans and her colleagues show that the site was occupied year round: "The dogs were not kept at the fringes of the settlement, but must have been closely integrated into all aspects of day-to-day life and allowed to freely roam around the settlement, feeding on discarded bones and defecating in and around the site."
     When Yeomans and her co-authors sifted through the data, they noted an increase in the number of hares at the time that dogs appeared. Hares were hunted for their meat, but the inhabitants also used the hare bones to make beads. The team think it likely that the appearance of dogs and the increase in hares are related: "The use of dogs for hunting smaller, fast prey such as hares and foxes, perhaps driving them into enclosures, could provide an explanation that is in line with the evidence we have gathered. The shift may also be associated with a change in hunting technique from a method, such as netting, that saw an unselective portion of the hare population captured, to a selective method of hunting in which individual animals were targeted. This could have been achieved by dogs."
     The site is on the northern edge of the Qa' Shubayqa, around 130 kilometres northeast of Amman. It is the first substantial early Neolithic settlement identified in the Black Desert, and has been under investigation since 2012. This and previous studies demonstrate that settlement in this semi-arid to arid zone was more intensive than previously thought and that the area could sustain large populations of animals and humans.

Edited from EurekAlert! (15 January 2019)

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