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An 8,400-year-old Stone Age Dog of Long-Vanished Breed Finally Revealed After Months of Meticulous Excavation Work

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Following months of meticulous excavation work, the remains of a dog of a long-vanished breed buried more than 8,400 years ago beside his master in a grave in Sweden have been revealed. The Stone Age hound was unearthed by archaeologists in the Ljungaviken neighborhood of Sölvesborg, Blekinge County back in late September this year, as part of an extensive dig that has been operating since 2015. The team transported the 250kg block containing the ancient dog back to the Blekinge Museum in Karlskrona. The surrounding sediment was carefully scraped and brushed away to reveal the canine’s bones. 

According to the animal osteologist who conducted a preliminary examination of the remains earlier this year, the breed o the dog wouldn’t be known today, but was like “a powerful greyhound.” The area where the dog’s remains were found has been the focus of one of the largest archaeological digs ever undertaken in the region, the result of a group effort between archaeological researchers and the local authorities. The settlement unearthed at the Ljungaviken site would have once rested on the coast, before rising sea levels covered the site with layers of mud and sand that kept artifacts preserved for thousands of years. Osteologist Ola Magnell of the Blekinge Museum said, “The dog is well preserved, and the fact that it is buried in the middle of the Stone Age settlement is unique.” The dog was buried with its master as part of ancient tradition called “grave goods” in which the living buries the dead along with objects of material and sentimental worth. 


Museum project manager Carl Peterson said that “a sudden and violent increase of the sea level” had flooded the area, which helped preserve the burial site. Much of the archaeologists’ work at the site involved carefully removing the layers of sand and mud to free what was buried. Dr. Person also said that finds like these make you, “feel even closer to the people who lived here. A buried dog somehow shows how similar we are over the millennia when it comes to the feelings like grief and loss.”

Experts believe that the Ljungaviken site was inhabited by hunters during the Stone Age. They believe that dogs have served as “man’s best friend” for thousands of years—as archaeologists have uncovered evidence all over the world that suggests that they have been domesticated pets for a long time. An example of this was in August of this year when researchers in Southern Italy discovered what may be the oldest ever remains of a pet dog—dating back to sometime between 14,000-20,000 years ago. When the archaeologists have finished their studies, construction will begin to turn the area into a residential community.

The team from the University of Siena said that they hope their discovery can shed light on how dogs made the transition from wild carnivores to loving companions. One theory is that due to a lack of food, wolves became scavengers out of necessity—a shift which took them close to human settlements. Some experts believe that the animals and our ancestors slowly developed a bond, then a symbiotic relationship blossomed. Others believes that wolves and humans hunted together, which is how their relationship was first shaped.

The early canine remains from that study—published in the journal Scientific Reports—came from two Paleolithic sites in Southern Italy; Paglicci and Romanelli caves. Author Francesco Boschin and colleagues wrote that, “combined molecular and morphological analyses of fossil canid remains from the sites of Grotta Paglicci and Grotta Romanelli, in southern Italy, attest of the presence of dogs at least 14,000 calibrated years before present. This unambiguously documents one of the earliest occurrence of domesticates in the Upper Paleolithic of Europe and in the Mediterranean.” However, Dr. Boschin told RealPress that a re-evaluation suggests that this figure could be much older, closer to 20,000 years ago saying, “From an archaeological point of view, the oldest remains of domesticated dogs were found in Central Europe and date back 16,000 years. In the Mediterranean area we have now established that domesticated dogs lived here 14,000 years ago for sure, but possibly even 20,000 years ago.” 

Source: Daily Mail