Dawn of the Dog Article

A dog skull sits on a disk, as scientists prepare to photograph it for geometric morphometrics.

A dog skull sits on a disk, as scientists prepare to photograph it for geometric morphometrics.

A very important and fascinating subject to undertake.  Here’s an interesting new article about the domestication of dogs from Science.

Science Magazine

Greger Larson holds a wolf skull at the Oxford Museum of Natural History (top). Ardern Hulme-Beaman (bottom) examines an ancient dog jawbone (middle).

Dogs were the very first thing humans domesticated—before any plant, before any other animal. Yet despite decades of study, researchers are still fighting over where and when wolves became humans’ loyal companions. “It’s very competitive and contentious,” says Jean-Denis Vigne, a zooarchaeologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, who notes that dogs could shed light on human prehistory and the very nature of domestication. “It’s an animal so deeply and strongly connected to our history that everyone wants to know.”

PHOTO: ARDERN HULME-BEAMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE SWEDISH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (2)

PHOTO: ARDERN HULME-BEAMAN, PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE SWEDISH MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (2)

Money proved a great motivator. Though dogs loom large in the public consciousness, they don’t tend to loosen the purse strings of funding organizations. As a result, many scientists work on them as only a hobby or side project, piggybacking on funding from other grants. But Larson and Dobney made a strong case to European funding agencies in 2012, arguing that the domestication of dogs set the stage for taming an entire host of plants and animals. “We said, without dogs you don’t have any other domestication,” Larson says. “You don’t have civilization.”

The skeletons of a human and dog (upper left) discovered underneath a 12,000-year-old home in northern Israel are early evidence of the human-canine bond.

The skeletons of a human and dog (upper left) discovered underneath a 12,000-year-old home in northern Israel are early evidence of the human-canine bond.

For the first time, we’re going to be able to look at some of these strange skulls like the Goyet skull and figure out how strange they really are,” he says. “Are they wolves becoming dogs, or are they just unusual wolves?” Combining the two approaches, he says, should allow the collaboration to home in on just where dogs came from—and when this happened.

“Archaeology is storytelling,” Hulme-Beaman says. “I think we’re going to be able to tell a great story.”

Read the short article HERE or download the full PDF HERE.

Reference: Science 17 April 2015:
Vol. 348 no. 6232 pp. 274-279
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6232.274

Tusk Weight

I have been searching for some time for information about the weight of mammoth tusks.  I quite inadvertently came across this today while searching something else.  Such is the way of libraries and the internet.  It seems that the old estimates for a fifteen to sixteen foot long tusk weighing over 300 pounds is fairly realistic when compared to some African elephant examples from the nineteenth century.   headertusksFrom Work, No. 161, 1892.

Catching Up on the Blog

Too many projects and too few hands have meant that the Blackwater Draw blog gets neglected more than it should.  Too much time is spent in petty bureaucracy, assisting other researchers with their personal projects, and fixing the many problems associated with a large, under-staffed cultural property and museum.  Hopefully, our new Curator will be posting here soon as she brings new ideas and energy to the position.

However, great things are afoot…

I have been allocated a small but significant amount of money from the University Administration to revamp the Blackwater Draw Museum.  Our new facility will be somewhat smaller but is a much better space in a far better location on the main campus of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico.  For those who have been to the older museum, you may remember that the displays and much of the “look” dated to about 1970 with several displays being updated in the mid-1980s.

April and May are always busy…

Conferences, school field trips, regional talks fill the calendar.  We will be attending the New Mexico Association of Museums meeting later this week, setting up a display and demonstration table at the Archaeology Fair at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces next weekend, and speaking in Santa Fe next week.  Then there are the SAA confernece in San Francisco and the Southwestern Federation of Archaeological Societies meeting in Hobbs, New Mexico.

And Finally…

We will be hosting the New Mexico Prehistory Day and Open House at the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark on May 2nd.  Come celebrate New Mexico Cultural Heritage Month at the Clovis site with demonstrators and archaeologists from around the state from 10:00 – 4:00 p.m.  It’s FREE and open to everyone.

The Lubbock Lake Fossil Site

George Crawford:

Some observations from a afar about Lubbock Lake. Just a short ways downstream from us lies a site similar, and probably culturally connected to, the Clovis site. Although we disagree with a few points in Dr. Johnson’s work, overall, it is a great contribution to the work on the Southern High Plains.

250px-TXMap-doton-Lubbock

Originally posted on GeorgiaBeforePeople:

Lubbock Lake was a natural 10 acre body of water located within the city limits of Lubbock, Texas.  Wind blown sediment formed a barrier that choked the flow of a stream, creating this lake.  Springs fed the stream and were part of the headwaters of the Brazos River system.   During the 19th century Lubbock Lake served as a favorite watering hole for cowboys and their cattle, and Indians had utilized these wetlands for at least 13,000 years.  But during the 1930s too many residents had dug wells in the vicinity causing the water table to drop and the lake to dry up.  City workers dug into the dry lake bed in a failed attempt to establish a reservoir.  However, vertebrate fossils and artifacts were found in the spoil piles of dirt dug by the engineers.  Scientists began studying this locality.  Material from this site was the first ever to be radio-carbon dated. …

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How Far South did Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) Range During the Ice Age?

George Crawford:

Interesting thoughts about Polar Bear ranges in the Late Pleistocene.

Originally posted on GeorgiaBeforePeople:

Almost the entire present day range of the polar bear was uninhabitable for this species during most of the Ice Age.  The ice was too thick then, even for species adapted to arctic conditions.  Polar bear ranges shifted south.  Favorable habitat existed between the mile high Laurentide Ice Sheet and the Atlantic Ocean, and polar bears likely wandered along a strip of the Atlantic Seaboard now submerged by rising sea level.  I hypothesize they occurred as far south as what today is the continental shelf off the coast of South Carolina.

Map of North America during the Last Glacial Maximum.  Polar bears probably ranged on a narrow strip of the Atlantic Seaboard off the coast of what’s now Nova Scotia and Maine to as far south as what today is South Carolina during the height of the Ice Age.  Note the narrow strip of land between the ice sheet and the…

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