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These May Be the World’s First Images of Dogs

Dog pictures! They've been around a long time. The oldest art that depicts dogs has been dated to between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. Some of the dogs in the rock carvings appear to be on leashes, and could indicate that dogs were part of a hunting culture of the Arabian Peninsula in the pre-Neolithic era.

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 image above shows the rocks with color enhancements to highlight the carvings. Archaeologist Paul Tacon cautions that the leashes in the images could be symbolic instead of a realistic representation, but if the animals were real, why wouldn't the leashes be? Read more about the rock carvings at Science magazine. -via Gizmodo

(Image credit: Guagnin et al., 2017)

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