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'The few descriptions of Irkutsk had spoken of it as the Paris of Siberia'
Mrs John Clarence Lee, 1914

Siberia holds the key to the human love affair with dogs

By The Siberian Times reporter
07 March 2016

Study of ancient canine graves shows the important place of the animals in lives of prehistoric people.

One ancient man was buried along with his two dogs: one lay on either side of him. Picture: University of Alberta 

A study of the remains of dogs in an ancient cemetery near Lake Baikal has shown how the animals were 'treated just like people when they died', according to anthropologist Robert Losey of the University of Alberta in Canada. 

'They were being carefully placed in a grave, some of them wearing decorative collars, or next to other items like spoons, with the idea being potentially that they had souls and an afterlife,' he said.

Chemical analysis of the bones of these dogs from 5,000 to 8,000 years ago indicates that they had been fed the same foods eaten by the people that lived in the settlement. Where people ate fish, so did the dogs. 

A study of the remains of dogs in an ancient cemetery near Lake Baikal has shown how the animals were 'treated just like people when they died'
Across the Siberian Arctic, Losey has also found evidence of dogs wearing harnesses, perhaps for pulling sleds. Picture: University of Alberta 


'People loved them so they treated them like human persons when they passed away. Dogs seem to have a very special place in human communities in the past,' Robert Losey said in a press release.

Some ancient humans liked their dogs in a different way, he found, because there is also evidence that people sometimes ate their dogs. 

Across the Siberian Arctic, Losey has also found evidence of dogs wearing harnesses, perhaps for pulling sleds. 

Study of the animals from ancient graves can provide valuable insights into their lives of ancient peoples and their animals.

He believes ancient man loved and cared for their dogs much as people do today but they were 'working companions' too. 

'What can we learn about people's relationship with dogs in the past? The history of our working relationships with animals, and our emotional relationships, is what interests me,' he said. 

A study of the remains of dogs in an ancient cemetery near Lake Baikal has shown how the animals were 'treated just like people when they died'
'Dogs seem to have a very special place in human communities in the past'. Picture: University of Alberta 


One ancient man was buried along with his two dogs: one lay on either side of him. 'Globally you can see that there are more dog burials in prehistory than any other animals, including cats or horses. Dogs seem to have a very special place in human communities in the past,' Robert Losey said. 

Earlier research in Siberia suggests that man kept pet dogs 33,000 years ago. 

Analysis of DNA in a fossil tooth found in the Altai Mountains showed it was more closely related to domestic dogs than extant wolves. 

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