Beyond Domestication: Investigations into the Human-Canine Connection

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The interpersonal relationships humans have with domesticated dogs have a great influence on the way in which these animals are conceptualized in terms of both their value and social standing within a human group. Once domesticated, dogs filled many different roles within human societies, from beast of burden to food resources to companions. These relationships were likely multifaceted and may not always be easily discernible in the archaeological record. However, new research questions and investigative techniques are beginning to elucidate the ways that humans valued dogs in the past. The papers within this session provide a better understanding of the human-canine relationship through the integration of multiple lines of evidence, including zooarchaeology, ethnohistory, and cutting-edge scientific methods of analysis. By identifying the place that domesticated dogs occupied within a given human society we hope to be able to better understand the value that past peoples placed on this relationship. These works will contribute to broader anthropological discussions about human interactions with their environment as well as the lived experiences of humans and their dogs in the past.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • Ancient Dogs of the Tennessee River Valley (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Meagan Dennison.

    Skeletal remains of domestic dogs, particularly dog burials, are common from prehistoric archaeological sites in the Southeastern United States. Efforts to describe these ancient canines have traditionally focused on body size and cranial morphology, however, more recently paleopathology has played a key role in understanding ancient canine lifeways and the interactions between humans and domestic dogs. Mortuary analysis can also bolster interpretations of life histories and dogs’ roles within...

  • The archaeology of dogs at the precontact Yup’ik site of Nunalleq, Western Alaska (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kate Britton. Edouard Masson-Maclean. Ellen McManus-Fry. Claire Houmard. Carly Ameen.

    Historically and ethnographically dogs have played a prominent role in the lifeways and lifeworlds of many Arctic and sub-Arctic peoples, and are considered to be a vital aspect of adaptation to living in these regions, providing protection, fur and meat, as well as aiding hunting and transportation. Excavations at the precontact site of Nunalleq in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in coastal Western Alaska have uncovered a significant proportion of dog bones amongst the faunal assemblage. The presence...

  • The Canids of Arroyo Hondo: a reanalysis (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victoria Bowler. Emily Jones. Cyler Conrad.

    Domestic dogs were an important part of human cultures in the prehistoric American Southwest; the significance of these animals is apparent from ceramic decorations and clay figurines, as well as faunal remains. But how these animals functioned within Southwestern cultures is less well-understood. Prehistoric dogs’ roles in some cases seem to have been similar to those of modern dogs: protector, worker, and pet. However, zooarchaeological data have shown that dogs, like turkeys, were also used...

  • The Changing Role of the Domestic Dog: New Evidence from the American Bottom Region of Illinois (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Steven Kuehn.

    Recent archaeological investigations in the American Bottom have resulted in the identification of several hundred individual dog remains from Late Woodland (A.D. 650-900), Terminal Late Woodland (A.D. 900-1050), and Mississippian (A.D. 1050-1400) components. On-going research, including coprolite and isotopic analyses, as well as traditional osteological and pathological studies, is providing important new insight on the diet, treatment, and changing roles of domestic dogs in prehistoric Native...

  • Chien Opératoire: Dogs as Technological Systems in the Northern Great Plains (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kacy Hollenback. Abigail Fisher.

    In the past, like today, dogs (Canis familiaris) were not only human companions, they were also tools, beasts of burden, alarm systems, sources of food, and ritual elements. Since first domesticated, humans have shaped dogs physically and behaviorally, and they have, in turn, shaped our societies. As such, domesticated canines can be treated as a form of technology, regardless of their own forms of agency. By technology we refer to objects (i.e., dogs and linked artifacts), related practices,...

  • Domesticated Animals as a Source of Cultural Change during the Contact Period on the Northwestern Plains (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brandi Bethke.

    Despite functioning as pack animals, guards, religious figures, and even companions, dogs were never as integral to Blackfoot culture as the horse became. To date, researchers have most often characterized the relationship of Blackfoot people and their horses by framing the horse as an "upgraded model"—a "new and improved" dog. While prior experience with domesticated dogs did facilitate the incorporation of horses into the daily lives of Blackfoot people, this paper argues that the fundamental...

  • East Coast Canines and Culture Contact: a multi-disciplinary approach (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kelsey Noack Myers.

    On the eastern edge of North America, native canine populations were brought into contact with foreign human and canine populations in the 17th century. This paper utilizes multiple types of data to address the dynamics between human and canine groups in spheres of interaction evidenced by archaeological remains from multi-component sites on the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic coasts of the United States spanning the late pre-Columbian and contact periods.

  • Hard Fare: Investigating Dog Teeth to Interpret the Value of a Dog among Northwestern Plains and Rocky Mountains (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amanda Burtt.

    In this paper, Dental Microwear Texture Analysis is used to evaluate the teeth of dogs recovered from Late Prehistoric sites to investigate the idea that these animals had their natural diets modified by their human counterparts. This study compares microwear from wolves (Canis lupus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) to that of archaeological dogs recovered from various sites that represent human mobile groups of the Northwestern Plains and Rocky Mountains. Varied practices have been described in the...

  • The Many Roles of Roman Dogs (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Victoria Moses.

    The Romans had a strong interest in the natural world. Their relationships with animals extended from animals as food source to animals as exotic curiosities and everything in between. Dogs held a complicated position for the Romans, filling a wide range of roles. For example, dogs could be companions, war weapons, street cleaners, or victims of sacrifice. This variety shows how dogs were conceptualized sometimes as individuals and pets, sometimes as pests, and other times as powerful and almost...

  • The Upper Paleolithic beginnings of the domestication of the dog (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mietje Germonpré. Martina Láznicková-Galetová. Mikhail Sablin. Hervé Bocherens.

    With this contribution, we would like to present our ideas concerning the first steps in the domestication process of the dog. Two main hypotheses on the origin of the dog have been proposed: 1)"Self-domestication" by wolves: Some wolves were following Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to scavenge on the remains of prey left by the prehistoric people at the human settlements. Generation after generation, these wandering wolves adapted themselves to the human dominated environment. 2)"Social...

  • Working Like Dogs: a systematic evaluation of spinal pathologies as indicators of dog transport in the archaeological record (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Katherine Latham.

    The use of dogs to pull or carry loads is well documented in the recent and historic past, but the origins of these working relationships are not well understood. Although it is likely that humans utilized dogs for transport activities in the prehistoric period, there is no clear archaeological evidence of dog transport until the historic era. Some archaeologists have suggested that pulling or carrying loads leaves unique signatures of stress on the skeletons of dogs. The use of skeletal...