Sledge dogs used by humans in Siberia 9,500 years ago

Listen below to Interview on Talk of the Town, Dundalk FM, 5th August 2020

Geneticists at Trinity College Dublin have confirmed DNA recovered from the bone of a dog found at a site in Siberian indicates humans were operating sledge dogs 9,500 years ago.

“Today a dog is a pet, but back then a dog was a tool, and a sledge dog is a tool,” said Dr Mikkel Sinding who led the research.

The island of Zhokov is is a well-known archaeological site, famous for its early evidence of dog breeding by humans. In 2003 a bone from a dog called Zhokov, which gave the island its name, was recovered by researchers at the Russian Academy of Scientists.

Dr Sinding, who specialises in ancient DNA, got permission to study the bone.

“We are very lucky in this regard because Siberia is a deep freezer, so the DNA was of quite good quality even though the bone was dissolved,” he added.

The analysis shows sledge dogs emerged as a separate breed of dog at least as far back as 9,500 years ago among Siberian article people.

Separate evidence from arrow tips which were made from stones at a site 1,500 km away indicates these ancient people were highly mobile – their diet was made up of a huge abundance of polar bear and reindeer.

“They had to transport big body parts back to camp,” Dr Sinding noted. “You don’t just walk away with a reindeer, or walk away with a polar bear.”

The research suggests sledges pulled by specially-bred dogs was one of the first forms of human transportation.

“It is comparable to when people in the Middle East invented the wheel,” he believed. “It’s one of the big things in human history. It makes good sense that in this environment the modern sledge dogs arose, but it’s near mind blowing that you still have the exact same family of dogs as you had back then doing the same thing for almost 10,000 years.”