Comparison of Canaan dogs and dog depictions in the rock art of Shuwaymis, which show dogs with a spot and a chest coloration (all photos courtesy Guagnin et al)
A new study of prehistoric rock art reveals how hunters in the Arabian Peninsula pursued prey with dogs over 8,000 years ago — and even controlled their packs with leashes. The engravings represent the earliest evidence for dogs on the Arabian Peninsula and might even stand as the earliest depictions of canines yet, as Science first reported. Found at two sites a few years ago — at a wadi at Shuwaymis and at the desert oasis of Jubbah — the stylized canines predate previous evidence for dogs in the region by over 2,000 years. As for the carved leashes, those simple lines are the earliest known evidence of leads in prehistory.
Composite photograph of a panel at Shuwaymis with damaged in the center with hunters and dogs
The analysis, led by Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, was published this month in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Researchers counted around 400 dogs in total across both sites, and even note that the good boys share similar features to the modern-day Canaan dog.
“All of the dogs display characteristic pricked ears, short snouts, deeply-angled chests, and a curled tail, appearing to be of the same ‘type,'” the scientists write, noting that although “the depicted dogs are reminiscent of the modern Canaan dog, it remains unclear if they were brought to the Arabian Peninsula from the Levant or represent an independent domestication of dogs from Arabian wolves.”
Notably, some dogs are even carved in a manner that gives them coat markings such as chest colorations and spots. They are also depicted as individual creatures, in various stances and tail positions; the artists even differentiated between male and female canines.
“This may indicate the artists were documenting the general range of variation in local dogs or depicting individual dogs known to them,” the researchers write…….