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9,400-Year-Old Dog Discovered by University of Maine Student

Jan 20, 2011

9,400-Year-Old Dog Discovered by University of Maine Student

by Suada Kolovic

Man’s best friend today isn’t much different from its ancestors. A bone fragment suggests that almost 10,000 years ago dogs likely provided their owners with companionship, protection and oh, at times, dinner. According to researchers, University of Maine graduate student Samuel Belknap III found a bone fragment from what they are calling the earliest confirmed domesticated dog in North America. Belknap came across the fragment while analyzing a dried-out sample of human excrement unearthed in southwest Texas in the 1970s.

The discovery was made as Belknap was conducting research on the dietary habits of ancient humans who lived in the Lower Pecos region of Texas between 1,000 and 10,000 years ago. “I didn’t start out looking for the oldest dog in the New World,” he said. “I started out trying to understand human diet in southwest Texas. It so happens that this person who lived 9,400 years ago was eating dog.”

DNA analysis by Belknap and a fellow researcher confirmed that the fragment came from a dog – not a wolf, coyote or fox and a carbon-dating test put the age of the bone at 9,400 years.

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