What’s Up Dogs?

In early October, the skeletal remains of a dog were found right at Sechin, a 4,000-year-old site located in the Casma Valley in the northern part of Peru. The Project Director of the site Mónica Suárez said that there was also some yellow-brown fur and paw pads found preserved with the bones. The dog is estimated to be from around 1,000 A.D. While the remains are in the process of being further analyzed to discover the dog’s breed and how old it was when it died, but from the preliminary investigation, it is suggested that the dog, “was a native breed from the prehispanic era that was used in the temple.” It will be interesting to learn more about the people from the Casma Valley and how they not only lived their lives but interacted with the other forms of life around them. For example, whether the dogs like the one found last month were domesticated or not (The History Blog 2019).

Skeletal remains of a dog found in Peru this past October. Credit to the Sechin Archaeology Project, 2019

The domesticated dog. Credit to Jake Kaplan, 2019

Domestication, by definition, involves a relationship between humans and an animal population or target plant. Zeder (2012), defined domestication as a relationship where the humans benefit more and the non-human doesn’t have as much control, or where it is a mutualistic relationship between the human and non-human (162). Zeder identifies three different pathways into animal domestication (178): How they are initiated, the direction they take, and the length of time is takes to domesticate them.

Dogs are the oldest domesticated animal. Evidence suggests that they descended from ancient wolves and began being domesticated by humans during the late Glacial and early Holocene periods (14,000-9,000 years ago, BP). According to a paper written by Ovodov et al (2011) based on some remains found in the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia that dated back to around 33,000 years ago, questions how long humans have been domesticating them? While the study did not find a relation between the remains found and modern domestic dogs, it did show possible evidence of domestication that was interrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum (AKA the last ice age). The bond between humans and domesticated dogs eventually formed forms of bonds that was more than just mutually benefitting from each other. The placement of dogs in human burials suggests that a greater bond was formed and continues to be prevalent in society today (Zeder 172).


So what were the dogs whose remains were discovered in the Casma Valley in relation to the people that once lived there? Were they there as workers, companions, or both? Were they even domesticated in the first place? Hopefully the further investigation and research of Dr. Suárez and her team will reveal more answers about man’s (or women’s) best friends.



Further Readings:

Russell, Nerissa

2011 Dogs: Domestication and the Development of a Social Bond by Darcy F.

Morey. American Anthropologist 113(4):688-689.


Simon, Scott

2015 Real People, Real Dogs, and Pigs for the Ancestors: The Moral Universe of

“Domestication” in Indigenous Taiwan. American Anthropologist 117(4):693-709.





     2019 Well-Preserved Dog Remains Found in Peru. 

     http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/56645 ed. Vol. 2019, The History Blog.



     2019 Well-Preserved Dog Remains Unearthed in

     Peru. https://www.archaeology.org/news/8060-191008-peru-sechin-dog ed. Vol.

2019, Archaeology Magazine: A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America,


Ovodov, Nikolai D., Crockford, Susan J.,Kuzmin, Yaroslav V., Higham, Thomas F. G.,

Hodgins, Gregory W. L., Plicht, Johannes

2011 A 33,000-Year-Old Incipient Dog from the Altai Mountains of Siberia: Evidence of

the Earliest Domestication Disrupted by the Last Glacial Maximum. PLoS One 



Zeder, Melinda A.

2012 The Domestication of Animals. The Journal of Anthropological Research 


Silver Lining in the Ice

One of the most pressing issues in the world today is climate change. According to NASA (2019), temperatures will rise more than they already have, leading to changes in precipitation patterns, more droughts and heat waves, and eventually, the arctic possibly becoming ice free. But climate change might in fact be helping the development of a new discipline of archaeology that makes the location of sites and features much easier to find: Glacial archaeology.

Glacial archaeology has developed due to the melting of mountain ice that has been brought on by climate change. Many of the finds would have decomposed in other environments but have remained preserved in the ice. Yukon, Canada and Oppland, Norway are currently the only two places in the world that have permanent glacial archaeology programs, and the Oppland Glacial Archaeology Program received permanent funding from the Norwegian State in 2011. In Oppland alone, there have been close to 3,000 archaeological finds from 52 different sites, including skis, tunics, and an arrow (Figure 1) (Mukherjee 2019).

Figure 1. A Viking arrowhead recovered from the Glacier Archaeology Program in Norway. Photograph credit to Chinanews.com.

It all started in 1991 when a German couple were hiking in the Alps and discovered a human body that had been frozen there for about 5,000 years. The body later was given the name “Ötzi the Iceman” (Figure 2). He was the first instance of glacial archaeology, and certainly not the last if temperatures continue to rise around the world due to climate change. Scientists are confident that the temperatures will continue to rise largely due to greenhouse gasses produced by human activities (NASA 2019).

Figure 2. Ötzi the Iceman. Photograph credit to Discover Magazine/Kalmbach Media.

Fieldwork in glacial archaeology is much different than other disciplines of archaeology. It involves little to no digging, but it’s not just waiting around for the ice to melt. While some objects only melt out of the ice once, other times objects found have been in and out of the ice multiple times. The degree to which an artifact has been thawed or exposed can affect to what degree is can be rescued or preserved (Mukherjee 2019).

This is not a post saying climate change is a good thing. Continuing to treat the planet like we do can only have catastrophic consequences in the future. But we should take advantage of the things we can learn that we didn’t have access to before. Hopefully humanity can work together to preserve our home but until then is it so bad to look for the upsides?

Further Readings:

Dixon, E. J., William F. Manley, and Craig M. Lee

2005 The Emerging Archaeology of Glaciers and Ice Patches: Examples from Alaska’s      Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. American Antiquity 70:129+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A128672624/AONE?u=nysl_se_vassar&sid=AONE&xid=1925de44

Van, de N.

2011 Conceptualising Climate Change Archaeology. Antiquity 85:1039+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A268601243/AONE?u=nysl_se_vassar&sid=AONE&xid=93dac185


Draxler, Breanna

2013 Living Relatives of Ötzi the Iceman Mummy Found in          Austria. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2013/10/16/living-relatives-of-otzi-the-iceman-mummy-found-in-austria/#.XX5-3pNKiqA ed. Vol. 2019, Kalmbach Media,

Lan, Yao

2019 Climate Change-Linked Melting Ice Contributes to finds of Archaeology Team. http://www.ecns.cn/hd/2019-09-11/detail-ifzntuwi2505132.shtml#2 ed. Vol. 2019, Chinanews.com, China.

Mukherjee, Ritoban

2019 Climate Change is Bad for the Planet, but Groundbreaking for Archaeology. https://qz.com/1697545/climate-change-is-giving-life-to-the-study-of-glacial-archaeology/ ed. Vol. 2019, Quartz,


2019 The Effects of Climate Change. https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/ ed. Vol. 2019, NASA, California.