Samuel Belknap III, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, found more than he was bargaining for: bones of a domesticated dog, roughly 9,400 years old.
Belknap was studying the diet of people living during the Holocene Era in the Lower Pecos Region of Texas when he discovered bone fragments of a dog thought to be closely related to Peruvian dog species in fossilized human waste. Belknap determined that the dog had been eaten by a human since the bone was orange in color, a sign of being fully digested.
During that time period, it was not uncommon for dogs to be meals. Although eating dog meat was more common in Asia, particularly China, dogs were bred as livestock and sold at the market in ancient Mexico. Even today, dog meat is still eaten in South Korea.
No Easy Way Out
Despite their small size, the bones were still large items to be swallowed, digested and passed. Extracting them was no easy task, either. Belknap had to rehydrate the waste in order to remove the bone fragments. Based on the size of the bones, Belknap and his team determined the dog to be 25-30 pounds and closely resembling Peruvian and Mexican dogs indigenous to the area during that time period.
Who Are You Calling Old?
Prior to this discovery, it was believed that domesticated dogs were in the U.S. as early as 8,000 years ago. This amazing discovery is one of the clearest examples of the role domesticated dogs played: companion, guardian and dinner. However, 9,400 is still pretty young when you consider that domesticated dogs were first discovered in Europe and Asia more than 15,000 years ago. Luckily, humans have evolved and no longer need to resort to eating Fido for dinner. His roles as companion, guardian and best friend are the only ones he’ll be playing in the future.
Belknap plans to publish his findings in the “American Journal of Physical Anthropology.”