Dogs were domesticated in prehistoric Siberia before being brought to America, according to study

Telegraph reporters
·2 min read
Dogs were invaluable to hunter-gatherers in the last Ice Age 
Dogs were invaluable to hunter-gatherers in the last Ice Age

Dogs were already domesticated when they were first brought to America by prehistoric human settlers, according to a scientific study.

Academics have studied the genetic and archaeological record of hunter gatherer bands that ventured from Asian to the northwestern tip of the Americas during the last Ice Age.

Dogs were domesticated in the Old World and brought over with these travelling bands, according to the new study, as part of humanity’s “cultural repertoire”.

Dr Angela Perri of Durham University believes wild canines first became human companions in Siberia around 23,000 years ago.

Dogs were then spread across the world with their hunter-gatherer owners and crossed over to North America around 15,000 years ago, according to Dr Perri’s team of international academics.

She said: "By putting together the puzzle pieces of archaeology, genetics and time we see a much clearer picture where dogs are being domesticated in Siberia, then disperse from there into the Americas and around the world."

The 2018 discovery of the remains of an 18,000-year-old frozen puppy point towards the icy region as the first site of domestication, showing humans kept dogs at that time.

Geneticist Laurent Frantz of Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich said: "The only thing we knew for sure is that dog domestication did not take place in the Americas.

"From the genetic signatures of ancient dogs, we now know that they must have been present somewhere in Siberia before people migrated to the Americas."

Roaming bands in the northern latitudes would have dealt with an unforgiving Ice Age environment as they tracked game like the wooly mammoth, and the presence of dogs would have been invaluable for early hunters.

Archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said: "We have long known that the first Americans must have possessed well-honed hunting skills, the geological know-how to find stone and other necessary materials.

"The dogs that accompanied them as they entered this completely new world may have been as much a part of their cultural repertoire as the stone tools they carried."