The oldest dog of the world

The upper jaw bones of the Kesslerloch dog are much smaller than those of wolves

The upper jaw bones of the Kesslerloch dog are much smaller than those of wolves (H. Napierala / University of Tübingen)

A fossil found more than 100 years ago in a cave in Switzerland may belong to the oldest domestic dog in the world.

Kesslerloch Cave in Switzerland is one of the major Magdalenian sites in Central Europe. During a recent reanalysis of the faunal remains, researchers Hannes Napierala and Hans-Peter Uerpmann from University of Tübingen identified a cranial fragment and teeth of the domestic dog. The large maxillar fragment was directly dated to c. 14.100-14.600 BP. The finds are metrically well below the natural variability of wolves from both Palaeolithic and recent times and even show slight morphological differences to the wild wolves from the site. Researchers argue that the maxilla fragment must now be considered the earliest indisputable directly dated evidence of a domestic dog.

 

“I found it rather unromantically in a box,” H. Napierala told to swissinfo.ch.


“The excavations were [made] more than 100 years ago and the finds were stored in Schaffhausen all this time. Then during a project in the 1990s the material was borrowed by Tübingen and it was my job to look at the material, reanalyse it and write a report.”

Research in the 1870s did not prove very successful. “They didn’t realise it was a dog because the science of archaeology was not so advanced then. And they didn’t even think that stone-age people already had dogs.”

Reference: "A new palaeolithic dog from central Europe" (International Journal of Osteoarchaeology)

 
 
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