Oldest Domesticated Dog Remains Discovered in Americas
A 13,100-year-old dog tooth from a cave site in Haida Gwaii is the earliest evidence of dog domestication in the Americas to date
A new fascinating paper has been published summarizing the significant archaeological findings of over two decades worth of excavations of the caves of Haida Gwaii.1 In collaboration with Parks Canada and the Haida Nation, the archaeologists that conducted these digs have yielded the oldest evidence of dog domestication in the Americas.
The K1 and Gaadu Din 1 cave sites yielded weapons such as spear points and stone tools that are 11,000 years old, as evidenced above. The other cave site, Gaadu Din 2, had a hearth, and resharpened flakes, and was likely a camp between 12,500 and 10,7000 years ago that had animal remains.
Amongst the animal remains, such as beer, salmon, and deer, which are native species to the British Columbian coast, was the curious discovery of a 13,100-year-old dog tooth. This tooth was confirmed to be canine, in fact, a domestic dog, by DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating. The domestic dog was not an endemic species to the region at that time.
We commonly believe that dog domestication occurred around 16,000 years ago in Eurasia. But the peopling of the Americas is a hot topic. Somewhere between 40,000 to 16,000 years ago did people inhabit the new continent. Just when dogs came to the new world is limited in the archaeological record.
Prior to this finding, the earliest evidence of dog domestication in the Americas was the 10,190 to 9,630-year-old domestic dog remains from the Koster and Stilwell II sites in Illinois2. This makes the discovery of this dog tooth at Haida Gwaii the oldest evidence to date of domestic dogs ever reported in the Americas.
The ice-free Coastal British Columbia was the corridor into the peopling of the Americas. Studies like these not only give us a window into the environmental record of the region but the cultural record in the form of the spear points and dogtooth that gives further understanding of the life of these early inhabitants.
Fedje, D., Mackie, Q., McLaren, D., Wigen, B., & Southon, J. (2021). Karst caves in Haida Gwaii: Archaeology and paleontology at the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Quaternary Science Reviews, 272(107221), 107221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107221
Perri, A., Widga, C., Lawler, D., Martin, T., Loebel, T., Farnsworth, K., . . . Buenger, B. (2019). NEW EVIDENCE OF THE EARLIEST DOMESTIC DOGS IN THE AMERICAS. American Antiquity, 84(1), 68-87. doi:10.1017/aaq.2018.74