The first wolves were domesticated already 23,000 years ago in Siberia. No one forced them to do so, they tamed themselves of their own free will.
It was or wasn’t during the Ice Age on the territory of today’s Siberia. A tribe of prehistoric people toasted after a successful mammoth hunt. At that, a pack of wolves approached the hearth. She pounced on the discarded bones with scraps of flesh lying nearby and gnawed on them.
Frightened by the eyes glowing in the dark, the people grabbed clubs and wanted to drive the beasts away. But they noticed that the wolves had no intention of attacking them. So they returned to the fire and left them alone.
In a few days the wolves came again. This time, the people themselves threw several pieces of meat to the starving beasts…
They tamed themselves
This is how the beginning of the story of wolf domestication based on the study of British, French and American archaeologists who examined the remains of prehistoric settlements in Siberia can be told in a simplified and short way. The researchers concluded that humans did not domesticate wolves on purpose.
On the contrary, wolves domesticated themselves when, due to lack of food, they moved near human dwellings and chased away other predators from the captured remains. At the same time, they did not attack people, because they recognized that their presence was beneficial for them.
Archaeologists who have published their study of wolf domestication in a peer-reviewed journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), came to the conclusion that the dog has accompanied humans as a pet for probably 23,000 years and that the first wolves were probably domesticated by prehistoric tribes in Siberia during the last ice age.
The alliance between humans and wolves was then aided by climate change. According to the scientists’ hypothesis, during the last glacial period, Siberia was initially one of the places where the climate was more favorable and where herbivorous animals such as horses and mammoths could survive thanks to sufficient food. This attracted the people who hunted these animals, as well as the beasts.
About 23,000 years ago, however, temperatures dropped so much that the population of animals such as bison, deer and musk oxen shrank and almost disappeared. As a result, wolves gradually lost their natural prey and, in search of food, began to move more often near places where people lived. They found remains of food there, which is proven by archaeological findings in the form of bones gnawed by wolf teeth.
It was easier to live with a person
“The domestication of the wolf in Siberia answers many questions we had about the origin of the bond between dogs and humans,” the station’s website quoted BBC head of the research team, British archaeologist Angela Perry.
According to her, populations of wolves gradually arose, which learned to follow humans because of the obvious advantages. They gradually began to differ genetically from wolves. After several dozen generations, the Siberian gray wolves that joined humans could already be distinguished from their ancestors thanks to DNA changes.
Wolves gained new abilities and lost others. And so they gradually stopped hunting themselves, guarded human dwellings, drove away predators from them, helped people in hunting and relied on the food that man gave them.
Scientists believe that humans did not play an active role in the domestication of wolves. They basically just accepted the wolves.
According to research, the conscious use and exercise of dogs only became common in the 13th millennium BC. Back then, people migrated from place to place with dogs.
Dog graves are at least 8,000 years old
“The history of humans and dogs is then closely intertwined. The evolution of dogs has progressed in parallel with the history of humans, which is clearly demonstrated all over the world,” noted one of the co-authors of the study, Gregor Larson from the University of Oxford.
“Dogs were considered valuable members of society and were treated almost like people,” pointed out Perri. Such viewing of dogs is evidenced, for example, by their graves, often with offerings for the afterlife. Around 6000 BC, they are documented in Germany, Scandinavia, America and Japan.