Tuesday, March 23, 2010

From wolf to wealth

How old is the dog? Where do they come from? The latest evidence, reported in the NY Times last week in an article entitled New Finding Puts Origins of Dogs in Middle East, suggests that the dog became domesticated at the same time human settlement occurred, some 15,000 years ago, and that it took place not in Asia (as previously claimed) but in the Middle East. The theory is the result of a massive new DNA testing programme undertaken by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Dr. Robert Wayne of the University of California. Dr. Wayne believes that wolves began following hunter-gatherer bands to feed on the wounded prey, carcasses or other refuse. At some stage a group of wolves, who happened to be smaller and less threatening than most, developed a dependency on human groups, and may in return have provided a warning system. Supporting this theory Dr. Carlos Driscoll of the National Cancer Institute (what they have to do with dogs is a bit of a mystery) suggested that dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from the egalitarianism of their hunter-gatherer predecessors. 'Notions of inheritance and ownership,' Dr. Driscoll said, 'may have been prompted by the first dogs to permeate human society, laying an unexpected track from wolf to wealth.'

1 comment:

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