Mailbag: Dogs in Chauvet

Love your blog, which I stumbled across while googling for more detail on the wolf tracks in Chauvet Cave. Have been fascinated by this stuff since 1st grade, did fieldwork in high school & college, and now wish I hadn't let the dryness of academia drive me away from anthro back in Ann Arbor (not Wolpoff's fault). I still read around though; loved your take on the Clovis Comet Crap (what suckers the media are), though obviously impact events play a major evolutionary role.

So anyhow, back to my question. Recently saw Herzog's documentary on the art in Chauvet. Having dabbled in caving during a Peace Corps Guatemala stint, I find it extremely unlikely that a wolf is going to be walking around deep in a pitch black cave by himself. To me this is potentially strong evidence if not downright proof of domestication, but I'm looking for more specifics on track layout (esp. in relation to those human child tracks) and actual location/depth within the cave (to ascertain feasibility of wild vs domesticated access). Do you have anything more on this, or could you point me towards same? Much obliged, tlc

Thanks for the kind words!

Pat Shipman has written about this topic quite a lot lately, she has a book out on the history of human-animal interactions. Last year she wrote about Aurignacian-era dog domestication evidence (I linked here):

http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/archaeology/upper/europe/dog-domestication-shipman-2010.html

And I cited some of the original research here:

http://johnhawks.net/node/1686

The main impediment to accepting a very early domestication is the genetics; as modern dog breeds don't seem to have such a distant ancestor. But that may be due to recent gene flow among breeds and subsequent selection after domestication. At the very least, domestication was clearly early enough that dogs accompanied people to the Americas before 12,000 years ago.