SAA Symposium on Dogs

Back in January I posted on a symposium at the upcoming Society for American Archaeology meetings on the archaeology of the human/dog relationship. I promised to put a link up to the paper abstracts when they were released and you can find them here at the SAA website. Browse to your heart’s delight.

Here is the abstract for the symposium as a whole:

Although archaeological research continues to contribute
to the understanding about the origins of the domestic
dog, additional research provides insight into the
relationships between humans and dogs following
domestication. The papers in this session will primarily
address the role of dogs in hunting,
subsistence/consumption, ritualistic and artistic contexts
as well as their origins and geographic diffusion. Drawing
on diverse methodologies and theoretical approaches,
this session incorporates evidence from burials, middens,
faunal assemblages, ethnoarchaeology, and genetics to
situate the role of dogs in a diachronic socio-ecological

A “diachronic socio-ecological context” – is that thick enough social-science jargon for you? Here’s a couple of papers I thought sounded interesting:
Larson, Greger (Durham University)
A combined genetic and archaeological
perspective on dog domestication
The vast morphological variability between dog breeds
led Darwin to conclude that more than one canid
ancestor must have been involved. Ironically, the single
undisputed fact regarding dog domestication is that the
grey wolf is the sole ancestor of domestic dogs. The
additional big questions including where, when and how
many times the process took place remain unanswered,
in large part because the modern ubiquity of dogs has
precluded an understanding of their origins. This paper
will explore what is known and what can be known about
dog domestication using the latest archaeological finds
and genetic studies.
Perri, Angela (Durham University)
Early Holocene Dog Burials and Pleistocene-
Holocene Climate Change
Despite much work on the Pleistocene-Holocene
transition, little is known about how human foragers
adapted their hunting strategies to adjust to new
environments and prey species. This paper explores the
potential role of early Holocene dogs as valuable hunting
tools to foragers adjusting to new forested environments.
Preliminary findings suggest significant parallel
developments, specifically the burial of dogs,
characterize hunter-gatherer adaptations from the
temperate forests of North America, Northern Europe
and Japan. It is suggested that these intentional dog
burials are an indication of the importance of dogs in a
temperate forest hunting strategy, employed
simultaneously by hunter-gatherer groups around the
And here’s a Russian one for Steve:
Bazaliiskii, Vladimir (Irkutsk State University),
Robert Losey (University of Alberta), Mietje
Germonpre (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural
Sciences), Mikhail Sablin (Zoological Institute of the
Russian Academy of Sciences) and Sandra Garvie-
Lok (University of Alberta)
New Data on and Interpretation of Dog Burials in
Siberia’s Cis-Baikal
The Lake Baikal region of Eastern Siberia is well known
for its large hunter-gatherer cemeteries, many of which
have been intensively studied through the Baikal
Archaeological Project. This same area also has
produced several elaborate dog burials, almost always
within human cemeteries. This paper examines these
practices through a suite of new data, including that from
osteological analyses, radiocarbon assays, and stable
isotope analyses. These data indicate substantial
variability in dog diets, some being dominated by
terrestrial mammals, others by fish. Further, dogs only
appear to have been buried during time periods during
which human burials also were made.

One more irresitible quote

“There are times when the most amused and phlegmatic traveler in the Phillipines (and elsewhere) yearns for a country of deep reserve and formality where everyone calls each other “Sir” or “Madam” and wishes to know no personal fact of any kind. This country, it is true, sounds like a cross between Claridge’s and Ladakh.”

James Hamilton Paterson, from Playing With Water

An Accidental Cowboy, Barking Backward

I have always found people with multiple passions more interesting than single- subject obsessives.

I first became aware of Jameson Parker… well, a LONG time ago, when he starred in our generation’s finest California TV mystery series Simon and Simon, playing the preppier younger brother and partner in a PI business to Gerald McRaney’s Marine veteran and hipster in an uncharacteristically smart show, written with a light touch that never quite forgot the darkness that lurks beneath SoCal’s sunny surface.

After the show I heard about his involvement in various projects. Apparently he was a hunter and bird dog man, and knowledgeable about guns — despite his California antecedents, no surprise, because my friends and I had discovered one of the secret delights of S & S was that everyone used appropriate guns, and handled them as though they used them off-set as well. Somewhere along the line — I don’t remember which happened first — we discovered we had mutual friends, and collaborated on a couple of radio conversations on, naturally, the virtues of various fine shotguns and other sporting matters.

He then wrote a book, an unusual memoir called An Accidental Cowboy. I suspected that I would like it, but it was better than that; not only a fascinating tale about how an educated urban intellectual (forgive me, JP!) suffered through a shocking incident of violence, and somehow not only recovered his equilibrium but became a working cowboy good enough to earn the respect of lifelong professionals. As a westerner who is not a cowboy, but hangs out with plenty of them, I have some idea of how hard that is. He also revealed himself to be a natural writer — as he is also an omnivorous and voracious reader this somehow doesn’t surprise me either. His unpretentious but serious little book is one of my favorite present-day memoirs.

He hasn’t rested on his laurels yet. He has been producing everything from e-books and short stories to editing a book on dead dogs, while hunting and fishing with a passion that can’t endear him to his erstwhile Hollywood comrades. He also writes on western and cowboy matters for the new western magazines that often feature my other literate semi-cowboy colleague, songwriter Tom Russell.

Now he has started a website to among other things sell his various books, and a blog, titled Barking Backward. It’s only been out a short while, but its mixture of literacy, dark humor, and eclectic subjects will I suspect appeal to any fan of Q. Please check it out. And if you have the slightest interest in why someone with impeccable establishment roots might want to become a cowboy, or if you just like horse work, get yourself a copy of An Accidental Cowboy.

Apologies and some light blogging: Prairie Gos

Have been ruining my health and especially my right, mouse- running hand (Parkinson’s overlaid with arthritis exacerbated by gout and maybe carpal tunnel syndrome- AAARGH!) working overtime on the last details for the eagle book- I promise a real cover soon. I need a few days away from this keyboard, working at the town library.To tide anyone who misses me over I’ll put in a few photo posts, links, and quotes today– SLOWLY.

Here is a wonderful shot of a Goshawk on the prairie by Tom Donald of Saskatchewan, falconer, pigeon man, pouter breeder, and pioneer (70’s!) in the falcon- saluki chase on hares.

This a wild bird– Gosses seem far less tree- bound than other Accipiters. I have had them shadow me while hunting birds in the prairies near Lewistown Montana, and they nest way out into the tundra in Siberia, in the low willows along streams. Migrants sometimes cross the Bering Straits and end up in such places as Wyoming; I always wonder about Siberian genes when I see one with color this light.

Trans-Atlantic Migration Theory

In the last week or so, the UK Independent and the Washington Post have both carried stories about new evidence that might support the trans-atlantic migration theory for peopling of the New World advanced in the 1990s by Dennis Stanford (Smithsonian Institution) and Bruce Bradley (University of Exeter).

I was just looking back and I first posted on their theory almost exactly six years ago. To save myself typing time, I’ll just copy the Reader’s Digest version of the theory from that post:

“It seems pretty certain that late Pleistocene humans at around 14,000 BP had the boat-building technology to enable them to do limited maritime voyages. …. The most likely boat type is thought to be a kayak or umiaq-like skin boat similar to those used by the ethnographic Inuit.

Stanford and his collaborator Bruce Bradley believe that it would have been possible for Pleistocene people to have crossed the Atlantic in boats during the 14,000 BP period, when we have the first confirmed human presence in the New World.At that time, the polar ice cap extended far to the south of where it is today, and pack ice choked the North Atlantic. Stanford and Bradley theorize that the edge of the ice would have provided a “coastline” stretching from the Bay of Biscay to Labrador. People in boats could have traveled west along the edge of the ice, camping on ice-floes and subsisting on fish and sea mammals that they could hunt in route. Lost seal hunters could thus have found their way to North America.”

Previously, their evidence rested on what they see as stylistic similarities between European Solutrean artifacts and Paleoindian blade technology from North America. The new evidence cited in the articles consists of:

– a mammoth tusk and associated blade recovered by a trawler off the Virginia coast dated to 22,000 BP by radiocarbon assay
– several sites in the Chesapeake Bay region where artifact-bearing strata have been indirectly dated to the 20,000 BP time period
– a lithic artifact from a site in Virginia that supposedly has been petrographically “fingerprinted” to a source in France (the Independent mentions this but the WaPo does not)

I like to keep an open mind, but other problems remain. It would appear that any Pleistocene European migrants left no trace linguistically or genetically in Native American populations, where all evidence of that sort seems to point to Asian origins. As Paleoindian expert David Meltzer (who admittedly can be harsh) puts it, “If Solutrean boat people washed up on our shores, they suffered cultural amnesia, genetic amnesia, dental amnesia, linguistic amnesia and skeletal amnesia. Basically, all of the signals are pointing to Asia” {as the origin of the first Americans}.

It’ll be fun to watch this play out. As Chas put it to me in an email the other day, the Pleistocene peopling of the New World is turning out to be far more complicated than we thought.

I was wondering why this was all coming out again suddenly, until I saw Stanford and Bradley have a new book coming out on the subject.

Hot Links

Makes sense: giant dinosaurs had giant fleas. Or as the Yahoo headline writer put it, “When blood-sucking mega-fleas stalked the Earth.” Rather florid.

Alcohol a factor in woman’s cannonball death, authorities say.

And to show you that things are really hoppin’ in San Diego County (see woman’s cannonball death) 50 roosters rescued as police break up Escondido cockfight. Where do you sign up for a rescue rooster?

I just learned that in California, spark plugs are legally classified as burglary tools.

Russia has officially unveiled its fifth generation Kalashnikov,the AK-12

Slovakian citizens have voted to name a new bridge after martial arts star Chuck Norris. Some might say this bridge is the only way you’ll be able to cross Chuck Norris.