Dogs in Ancient Mesopotamia

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1y Aug 31, 2020

Dogs have been a part of the history of human beings since before the written word. The ancient temple of Gobekli-Tepe in Turkey, dated to at least 12,000 years BCE, has provided archaeologists with evidence of domesticated dogs in the Middle East corresponding to the earliest evidence of domestication, the Natufian Grave, (c. 12,000 BCE) discovered in Ein Mallaha, Israel, in which an old man was buried with a puppy.

In southern France, footprints of a young child walking beside a canine have been preserved in the earth of the Chauvet Cave, dating to 26,000 years ago and a 2008 CE study concluded that dogs were domesticated in Europe between 32,000-18,800 years ago with the oldest dog remains in the world found thus far dated to 31,700 years ago (Viegas, 1). This Paleolithic dog most resembled a Siberian Husky (Viegas, 1). The findings of the 2008 study are challenged by dog remains found in the Goyet Caves of Belgium which date to 36,500 years ago.

However old the first dog was, or how they came to be domesticated, they became friends to humans quite early in history and have remained so. In many cultures throughout the ancient world, dogs figured prominently and, largely, were regarded in much the same way that they are today. Dogs were seen as faithful companions, hunters, guardians, spirit-guides, and as a treasured part of the family.

In the oldest story from the Near East, The Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia (dated to 2150-1400 BCE), dogs appear in an elevated role as the companions of one of the most popular goddesses of the region; the goddess Innana (Ishtar) travels with seven prized hunting dogs in collar and leash. Although Egypt is credited with the invention of the dog collar, it most likely developed in Sumer.

It can be assumed the development of the dog collar was suggested shortly after dogs were domesticated which happened in Mesopotamia prior to Egypt. A golden pendant of a dog (clearly a Suluki) was found at the Sumerian city of Uruk dated to 3300 BCE and a cylinder seal from Nineveh (dated c. 3000 BCE) also features a Saluki. The dog pendant wears a wide collar; evidence of the dog collar in use at that time.

In the famous Descent of Innana (a story considered older than and not a part of Gilgamesh) in which the goddess goes down into the underworld, her husband, Dumuzi, keeps domesticated dogs as part of his royal retinue. Dogs featured prominently in the everyday life of the Mesopotamians.

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The Original Article titled "Dogs in the Ancient World," by Joshua J Mark


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