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What Makes a Dog? UNM Researchers Explore the History of Dogs at 14th Century Site

Departmental News

Posted:  Oct 09, 2018 - 12:00am

In a recent journal article in Open Quartenary, UNM Anthropology Department researchers Victoria Monagle, Cyler Conrad, and Emily Lena Jones, set out to answer the question, “What Makes a Dog?” The group started their investigation with canid — coyote and wolf as well as domestic dog — remains from Arroyo Hondo Pueblo, a 14th century site in the upper Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.

“Distinguishing between domestic dogs and wild canids from bone fragments alone is a perennial challenge for zooarchaeologists,” wrote Jones. “The canid remains we recover from archaeological sites could often be either, based on their morphology.” 

Arroyo Hondo Pueblo is an archaeological site located 5 miles southeast of Santa Fe. The site dates between 1300 and 1420 A.D. The area of recovery was important in the study. Many of the bones were found in kivas, or placed in indoor spaces suggesting the animal was
valued by the pueblo people. Some of the bones were found in an exterior location suggesting the animal was most likely wild. 

Ultimately, the findings of the study suggest that Arroyo Hondoans may have defined “dog” differently than present-day domestication researchers do. The pueblo people befriended both domestic and wild canids as their best friends. Read the UNM News article here