While dogs have been following humans for about 40,000 years, the practice of respectfully burying them after death is relatively recent. A new study suggests it may have developed 8,000 years ago at the mysterious Lake Baikal in Siberia where an unusual canine graveyard was recently discovered.
Lake Baikal in south-east Siberia is Earth’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake and has long been the location of UFO sightings and alien encounters, with recent rumors persisting that Steven Spielberg may produce a UFO documentary there. It also has a long history of humans domesticating dogs.
University of Alberta anthropologist Robert Losey studies the history of human and dog relationships and recently visited Lake Baikal where he led the excavation of dog remains dating back 5,000 to 8,000 years. The manner in which they were buried was unusual, says Losey.
The dogs were being treated just like people when they died. They were being carefully placed in a grave, some of them wearing decorative collars, or next to other items like spoons, with the idea being potentially that they had souls and an afterlife.
While dog remains have been found before in cemeteries and in pyramids, this early demonstration of respect for man’s best friend is extremely rare. Even more unusual, Losey’s chemical analysis of the remains showed that they were fed the same food – meat and fish - as humans, although probably not from the table since that furniture didn’t become common until much later.
Is there a connection to the mysteries of Lake Baikal and the dog burials? Losey has found numerous other sites in the Siberian Arctic where dogs were respectfully buried, sometimes even with humans. It may be because Siberians were one of the earliest groups to use dogs for work, in their case as sled dogs for transportation and herding reindeer. Losey believes studying these remains tells us much about dogs and their humans.
The big question in the field now is when and where exactly dogs emerged from wolves, but I don't think that tells us very much. What can we learn about people's relationship with dogs in the past? The history of our working relationships with animals, and our emotional relationships, is what interests me.
Perhaps Losey can compare notes with Steve Spielberg to determine if Lake Baikal’s alleged aliens prefer dogs or humans?