Articles/Inscriptions of domesticated dogs in the Arabian Peninsula

Inscriptions of domesticated dogs in the Arabian Peninsula

نقوش في شبه الجزيرة العربية تؤكد استئناس البشر للكلاب منذ آلاف السنيين

17 APR 2021

Source: Nesreen Omran

There is a saying that a dog is a man’s best friend. And there is evidence right here in Saudi Arabia going back 15,000 years that appear to prove this. Inscriptions and drawings of dogs found in caves and rocks in the Arabian Peninsula depict the animal as a constant companion for humans throughout history.

Earliest depictions of dogs

A team of archaeologists working in the northwest Saudi region of Al-Ula uncovered evidence of dog domestication by the region's earliest inhabitants. This discovery was one of the key finds of a series of archaeological surveys and excavations in the area commissioned by the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU).

The researchers found a dog's bones in a burial site – one of the earliest tombs identified in the Arabian Peninsula and older than others found further north in the Levant.

Evidence showed the earliest use of the tomb took place around 4,300 BCE. The location received burials for at least 600 years during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic era – an indication that the inhabitants may have had a shared memory of people and places as well as the connection between them.

Cave drawings

In northwestern Saudi Arabia, you can find drawings in caves of hunters threading an arrow to kill a wild animal roaming nearby while surrounded by a pack of dogs. Such scenes are engraved onto the cliffsides and arid deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.

Canines buried beside humans

The project team, involving Saudi and international experts, focused its efforts on two above-ground burial sites dating back to the fourth and fifth millenniums BCE and located 130 kilometers apart – one in volcanic uplands and the other in arid badlands. The sites were above ground, a unique feature for that period of Arabian history, and were positioned for maximum visibility.

Researchers found 26 pieces of a single dog's bones alongside that of 11 humans – six adults, an adolescent, and four children.

The dog's bones showed signs of arthritis, suggesting the animal lived with the humans to an advanced age.

After assembling the bones, the team then had to determine that they were from a dog and not from a similar animal such as a desert wolf.

The dog's bones dated back to between 4,200 and 4,000 BCE. Rock art found in the region also indicated that the Neolithic inhabitants used dogs when hunting ibex, wild asses and other animals.

The fieldwork uncovered other noteworthy artifacts, including a leaf-shaped mother-of-pearl pendant at the volcanic uplands site and a carnelian bead at the arid badlands site.

The researchers expect more findings in the future as a result of the massive survey from air and on the ground as well as multiple targeted excavations in Al-Ula undertaken by the AAKSAU team – led by researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth and who are operating under the auspices of the RCU.