That humans ate mammoths but their paleo-dogs ate reindeer/musk ox 30,000 years ago at Předmostí I is fascinating and suggests that humans must have controlled the diet of their dogs by this time. It also suggests that these paleo-dogs could well have been tied up (perhaps for feeding) and in any event were not entirely free to choose their own food. Otherwise they should also have eaten mammoth. This supports the conclusion that the domestication of dogs was well established across Europe by this time.
My own guess (hardly a hypothesis) is that wolf human interactions probably began at many locations around 100,000 years ago when the wolf-dog divergence began. By 30,000 years ago paleo-dogs with the genetic modifications required to promote the partnership with – and dependence on – humans were well established. Most likely it was those individual wolves which showed characteristics of reduced fear combined with reduced aggression and the inclination to cooperate which made first contact. They may even have had some debilitating characteristic which made them less able to hunt prey on their own or which made them outcasts in their own pack. Certainly by 30,000 years ago many of these genetic characteristics had been further refined and developed by artificial, selective breeding.
Hervé Bocherens, Dorothée G. Drucker, Mietje Germonpré, Martina Lázničková-Galetová, Yuichi I. Naito, Christoph Wissing, Jaroslav Brůžek, Martin Oliva.Reconstruction of the Gravettian food-web at Předmostí I using multi-isotopic tracking (13C, 15N, 34S) of bone collagen. Quaternary International, 2014; DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2014.09.044
The analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones provides a picture of the various predator-prey relationships at that time.
Tübingen biogeologists show how Gravettian people shared their food 30,000 years ago
Předmostí I is an exceptional prehistoric site located near Brno in the Czech Republic. Around 30,000 years ago it was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture, who used the bones of more than 1000 mammoths to build their settlement and to ivory sculptures. Did prehistoric people collect this precious raw material from carcasses – easy to spot on the big cold steppe – or were they the direct result of hunting for food? This year-round settlement also yielded a large number of canids remains, some of them with characteristics of Palaeolithic dogs. Were these animals used to help hunt mammoths?
To answer these two questions, Tübingen researcher Hervé Bocherens and his international team carried out an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones from the site. Working with researchers from Brno and Brussels, the researchers were able to test whether the Gravettian people of Předmostí ate mammoth meat and how the “palaeolithic dogs” fit into this subsistence picture.
They found that humans did consume mammoth – and in large quantities. Other carnivores, such as brown bears, wolves and wolverines, also had access to mammoth meat, indicating the high availability of fresh mammoth carcasses, most likely left behind by human hunters. Surprisingly, the dogs did not show a high level of mammoth consumption, but rather consumed essentially reindeer meat that was not the staple food of their owners. A similar situation is observed in traditional populations from northern regions, who often feed their dogs with the food that they do not like. These results also suggest that these early dogs were restrained, and were probably used as transportation helpers.
These new results provide clear evidence that mammoth was a key component of prehistoric life in Europe 30,000 years ago, and that dogs were already there to help.
The Gravettian site of Předmostí I in the central Moravian Plain has yielded a rich and diverse large mammal fauna dated around 25–27,000 14C years BP (ca. 29,500–31,500 cal BP). This fauna includes numerous carnivores (cave lion, wolf, brown bear, polar fox, wolverine) and herbivores (reindeer, large bovine, red deer, muskox, horse, woolly rhinoceros, woolly mammoth) whose trophic position could be reconstructed using stable isotopic tracking (δ13C, δ15N, δ34S) of bone collagen (n = 63). Among large canids, two morphotypes, “Pleistocene wolves” and “Palaeolithic dogs”, were considered, and two human bones attributed to the Gravettian assemblage of Předmostí I were also sampled. The trophic system around the Gravettian settlement of Předmostí I showed the typical niche partitioning among herbivores and carnivores seen in other mammoth-steppe contexts. The contribution of the analyzed prey species to the diet of the predators, including humans, was evaluated using a Bayesian mixing model (SIAR). Lions included great amounts of reindeer/muskox and possibly bison in their diet, while Pleistocene wolves were more focused on horse and possibly mammoth. Strong reliance on mammoth meat was found for the human of the site, similarly to previously analyzed individuals from other Gravettian sites in Moravia. Interestingly, the large canids interpreted as “Palaeolithic dogs” had a high proportion of reindeer/muskox in their diet, while consumption of mammoth would be expected from the availability of this prey especially in case of close interaction with humans. The peculiar isotopic composition of the Palaeolithic dogs of Předmostí I may indicate some control of their dietary intake by Gravettian people, who could have use them more for transportation than hunting purpose.