Ancient dog burial site at Koster

A female dog was deliberately interred in what is now Illinois about 10,000 years ago; adults and children were buried in the same area. Credit: Del Baston/Center for American Archeology

Archaeology

Early dogs in the Americas stood knee-high and ate fish

Remains unearthed in Illinois represent the world’s oldest individual canine burials.

Three canine skeletons found in the Midwestern United States date to roughly 10,000 years ago, making them the earliest known domestic dogs in the Americas.

Angela Perri at Durham University, UK, and her colleagues analysed two skeletons excavated at the Koster archaeological site in Illinois and a third from the nearby Stilwell site. The researchers found that the two Koster dogs are between 9,700 and 10,100 years old; the Stilwell animal is almost precisely the same age. All three were deliberately interred, suggesting a significant relationship between human and animal. They are the world’s oldest intentional burials of individual dogs.

Although the three dogs lived at the same time and location, they varied in appearance. The Stilwell dog was the size of a “small, modern English setter”, the authors write, whereas the two Koster dogs were shorter and lighter. All three ate fish and had highly active lifestyles.