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Man(kind)’s Best Friend: How Dogs Helped Us Dominate the World

One of the biggest mysteries in the history of mankind is how homo sapiens managed to drive out the Neanderthal man out of the land on which the latter had lived for 250,000 years. And how was he able to do this as fast as in 10,000 years? Now here is a possible answer - he had his four-legged friend to help him.

The origins of mankind go back to 45-35,000 years ago. This means that the Neanderthals had a handicap of more than 200,000 years. However, the sapiens species was so expansive that in a short time our distant cousins completely disappeared from the face of the earth. According to some recently fashionable theories, climate change was mainly responsible for it. It could also have a social base - the man had considerable advantage due to his ability to cooperate and work in a group. Technology also mattered - people developed more sophisticated tools and weapons.The latest theory, formulated by researchers at the University of Cambridge, suggests that we displaced Neanderthals by outnumbering them. And apparently, to a large extent we owe our population to the domestication of dogs.

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Researchers arrived at this conclusion after having analyzed fossilized dog bones from Europe that come from the times when people competed with Neanderthals for living space. The fossils show that the first people almost worshiped their dogs, e.g., by organizing them ritual burials. This is indicated by the dog bones dated 27,000 years back which were discovered in Předmostí, an Upper Paleolithic archaeological site in the Czech Republic. Canine teeth, also found at the spot, exhibit traces of drilling, which indicates that the then people wore them as necklaces. What is interesting, they generally did not carry jewelry made from the remains of animals that were used solely for food. What points to the fact that they were not perceived as hunted game (which is the most frequent subject of cave paintings) is also that dogs were rarely portrayed on cave walls and ceilings - just like the representatives of the homo sapiens species themselves.

People have used dogs purely for hunting, but also for the laborious activities such as dragging the prey to the cave, which saved them time for more productive projects, such as fruit gathering or simply reproduction. Dogs were treated like true companions. With time, the bond became tighter and tighter.

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According to the researchers, the answer to the question why it was the human, and not the Neanderthal who domesticated dogs lies in our...eye whites. The eye type with a contrastive iris is much better for nonverbal communication. Even babies are able to follow gaze direction - and so do dogs, as one of the very few animal species. And this, according to researchers, is how the homo sapiens was able to establish first contact with our four-legged friend. It turns out that a man's best friend can also be the best friend of mankind.

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