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One of three skulls of the earliest domesticated dogs found in Czech Republic. This one was buried with a mastodon bone in its mouth.
(Courtesy Mietje Germonpre)

Researchers have, until recently, thought that dog domestication occurred about 14,000 years ago. In 2011, the case for it taking place much earlier received a boost from sites across Eurasia. Mietje Germonpré, of Belgium’s Museum of Natural History, and a team of researchers published a paper describing three canid skulls that had many of the distinctive traits that separate domesticated dogs from their wolf ancestors, including a shorter, broader snout and a wider brain case. The skulls, which date to roughly 31,500 years ago, were part of a collection from the site of Předmostí, in Czech Republic. In addition, a separate research team found a dog skull at Razboinichya Cave in Siberia that was dated to 33,000 years ago. Both finds support a 2009 research paper published by Germonpré and her colleagues describing a 36,000-year-old dog skull found at Goyet in Belgium. Critics could write off the single dog skull from Goyet as an aberration. “When I received the results of the date I was really disappointed,” Germonpré said of the Goyet skull. “I thought no one would believe it. I couldn’t believe it.” But the evidence from all three sites now makes Germonpré’s case much stronger.

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