26,000-Year-Old Footprints In Chauvet Cave: Oldest Evidence Of Human-Canine Relationship

– Humans and dogs have shared a special relationship for thousands of years. Dogs are our companions, trusted friends and family members. They bring joy into our lives and this has been the case for ages.

The Chauvet Cave in France contains plenty of remarkable paintings that are between 20,000 and 30,000 thousand years old and of great historical importance. Many scholars believe that the paintings found in the Chauvet Cave mark the emergence of a recognizably consciousness.

Interestingly, none of the hundreds of glorious Chauvet paintings show wolves. However, this intriguing ancient cave preserves something very interesting, namely the footprints of a human child about four-and-a-half feet tall, as well as many footprints of large canids and bears.

Many consider these footprints to be the world’s oldest evidence of human-canine relationship.

First spotted in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet, the cave’s discoverer, the footsteps stretch perhaps 150 feet and at times cross those of bears and wolves.

The steps lead to the so-called room of skulls, where a number of bear skulls have been found. In a few places there is evidence that the boy slipped on the soft clay floor, though Garcia says the prints show the boy was not running, but walking normally.

The boy appears at one point to have stopped to clean his torch, charcoal from which has been dated to about. 26,000 years ago.

The discovered canid prints have a shortened middle digit on the front paw: a characteristic of dogs. Garcia suggested that the child and a large dog might have explored the cave together.

The prints from the Chauvet Cave, like nearly all footprints thus far discovered in Palaeolithic caves, are from bare feet. This has led scholars to speculate that people of the time either left footwear at cave entrances or carried them.

Prehistoric art expert Paul Bahn notes that depictions of carnivores, including wolves or dogs, and of humans are rare. Bahn conjectures that portraying wolves and humans might have been taboo.

Anne Pike-Tay of Vassar College offers another perspective. She observes that the scarcity of artistic depictions of carnivores parallels their scarcity in the fossil faunas of the Upper Paleolithic. If domesticated dogs were helping humans hunt, she speculates that they might have been placed in a completely different symbolic category from other animals.

“What if dogs were put in the ‘human family’ category as an extension of the hunter, and like humans, warranted no (or very few) painted or engraved depictions?” she wonders.

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