Man's best friend
Excavations at the archaeological site of Ust-Polui, in the Russian city of Salekhard, have found the remains of more than 115 dogs scattered around the prehistoric village.
The researchers also found the entire skeletons of five dogs that had been carefully buried in shallow pits, similar to the method used for the three ancient human burials found at the site. [Read full story about the prehistoric dog graveyard]
The remains of many dogs from Ust-Polui also show they were butchered and probably eaten — and some may have been killed for religious sacrifices. But the five dogs that were carefully buried show no signs of having being butchered for food or deliberately killed, Losey said.
This carved ivory knife handle from Ust-Polui, discovered in the 1930s, is thought to show a dog wearing a sled harness.
But, they were smaller than modern huskies. Most weighed less than 48 pounds (22 kilograms) and stood less than 20 inches (50 centimeters) tall at the shoulder. A typical Siberian husky today weighs up to 60 pounds (27 kg) and stands up to 24 inches (60 cm) tall at the shoulder.
Some of the Lake Baikal dogs were buried with decorated collars and grave goods, such as jars and spoons.
Archaeologists think the site was one of several Bronze Age settlements around the lower Ob River in the 1st century B.C. Part of the village appears to have been used to sacrifice animals in religious ceremonies performed by shamans, or spirit priests.
The archaeologists have also found hundreds of sophisticated art objects, including elaborate pottery jars, human and animal figurines and bronze jewelry in the shapes of animals. Researchers think the wealth of finds at Ust-Polui show it was a regional center for trade and the practice of sacred ceremonies.