How did the dog become man’s best friend? A celebrated anthropologist unearths the mysterious origins of the unique partnership that rewrote the history of both species.
Dogs and humans have been inseparable for more than 40,000 years. The relationship has proved to be a pivotal development in our evolutionary history. The same is also true for our canine friends; our connection with them has had much to do with their essential nature and survival. How and why did humans and dogs find their futures together, and how have these close companions (literally) shaped each other? Award-winning anthropologist Pat Shipman finds answers in prehistory and the present day.
In Our Oldest Companions, Shipman untangles the genetic and archaeological evidence of the first dogs. She follows the trail of the wolf-dog, neither prehistoric wolf nor modern dog, whose bones offer tantalizing clues about the earliest stages of domestication. She considers the enigma of the dingo, not quite domesticated yet not entirely wild, who has lived intimately with humans for thousands of years while actively resisting control or training. Shipman tells how scientists are shedding new light on the origins of the unique relationship between our two species, revealing how deep bonds formed between humans and canines as our guardians, playmates, shepherds, and hunters.
Along the journey together, dogs have changed physically, behaviorally, and emotionally, as humans too have been transformed. Dogs’ labor dramatically expanded the range of human capability, altering our diets and habitats and contributing to our very survival. Shipman proves that we cannot understand our own history as a species without recognizing the central role that dogs have played in it.
This book is a great read for anyone interested in dogs but is overall of a high enough quality for scholars to enjoy. Shipman explores the genetic, behavioral, and archaeological studies revealing the development of the companion relationship between people and dogs, and brings the human and canid settlement of the Australian region into a global context.
When, where, and how did the partnership between dogs and humans begin? Was it an accident? Was it inevitable? Where would we human beings be without our canine colleagues? Pat Shipman’s Our Oldest Companions is a must-read, a tour de force drawing together under one proverbial roof what science can tell us to date. A follow-up to her provocative and intriguing The Invaders, Dr. Shipman examines the anthropology and archeology of the dog’s transition from wolf to house pet all over the world, from the Australian Outback to north of the Arctic Circle. You’ll want to read this book three, four, even five times in order to absorb the abundance of research and ideas presented here.
The latest in a string of authoritative and readable books by Pat Shipman benefits from her well-known scientific knowledge and her great storytelling ability. One of the first times anyone has told how the evidence from archaeology and DNA of Sahul, with its late-appearing dingoes and singing dogs, adds to the human story rather than seeming anomalous. It is the perfect complement to other accounts written with a bias towards Africa, Asia, or Europe. This book, like the dogs that are at its center, covers all the continents where modern people have lived with them. Read it. You will enjoy it.
[A] lively tale of dog domestication and migration.
The erudite Our Oldest Companions makes a remarkable story out of the long partnership between humans and dogs.
A fascinating and often surprising exploration of human and canine evolution…[Shipman's] captivating prose will enchant all readers seeking to learn more about humans, dogs, and our long history together.
- 272 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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