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Our Oldest Companions

The Story of the First Dogs

Pat Shipman

ISBN 9780674971936

Publication date: 11/02/2021

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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.

Praise

  • 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.

    —Susan O’Connor, author of Transcending the Culture–Nature Divide in Cultural Heritage

Author

  • Pat Shipman is the author of many books, including The Invaders, The Animal Connection, and The Ape in the Tree (with Alan Walker), which won the W. W. Howells Award from the American Anthropological Association. Shipman is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Geographical Society of London.

Book Details

  • 272 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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