Monday 5 December 2016

Stonehenge find reveals prehistoric man's best friend was his dog, experts say

Published 07/10/2016 | 00:26

The tooth of an Alsatian dog discovered a mile from Stonehenge (University of Buckingham/PA)
The tooth of an Alsatian dog discovered a mile from Stonehenge (University of Buckingham/PA)

Prehistoric man's best friend was his dog, it has been claimed.

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Evidence of the earliest journey in British history has been uncovered and a pet dog came along for the gruelling 250-mile trip from York to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Archaeologist David Jacques has found evidence that Mesolithic man's best friend was an Alsatian - and bones found nearby suggest the dog would have feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.

The domesticated dog tooth was dug up at Blick Mead, a site a mile from the World Heritage Site and scientific tests have shown the dog most likely came from the York area.

Mr Jacques said the findings were significant because archaeologists did not know people travelled such long distances 7,000 years ago and the journey adds to the weight of evidence of people coming to Stonehenge 2,000 years before the monument was built.

He said previous excavations uncovered a slate tool from Wales and stone tools from the Midlands and the West of England.

As the Ice Age had just ended, one of the attractions of Blick Mead would have been a natural spring in which the only puce stones in the country could be found.

It would also have been relatively easy to reach because the nearby River Avon was the M1 of its time. Large numbers of deer and aurochs - extinct massive prehistoric cattle - grazed there.

Burnt stones, wood and auroch bones from the site indicate that it was popular for feasting, an important ritual activity.

Mr Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said at that time prehistoric people were starting to tame dogs and keep them as pets and the Alsatian may even have been brought to Stonehenge to exchange.

"The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built," he said.

"Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was."

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said: "These amazing discoveries at Blick Mead are writing the history books of Mesolithic Britain.

"A dog tooth from York, a slate tool from Wales and a stone tool from the Midlands show that this wasn't just the place to live at the end of the Ice Age, but was known by our ancestors for a long time widely across Britain. They kept coming here."

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