This is the face of a 7,500-year-old dog

One of the oldest dog skeletons ever found in Portugal, the animal finally got an unprecedented face by a multidisciplinary team

When the nearly complete skeleton of a dog was discovered inside a very ancient human cemetery in Portugal’s Tagus Valley in the 1880s, the scientific community was too busy thinking about the age of the people found there to give it due attention.

Excavated nearly four meters deep among 110 human skeletons, the dog’s fossil ended up being forgotten, like so many archaeological animal remains found at the time, when the focus of excavations was on understanding the antiquity of humans themselves – and with the exception of your animals.

Only 120 years later, the remains of the Mogi dog, as scientists called it, were rediscovered inside a drawer of a cupboard at the Geological Museum of Lisbon. From there researchers Jim Detry And JL Cardoso Developed, in 2010, the first large-scale dentometry and osteometric study on an animal.

Radiocarbon dating between 7,680 and 7,450 years ago was the first of many other studies on the specimen that began to emerge, revealing important data about one of the oldest almost complete dog skeletons found in Portuguese lands, considered the 16th wonder of it. For the museum where it was re-identified.

Muge’s Dog Skull / Credit: Video / Cícero Moraes

Encouraged by previous studies, a team of experts used a multidisciplinary approach to create a facial reconstruction of a Mogi dog, providing an approximation of what it looked like in the past. The results have been published in the open-access scientific journal of applied sciences.

A combination of zoology osteometrics, direct radiocarbon dating, X-ray imaging and computed tomography, as well as computer-aided techniques and art, enabled the 3D designer to Cicero Moraes It can bring this mysterious information to life, resulting in an image of a dog that lived more than 7,500 years ago.

Man’s primal best friend

Facial reconstruction and the final product / Credit: Cícero Moraes

The remains of a dog dating back to the Late Paleolithic are rarely found, the scientists noted in the study. Therefore, one of the highlights of the dog skeleton, a Mesolithic animal, is associated with antiquity, in addition to the fact that it is almost complete and has an interesting burial context for further analysis.

“The dog’s skeleton has been very well preserved, which likely means that humans buried it carefully, which is interpreted as a strong emotional bond between humans and their dogs.”

The Moog was likely a medium sized adult dog, that died between the ages of two and six, and had an approximate shoulder height of between 48.5 and 51 centimeters. led by scientists Anna Elizabeth Peresfrom the University of Lisbon’s Center for Archeology (UNIARQ), even attempted to extract and sequence the animal’s DNA.

It was only possible to identify the branch, or branch, of which the dog was a part – the C clade, which was prevalent during the Mesolithic period in other parts of Europe. However, “other attempts to extract and sequence nuclear DNA to determine its biological sex or coat color remain unsuccessful.”

Reconstruct your face

The Face of a Wave Dog / Credit: Cicero Moraes

For the study, the skull, which was found more than 140 years ago in the Tagus Valley, underwent computed tomography (CT) scans at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Some of the animal’s bones were mutilated due to burial conditions, which required a virtual donor CT scan to be used as a reference and to provide the missing bone fragments in the skeleton.

Scientists assert that “the reconstruction should only be viewed as approximations.” But despite this, “the image of a moggy dog ​​allows further acknowledgment of this really important archaeological find,” as “to our knowledge, this is the first attempt at digital reconstruction of the face of a primitive dog that lived about 7,600 years ago. . . .

Watch a video of the facial reconstruction process here

To reach this result, the team attempted to minimize the degree of subjectivity that could be attributed to the dog’s appearance, obtained through multidisciplinary techniques from its skull, “restricting it to coat reconstruction and to a certain degree of pigmentation”. “.

They claim they were able to “re-emphasize the importance of this archaeological specimen and provide a 3D facial reconstruction of this ancient dog, without the potential implications.” [sociais, legais, religiosas] misidentification, as can happen with humans,” as well as enabling a “deeper connection to our past.”

“Archaeology and heritage should be more understandable to the general public so that they are more appreciated and supported. Reconstructing ancient pets can help achieve this purpose. Being animals, and in particular, pets, they stimulate more empathy and thus attract More attention.”

+ Watch the short film “O Cão de Muge – A Prehistoric Friend”, which describes the interdisciplinary study of the animal. According to the scientists, the production was made “in an attempt to disseminate this important discovery to both the scientific public and the general public.”

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