Animal Domestication in Atlantean Times


The domestication of animals has long been considered a Mesolithic trait, which is to say it occurred sometime after the end of the Ice Age and the passing of the Paleolithic Age. This implies that animal domestication had not occurred until after Atlantis (using Plato's dates) was long gone. Yet Plato writes of horse races, bull sacrifices, and the wearing of woven apparel (implying the possible domestication of cotton or the herding of sheep).

Regarding the herding of sheep, such an activity would be unlikely without the use of the dog: likewise, cattle without the use of the horse. We will include the domestication of the dog, even though it is not mentioned by Plato. If we can demonstrate that certain animals had been domesticated on the existing continents during the Paleolithic period (i.e., during Atlantean times), then we will have taken a major step toward vindicating Plato's assertions about the level of civilization attained by the Atlantean people.

According to Dr. Thomas W. Jacobsen, classical archeologist at the University of Pennsylvania, there are indications that during the Final Paleolithic Age in Greece both plant and animal domestication had taken place (Jacobsen, 1976). Also Dr. Philip Smith, professor of anthropology at the University of Montreal, wrote: "With the benefit of hindsight we can now see that many Late Paleolithic peoples in the Old World were poised on the brink of plant cultivation and animal husbandry as an alternative to the hunter-gatherer's way of life." (Smith, 1976) So let's see what we can find out.

Domestication of the Dog

Three canid finds from the sites of Bin Mallaha (Eynan) and Hayonim terrace in northern Israel indicate a special man-animal relationship. These consist of a diminutive carnassial and mandible, and a puppy skeleton buried with a human. The finding of a puppy skeleton in such close association with human remains is of particular significance as an indication of the close relationship between man and dog.

These bones are in association with the Natufian culture, which I have identified as an Atlantean Outpost, and are approximately 12,000 years old; but it will be demonstrated that the dog had been domesticated thousand of years earlier than this. Since the Natufian culture began circa. 12,000 years ago (i.e., date of the end of Atlantis), our major thrust at this point is to extend the date back into Atlantean times.

So, when did the domestication of the dog began? Answering this question means dealing with four separate fields of Anthropology: Physical Anthropology, Archeology, Ethnology, and Linguistics. The most obvious way to learn about the past of the dog species, is to treat it the same way we treat ancient societies. Archeologists study their remains, where they lived, what they looked like, and how they changed over time.

Ethnology is a field of Anthropology which has some bearing on the question. Looking back at an ancient civilization's customs and beliefs, we have learned that culture is passed on to the children through stories and myths. We can often see relationships between such traditions and how they might be embedded in rituals and belief systems; and this can tie into the Linguistic field of Anthropology, affecting changes in the language and vocabulary of a given culture. However, in this short article we will concentrate on Physical Anthropology (principally genetics) and archeology (animal and human remains).

Gray wolf ancestor to the dog

Physical Anthropology comes into the picture mostly by means of genetics. Mitochondrial DNA studies seem to suggest that wolves and dogs split into different species around 100,000 years ago, whether or not humans had anything to do with it no one can know for sure. (Vila, Savolainen, Maldonado, Amorin, Rice, Honeycutt, Crandell, Lundeberg & Wayne, 1997) We shall soon see that genetic studies are causing some dissension between professionals in the field.

Led by biologist Robert K. Wayne of UCLA, a team of international geneticists studied mutations in the DNA of 162 wolves, 140 purebred dogs of 67 breeds, 5 coyotes and 8 Simian jackals. They concluded that the earliest remains of the domestic dog date from 10,000-15,000 years ago; but that "the diversity of these remains suggests multiple domestication events at different times and places." The study further showed that dogs do not share DNA with either the coyote or jackal and have only one common ancestor—the gray wolf.

Gray Wolf, ancestor to the Dog

Anthropologist Dr. Colin Groves, suggests that the human-dog relationship may be almost as old as modern man, himself (100,000+ years). Basing his hypothesis on a recent DNA research project, Dr. Groves uses the results to support his statement that "Humans domesticated dogs and dogs domesticated humans": an extremely insightful concept that won't be discussed in this short article.

But, another recent DNA study suggests that the entire population of dogs today are descended from three females near China about 15,000 years ago. This is more in agreement with archeological finds. A burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel has a joint human-dog interment dated at 14,000 years ago. Danger Cave, a site in Utah, is the earliest in the Americas, at about 11,000 years ago.

Most experts agree the dog was the first domesticated animal, and most archeologists say this occurred around 14,000-15,000 years ago (Whitehead, 1999). Archeological discoveries therefore suggest that the relationship between dogs and humans dates as far back as 15,000 years ago. The oldest actual remains of domesticated dogs date between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago, but older remains could be found at any time.

There is little doubt that dogs are the oldest of all domesticated species and that their domestication was based on a mutually beneficial relationship between man and his dog. In return for companionship and food, the early ancestor of the dog assisted man in tracking, hunting, guarding, and numerous other purposes. Eventually man began to selectively breed these animals for specific traits. Physical characteristics changed and individual breeds began to take shape.

From what we can see, all modern studies seem to agree in placing the domestication of the dog well within Paleolithic boundaries—certainly not any later! And this, of course, does include Atlantean times.

Domestication of the Horse

Przewalski Horses grazing in a pasture

Przewalski horses grazing in pasture. The 30,000-year-old Aurignacian cave paintings of horses discovered in southwest France (Les Espelungues, et al.) seem to resemble the present day Przewalski Horse. Smaller than most domestic horse species, the Przewalski horses of western Mongolia weigh between 440 and 750 pounds, standing 48 to 56 inches high. They have stocky bodies, large heads, thick necks, and upright manes.

Competing theories exist as to the time and place of horse domestication. The earliest direct evidence for the domestication of the horse comes from Central Asia and dates to approximately 4,500 B.C. Since the horse did not change so radically (as did the wolf) due to domestication, it presents a special problem; thus when it comes to genetics the domestication of the horse is quite different to that of other livestock. (Bailey, Charles & Winder, 2000)

Studies have indicated that the genetic diversity among domestic horses is extensive, suggesting multiple events of domestication from genetically diverse populations, as well as different locations. One recent genetic study provides a much more detailed picture of how humans tamed and domesticated wild horses, indicating that it took many animals (mares) from many locations to form the breeds we see today.

The genetic material studied thus far implies that a majority of equine maternal genetic diversity must have been incorporated into the breeding stock at the time of domestication. Making certain assumptions, this study suggests that a minimum of seventy-seven wild mares would be required to explain the genetic diversity observed. (Ellegren, 1998)

Archeologically, several other problems are involved. Organic materials such as leather and wood are rarely recovered from such aged archaeological sites; and given unfavorable soil conditions, even bone itself is often destroyed. Another problem is that it is possible to ride a horse without the use of a saddle or bridle; and during the early stages of horse domestication, it is likely that they were usually ridden that way.

Some researchers see the possibility of it occurring at least as far back as the Pleistocene Epoch. Dr. Stanley J. Olsen, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, notes that the numerous images found on the walls of cave and rock shelters of Paleolithic Europe imply a close relationship between the Upper Paleolithic Europeans and Equus przewalskii. (Olsen, 1984)

On its own no one type of indirect data can provide satisfactory evidence of horse domestication. Indirect evidence must have corroboration from as many directions as possible. (Levine, 1999) However, one important form of indirect evidence can be found in Paleolithic art. There is at least one Upper Paleolithic image of a horse and rider which would place horse domestication back into Atlantean times (Perrin, 1983).

Oldest known representation of an ancient rider on horseback.
Original line drawing by Abbe Breuil from the Trois Frères site
(a Magdalenian period grotto in Ariège, France; Perrin, 1983).

Among the artistic depictions of horses, beginning with the Aurignacian period more than 30,000 years ago and continuing down through the Azilian period, numerous engravings include lines which look for all the world like bridles. This is strong evidence in favor of the domestication of the horse during those early times. But due to the aforementioned problems, we are just as unsure that it was not a lot earlier than this.

Paleolithic horses with bridles
Paleolithic engravings showing horses with straps and bridles

The bone and antler engravings of horses pictured here all have been carbon-dated to the Magdalenian period, circa. 14,000 to 10,000 B.C. Dozens of such carvings have been found in the caves of Southwestern France (Lasceau, Les Eyzies, etc.). It sure looks like bridles and straps are being depicted in these carvings, indicating that humans had brought them under their control.

Cave drawings dating circa 15,000 B.C. have also been discovered depicting horses with bridles at St. Michel d'Arudy, at the Grotte de Marsoulas, and at La Marche, France (all in Western Europe).

A claim, first advanced in the 1870s and recently revived by Paul Bahn, a British scholar, is that bone and antler objects known as batons de commandement may represent intregal parts of animal bridles. Such objects are usually made of a slim, curved bone or antler, which has a hole drilled through the larger end. Although the earliest Aurignacian batons are devoid of surface decoration, by Magdalenian times many were finely decorated with carvings of horses or reindeer. (Bahn, 1976)

A young British/American archeologist, Evan Hadingham (1979) of the University of Sheffield notes: "The Magdalenian carvers seem to have delighted in the difficulties of decorating the narrow, rounded surfaces with a fine tracery of complex and well-proportioned amimal forms." And these were usually reindeer or horses. The quality of the carvings can only be appreciated when a "pressing" is rolled out into a flat plane.

A number of Upper Paleolithic sites are scattered throughout the peninsula of Greece: among them Kastritsa, Asprochaliko, Seidi Cave, and Franchthi Cave. Of these the latter seems to have the most complete sequence of strata, beginning some 20,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic, continuing through the Mesolithic, and into the Neolithic of only 5,000 years ago. Horse bones have turned up in a number of such sites.

While excavating Franchthi Cave near the Bay of Argos, in the lowest stratum dating from 20,000 years, Dr. Jacobsen discovered sheep, goat, cattle, pig, and horse bones. Although he expresses doubt that these represented domesticated species, there were no doubts expressed about those found in the early Mesolithic strata directly above. These bones, he observed, were without doubt those of "domesticated varieties". (Jacobsen, 1976) Similar finds have been made throughout the area.

This overall picture is supported by excavations carried out by British, Greek, and German archaeologists in Epirus, Corfu, Boeotia, and the Peloponnese. The main evidence for Late Palaeolithic activity in these areas is largely in the form of flint tools, animal bones, and occasional ornaments made from teeth or bone.

Animal domestication during the Late Paleolithic may not be limited to the horse and dog. Unlike sheep or goats, the domestication of both horses and reindeer result in no obvious physical changes. At Isturitz Cave in French Basque country, in the Magdalenian levels, the leg bone of a reindeer was unearthed bearing evidence of a serious fracture that had healed. It was estimated that the animal had lived for at least two years following the fracture. (Hadingham, 1979) What are the chances of this animal having evaded predators for such an extended period, unless it had been tamed and protected?

Hadingham points out that, while maintaining a certain aloofness, reindeer are nevertheless subject to human control once becoming dependent on human care (like a pet), even to the point of answering to its name when called. This has been clearly demonstrated by the tribesmen of Northern Tungus in Siberia, among other places.

The presence of goat, sheep and horse bones in cave sites as early as the Late Paleolithic should tell us something. The bones are not charred, and there are no hearths. People of the Magdalenian period lived in houses, not in caves (although deep caves were often used for ritualistic purposes). Dare I suggest that the animals were being kept in caves, just as we use a barn or stable for the same purpose? It seems a reasonable inference to me. This would imply that the presence of these animals were as much for utilitarian purposes as for food—especially the horses.

Speaking of the Late Paleolithic populations of the Nile Valley, Smith (1976) wrote: "It has also been suggested that there may have been some tentative efforts at controlling or taming wild cattle." Depictions of cattle are engraved on the cliffs near Gebel Silsila, but it is unproven that the artists were Paleolithic. Of this we have no doubt: herding cattle would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, without the aid of the horse.

Do the opinions of professional archeologists and anthropologists that Late Paleolithic people were "on the verge" of animal husbandry, or the existence of engravings of bridled horses prove that those animals were domesticated by the Atlantean people? No they don't. But they are at least suggestive of that possibility.

And in regard to "wild" sheep and goats, shouldn't Atlanteans who had domesticated such animals in their own country be expected to attempt the same among the wild animals on the continents? And shouldn't these once "wild" animals show signs of domestication with the passage of time? This is exactly what I see in the archeological and anthropological record.

Most modern experts tend to refuse acceptance of any given fact until it is proven beyond any shadow of doubt. I, being the "renegade" that I am, say, if it looks like a cow and smells like a cow, it probably is a cow. It appears to me that the evidence, when all facets are considered, tends to support the assertion of Plato that horses, cattle—and possibly sheep, goats and dogs—had been domesticated, or at least controlled, by the Atlanteans long before their arrival on the continents of Europe and North Africa.

Permanent settlements would have been impossible without some domestication of animals, and highly unlikely without some form of agriculture. And Cro-Magnon Man often created permanent settlements for himself. For recent discoveries regarding Ice Age agriculture, go to my Atlantean Agriculture page.
  • Glossary of Terms


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