For the study, Losey and his team researched dog burials worldwide, but focused particularly on ones located in Eastern Siberia. Siberia appears to have been an ancient hotbed of dog lovers, with the earliest known domesticated dog found there and dating to 33,000 years ago. Dog burials in this region, however, span across a more recent 10,000-year period.
The researchers found that most of the dog burials in this area occurred during the Early Neolithic 7,000-8,000 years ago. Dogs were only buried when human hunter-gatherers were also being buried. When pastoralists later came through, they did not bury dogs, although they did sacrifice them from time to time.
“I think the hunter-gatherers here saw some of their dogs as being nearly the same as themselves, even at a spiritual level,” Losey said. “At this time, dogs were the only animals living closely with humans, and they were likely known at an individual level, far more so than any other animal people encountered. People came to know them as unique, special individuals.”
The burials reflect that association. One dog, for example, was laid to rest “much like it is sleeping.”