|Rock painting of a dingo and an ancestral figure from the Laura region in Queensland, Australia. Paul Taçon|
Dogs and people have been traveling the world together for possibly 30,000 years, with one exception: Australia. Archaeological evidence, from bones to rock art paintings, suggests that Australia’s native dog, the dingo, didn’t arrive down under until at least 4000 years ago. So who brought them? Two archaeologists think they’ve now identified the likely suspects in the long-running mystery.
The question is not just a matter of curiosity about dingoes. “For some reason, we know relatively little about this time compared with other regions of the world,” says psychologist Bradley Smith, who specializes in canine behavior and cognition at Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, in Australia and who did not contribute to the study. That means that “understanding the origins of the dingo will shed light on human history in Southeast Asia, the process of dog domestication, and the prehistory of Australia,” adds Mathew Crowther, a wildlife biologist at the University of Sydney also not involved in the study.
There are several groups of people who could have brought the dingo to Australia. Among the front-runners are Indian mariners who may have traveled to Australia, the seafaring Lapita people who spread eastward into the Pacific from East Asia, and traders from Timor and Taiwan who sailed throughout Southeast Asia. A group of maritime hunters and gatherers, called the Toalean, from the southern peninsulas of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, were also on the list.
In their new study, reported in the current edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, Melanie Fillios and Paul Taçon at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and Griffith University, Gold Coast, in Brisbane, Australia, respectively, tried to narrow down the contenders. Using what Smith calls “quite a novel method,” they were the first researchers to tackle the question by combining recent genetic evidence of the evolution of the dingo with archaeological artifacts from Australia and Southeast Asia. [...] Science | AAAS / Link 2
|Past studies indicate these routes as possible ways dingoes travelled to Australia|