Monday, December 06, 2010

Egyptian Bones Could Help Solve Canine Conundrum

Spiegel Online ()

With photos.

Scientists are still trying to explain how the gray wolf could evolve into over 400 breeds of dogs, ranging from the pug to the pinscher. One aid in solving this riddle has been found in an unlikely place: a giant animal shrine from ancient Egypt.

At first, he panned for gold in the East Indies. Then he poked around in Stonehenge. And then, during his forays into the Orient, he discovered mankind's oldest legal codes.

Later, in 1897, French adventurer Jacques de Morgan found himself standing in a dark crypt in Egypt, knee-deep in bones that crackled and snapped with every step he took: He had discovered the world's largest dog cemetery.

De Morgan's pioneering discovery was soon forgotten in professional circles. But now, more than a century later, researchers from Cardiff University, in Wales, have turned their attention to the dog mausoleum once again and are conducting excavations at the site. Paul Nicholson, a lecturer in archaeology from the university who is leading the dig, says that thousands of mummified dogs were once placed into niches in the cavern.

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