Thursday, January 17, 2019
Title: Exploring the Role of the Dog in Prehistoric and Historic Native American Mobility
Abstract: Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) used as beasts of burden in Plains, Intermountain, and Arctic societies in North America feature prominently in ethnographic and historic accounts from the 1540’s onwards. Ethnographic accounts reveal that these technologies were used in transporting only a limited number of goods including shelter and household belongings, firewood, bison meat, and, at times, trade goods. Unfortunately, the ephemeral nature of dog-pack, travois, and sled technology has frustrated attempts to identify when and where dog-based transport emerged, the constraints of these technologies, and effects these technologies had upon Native American societies. Using a combination of ethnographic, experimental, and archaeological data I reveal: 1) that archaeological dog specimens were capable of ethnographic loads; 2) that such dogs in the Plains and Intermountain West have existed for over 3,000 years; and 3) that dog-based utility is of limited utility when applied to food acquisition. These results serve as the foundation for an ongoing research program relying upon indirect lines of evidence to further our understanding of dog-based transport.