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Keywords:

  • Balkans;
  • dog;
  • domestication;
  • Mesolithic;
  • wolf

ABSTRACT

In this article, we test a hypothesis about local dog domestication in the Danube Gorges of the central Balkans in the course of the Mesolithic period. Morphometric features of dog mandibles and teeth from Mesolithic–Early Neolithic sites of Vlasac, Padina, Lepenski Vir, and Hajdučka Vodenica have been analysed and compared with recent wolves from the central Balkans. Decrease in size and changes in proportions of dog's dental features were tracked diachronically. We identified specimens which manifested mixed wolf/dog features. Such specimens originate from the Early Mesolithic contexts, the time when a decrease in size began. On the basis of this pattern, we suggest that dog domestication may have taken place in the Danube Gorges during the Early Mesolithic (ca 9500–7500 cal. bc). The reduction of size continued throughout Late Mesolithic (ca 7500–6300 cal. bc), but there were still individuals that might be regarded as ‘transitional’ in comparison with wolves on account of their size, and a distinct difference in size between wolves and dogs did not develop. Accordingly, if local domestication was in progress here, the domestication process might have lasted for more than just few generations and even several millennia. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.