Despite astronomic advances in genetics and animal behavior, the process of domestication, in which animals are innately desirous of human contact, is still a scientific mystery. How our ancestors selected specific animals that were suitable for domestication in the first place is also shrouded in secret. Two recent findings one in an archeological dig in Jordan and another in a half-century long experiment in Siberia may afford more clues. Both, incidentally, focus on foxes.
The Daily Mail recently reported on a story in which archeologists unearthed surprising findings in a prehistoric cemetery site in Uyun-al-Hammam, located in northern Jordan. The cemetery, which dates back to the Middle Epipaleolithic period, is over 16,000 years old. The site was opened in 2005 and has provided researchers with a wealth of information about human activity during this specific, pre-Natufian period of time. Recently, a Cambridge-based team, led by Dr. Lisa Maher of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, found the remains of a man and woman buried next to a the skull and humerus of a fox.
The researchers speculate the woman was buried after the man, and they found various grave goods buried in close proximity as well. While there could have been many reasons for the fox to be buried so close to the human, researchers found another grave site, containing what was more than likely remains of the same man from the first site, alongside what was most definitely remains of the same fox. For whatever reason, the first grave site was opened and the remains of the man were moved to the second site, and the fox was of enough importance that its remains were moved, too.