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Neolithic dog’s face reconstructed from skull unearthed on Orkney | UK News



The face of a dog that lived around 4,500 years ago has been reconstructed after a skull was found in an ancient burial mound.

The animal’s features were recreated by forensic artist Amy Thornton using a 3D print from a CT scan of the creature’s cranium.

The dog’s remains were discovered in a neolithic chambered cairn near the village of Grimbister, on the main island of Orkney, northern Scotland.

The site, called Cuween Hill, dates to around 3,000 BC, like many of the famous sites on the archipelago, but radiocarbon dating of the dog skull has discovered it was placed in the site around 500 years later.

A model made from the skull of a dog found in an ancient mound on Orkney
Dogs may have had a special significance for farmers in the area

The later placing of the bones suggest the animal’s burial had ritual value, archaeologists believe.

Steve Farrar, interpretation manager at Historic Environment Scotland, which commissioned the reconstruction, said: “Just as they’re treasured pets today, dogs clearly had an important place in neolithic Orkney, as they were kept and trained as pets and guards and perhaps used by farmers to help tend sheep.

“But the remains discovered at Cuween Hill suggest that dogs had a particularly special significance for the farmers who lived around and used the tomb about 4,500 years ago.

“Maybe dogs were their symbol or totem, perhaps they thought of themselves as the ‘dog people.'”

Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn, Orkney, where a dog skull was discovered and a model made from its head
Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn, Orkney, where a dog skull was discovered and a model made from its head

The dog skull was one of 24 discovered when the site was excavated in 1901, as well as the remains of eight humans.

The dog that has been reconstructed was alive roughly the same time as Stonehenge was at its height in southern England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt was being built.

It was about the size of a large collie and looked similar to a European grey wolf.

More recent excavations have found evidence of a settlement downhill from the tomb, from the same period, which may be where the dog’s owners lived.

At the time the dog was alive, there were dozens of settlements housing several thousand people on Orkney, which was one of the outstanding religious and cultural centres of Europe.

One of the ancient stone circles on Orkney
One of the ancient stone circles on Orkney

The neolithic sites of Skara Brae and the Ness of Brodgar are among the oldest stone buildings on the continent.

Evidence has been found of links between prehistoric Orkney and Stonehenge, with communities travelling between the two and exchanging ideas.

The domestication of dogs is believed to have occurred at least 15,000 years ago, with rock art and archaeological evidence in later millennia revealing they were often valued by hunting and farming communities.

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