Ancient Foxes Lived and Died Alongside Humans

When roving bands of hunter-gatherers domesticated the wolves scavenging their scraps at the end of the Pleistocene era, they set the stage for the tail-wagging, puppy-eyed canines we know and love today.

But dogs were not the only ancient canines to become companions. Archaeologists have found traces of foxes living among early communities throughout South America. This includes the nearly complete skeleton of an extinct fox discovered in northwestern Patagonia.

A team of researchers recently examined the fox’s bones, which were unearthed among the remains of dozens of hunter-gatherers. The team’s findings, published Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, posit that this fox lived alongside the humans it was buried with.

“It appears to have been intentionally buried within this human cemetery,” said Ophélie Lebrasseur, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Oxford and an author of the new study. “It’s a practice that had been suggested before, but to actually find it is a nice surprise.”

According to Dr. Lebrasseur, most archaeological traces of South American canids are usually isolated bones or teeth.

But the nearly complete skeleton of a foxlike animal was discovered when archaeologists excavated the Cañada Seca burial site in central Argentina in 1991.

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