Every dog has its day, but that day took more than 14,000 years to dawn for one canine. A jaw fragment found in a Swiss cave comes from the earliest known dog, according to scientists who analyzed and radiocarbon-dated the fossil.
Dog origins remain poorly understood, however, and some researchers say that dog fossils much older than the Swiss find have already been excavated.
An upper-right jaw unearthed in 1873 in Kesslerloch Cave, located near Switzerland’s northern border with Germany, shows that domestic dogs lived there between 14,100 and 14,600 years ago, say archaeology graduate student Hannes Napierala and archaeozoologist Hans-Peter Uerpmann, study coauthors at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
“The Kesslerloch find clearly supports the idea that the dog was an established domestic animal at that time in central Europe,” Napierala says.