ASM MASTER CLASS: Man’s Best Friend: Exploring the Human-Dog Relationship Through Time

ASM MASTER CLASS: Man’s Best Friend: Exploring the Human-Dog Relationship Through Time

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Event Location

At Arizona State Museum

April 15, 22, 29, and May 6, 2023
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the Arizona State Museum
a four-part series taught by Dr. Martin Welker, assistant curator of zooarchaeology and assistant professor of anthropology



The dog is unique among domesticated animal species for a variety of reasons. They were domesticated during the Pleistocene by human foragers. They demonstrate an incredible degree of morphological variability which human beings have used to adapt and shape them to fulfill a diverse array of roles within human communities. Over the course of this master class, we will examine and discuss the domestication and adaptation of dogs to these roles, and the ways they have been shaped by long-term cohabitation with people.    

Session 1: The Domestication and Spread of Domestic Dogs
Domestication is a process by which wild animal species become closely associated with human beings. The domestic dog is the first species to have been domesticated by humans and they are quite different than many of the other species people domesticated. In this session we discuss what domestication is and explore three key concepts: 1) the origins of the domestic dog, 2) how archaeologists identify domestic dogs, and 3) the explanations for how dogs came to be domesticated.

Session 2: Dogs and Livestock: Herding and Guarding
Livestock are a significant element of human culture in many parts of the world. Dogs have become involved in livestock management as guardians who keep wild predators from getting into the flock, and as herders who aid in moving livestock across the landscape. In fulfilling these roles, dogs have enabled human farmers and pastoralists to utilize the landscape in new ways and functioned as key elements in the agricultural and pastoral existence. In this session we will explore the development of livestock management roles in human society, and the key role livestock dogs likely played in the emergence of complex societies founded on agropastoral foodways.

Session 3: Dogs as Labor: Sledding and Packing
Dogs have been used to haul cargo and move people in several regions of the world using carts, packs, and sleds. Indeed, some have argued that pack dogs may even have been necessary for some Pleistocene human cultures. Unfortunately, much of the clear archaeological evidence for dogs’ transport roles is ephemeral, and, as a result, it remains a mystery when and how these roles developed within human societies. Today we will examine the archaeological record for this behavior and discuss the conditions which may have led to dogs becoming involved in these activities.

Session 4: Dogs as Pets: Fur and Companionship
Today, many of us keep dogs as pets rather than work animals. Knitting with pet fur has become increasingly popular. But when did dogs go from helpful work animals to companions snoozing the day away on the couch, and how long have people been using dog fur for textiles? In the final session of this course, we will discuss the archaeological record of dogs being used for textile production. Second, we will explore the concept of “pets” and how dogs (and to some extent wild canids) have been impacted by long-term association with humans and human culture.           

$170 ASM members or $200 non members
Free campus parking.
Amount paid over $130 is a tax-deductible gift.
Proceeds support Dr. Welker's research projects.
Refund policy: credit card payments incur a 3% fee, imposed on us by the credit card companies, that cannot be refunded.

Call or email to register.

Event Contacts

Darlene Lizarraga