Dogs and Men Went Mouth-to-Mouth in Old Kingdom Egypt

Beverley Miles, a doctoral candidate at MacQuarie University in Australia, has been researching the relationship that dogs and humans had during the time that the pyramids were built. She presented her results at an Egyptology symposium in Toronto a week ago – and they are not for those of a delicate disposition!

Shes found some pretty convincing evidence in the form of three pieces of art that dogs and humans shared a very close relationship.

How close?

Well, one artefact, pictured here, depicts a human male making mouth to muzzle contact with a dog.
These objects are highly unusual, said Miles. Such interactions are extraordinary in the light of the renowned conservatism of Ancient Egyptian society.

Human to human contact is rare during this time, she explained, much less between human and animal.

So why are the humans getting so close to dogs? In order to answer this question, Miles took a closer look at these three works of art: Each of the images depicts an ancient Egyptian workman who not only touches the dog with his hands but also moves the animal towards him and allows it to place its muzzle against his lip and its tongue within his mouth.

Miles said that this type of behaviour has been seen elsewhere in the natural world. This is very similar to the weaning process that starts after six to eight weeks in dogs. At this stage the mother dog grounds up food in her teeth and allows the dog to lick the food out. This has a number of positive benefits. It helps, facilitate pack social relations and cooperative behaviour.

Perhaps the ancient Egyptians observed and identified the benefits of regurgitation.

Miles believe that the Egyptians, ever the astute observers of nature, may have caught onto this. “Perhaps the ancient Egyptians observed and identified the benefits of regurgitation.

In other words, if you have to, its better to wean a puppy yourself then have the pup die or grow up to be a wild dog.
But who would take on such a gross task?

Miles analyzed painted scenes from Egypt, looking at how people interact with the dogs. The one class of people, who are depicted (literally) as being on the same level as the dogs, is the lowly workman.

Perhaps the workman instead of the high government official had the close interactive connection to the dog and the primary relationship.

She says that more research will be needed to prove these points. But, if she is correct, it will show that dogs, and the lowly workman, shared quite an intimate bond.

The Egyptians certainly had a complex relationship with animals.Find out how they were treated, and deified, in ancient Egypt, and check out our video below, in which Salima Ikram explains the animal cults of ancient Egypt.