OK, so there are no crackers, but here are three intriguing tidbits about animals. The first two I gathered from a mail list devoted to archaeology and ancient Near Eastern studies. The third I picked up from a David Stratton sermon illustration at Woodhaven Baptist Church, near Cary NC.
Horses: if you’re a horse lover, there’s news that equine companions may have been domesticated earlier than previously thought, in the middle of an Arabian desert that once was a lush river valley. Around 300 stone objects found in the Al Magar area of the Arabian peninsula include several carved horse-shaped objects bearing lines that look like primitive harnesses. The finds date from about 9,000 years ago, about 3,000 years earlier than evidence for horse domestication found in Kazakhstan.
We’ve all heard of the famed Arabian horses: now it appears that horses and humans have been companions in the area for longer than we knew.
Dogs: It’s long been shown that dogs evolved from wolves, and archaeological evidence suggests they were first domesticated in Europe and the Middle East as much as 14,000 years ago. Scientists who study such things have been puzzled, though, because genetic markers born by contemporary dogs show that most of them can be traced to an early canine population in Southeast Asia. Recent research published in a journal called Molecular Biology and Evolution suggests that farmers who pushed south of the Yangtze River some 6,000-9,000 years ago were accompanied by their dogs. Once distanced from their lupine ancestors who remained in the north, the Southeast Asian dogs developed a distinct doggy DNA that was less wolfish, and gave rise to most of the dog breeds we know today.
So, even if your dog’s family name suggests an origin in Scotland, France, or Norway, chances are its ancestors did a long tour of duty in Southeast Asia.
Snakes and Mice: On a more contemporary note, the Air Force will soon be bombing one of its own bases with dead mice. That’s right: after World War II, ships arriving in Guam accidentally introduced the brown tree snake, which has no local predators and rapidly took over the island, nearly wiping out the entire population of jungle birds. The snake is only slightly venemous and not much of a threat to humans, but has become a major pest and an obvious menace to the ecosystem.
Enter the Air Force: thousands of dead but deadly mice will soon be dropped from helicopters over more than 100 acres of America’s Andersen Air Force base in a controlled experiment to see how effective they are in killing the snakes. The mice will tied to streamers designed to get hung in the trees, their little bodies packed with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, which is poisonous to the serpents. If the million-dollar air assault proves successful, look for the program to be expanded, much to the chagrin of mice and snakes alike.
The book of Genesis asserts that God instructed humans to “have dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). That’s one command, for good or ill, we appear to have taken seriously.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.