The story depicted in this wall painting is the association of man and dog throughout the ages. Two widely separated species, they have depended on each other for sustenance, aid, and that spiritual linkage we term companionship since an archaic era buried deeply in the womb of prehistoric time.
The mural begins in the upper left hand with a scene that could have occurred two million or more years ago on our planet Earth. We see a pair of very early hominids, Australopithecus Africanus, caught on the open savannah and being pursued by a slavering band of early transitional canines similar to the wild, harlequin Cape Town Hunting dogs of contemporary Africa. The Australopithecines were small but sturdy ape-human creatures, weaponless and easy prey for the wild dog packs that had reached species stabilization long before the first man-like creature left the trees to stand erect upon the earth its species was destined to dominate.
Hundreds of thousands of years moved slowly into oblivion as mankind evolved from the hunted to the hunter. When human association gained greater stability in the Mesolithic Age, the dog, which scavenged on the outskirts of Paleolithic encampments, found acceptance as a hunting partner, a guardian of the hearth, a companion and a beats of burden as man followed the herbivorous animals. In the lower left corner we see an ancient hunter and his dogs after a successful search for living food. This unique unity between two very different species brought significance to the New Stone Age and marked the beginning of the “Neolithic Revolution” which saw the domestication by men of plants and animals.
About 2700 B.C., on the banks of the turbid Nile, Egypt, in the Third Dynasty, reached fruition as the cradle of civilization. Animals of many kinds were woven into the rich fabric of Egyptian religion and philosophy: the dog, the snake, the cat goddess Bast, Horus the hawk goddess are but a few. The nobility developed several breeds of canines, and the Saluki, seen in the mural’s Egyptian section, is an example of the ancient sight-hounds the Pharaohs bred for the chase.
The ages passed and advancing civilization taught man greed, corruption and the brutal art of war. The eighth century B.C. witnessed the savage grandeur of the Assyrian empire reach its zenith as its conquering armies swept over the known world, utilizing their battle plans and advance guard of ferocious mastiffs to break the formations and courage of their adversaries.
In the progressing process of human evolution the hunter eventually became the herder as man realized that he could contain the herbivorous meat creatures within a limited area through domestication rather than pursuing a transhumance existence following the wild herds. The pastoral age came into being and again the dog filled an important niche as a herder and protector of the herds and flocks. A collie stands guard over his flock in the mural representing the herding breeds, a chore to which many breeds of canines throughout the world are still dedicated.
The sled dogs of the frigid north have made exploration of that white wasteland possible, and have brought life-saving serums and food to icebound settlements. The Eskimo, a modern Mesolithic man, depends upon his dogs for mobility, as an aid in the hunt, and to help him sustain his very life in a forbidding environment.