First Traces of Wolves and Men

The earliest Wolves depicted.

The fact that there are several words for ‘wolf’ of Common Indo-European date shows that the wolf was widespread throughout the Indo-European territory. It also indicates its cultic and ritual significance, which is clearly attested in the oldest Indo-European traditions.

– Indo European and the Indo-Europeans, Gamkrelidze & Ivanov.

The early Indo European (IE) words for wolf and their strong presence 10,000 years later is one of the first key indicators of the cultural resonance of Wolves and the Wolf.

Early domesticated dogs can be seen in murals from the Çatalhöyük site in modern day Turkey which has been dated at approximately 7000 years old.

The mural known as the ‘Shrine of the Hunters’ also possibly shows the beginnings of a ritualised form of hunt that becomes a recurring theme in subsequent Indo European daughter cultures. 

(Wolf/dog in mural detail from, “Shrine of the hunters”, Çatalhöyük, as reconstructed by James Wellaart)

The hunters/warriors are nude save for a clearly depicted (ritual?) belt. The hunters’ prey, a gargantuan auroch, is surrounded on all sides by the hunters as well as smaller animals that look remarkably like domesticated wolves. The animals are hunting side-by side with warriors.

Even further back in time, Mesolithic images of men hunting with wolves, have been found in the prehistoric rock paintings of Tassili N’Ajjer. The images have been dated to c.11,000 BCE.

Further cave paintings of hunters and domesticated canines have been found at Tadrart Acacus.


(Rock art depicting man hunting with dogs. Tadrart Acacus, Libya. © Peter Boekamp)


(Hunter and dog, detail of image from Tadrart Acacus, Libya)

However the earliest image of a wolf can be found in the font De gaume cave in the Dordogne area of France. The images date from the Magdalenian period approximately 15,000 BCE


It is also from this approximate culture that the first symbolic image of a half-animal/half-man figure is found. 

Often described as “The Sorcerer”, the image is in the cavern known as ‘The Sanctuary’ at the Cave of the Trois-Frères, Ariège, France.


The subtlety in the image is hard to discern in the photograph above, however artist Henri Breuil sketched a more vivid image in the 1920s:-


While accuracy of the image has been questioned, its authenticity was confirmed by Jean Clottes as recently as 2011.

If it is a human in a horned head-dress, it’s parallels with the antler headdresses found at StarCarr are unmistakable. 

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