Child’s remains reveal early North American life, plus ancient canines and convincing metaphors in this week’s news

Ancient man’s best friend
In prehistoric Siberia, hunter-gatherers buried certain dogs, and even one wolf, just as they interred human comrades, suggesting that these canines were regarded as “persons” with souls, say anthropologist Robert Losey of the University of Alberta in Canada and his colleagues. Several dogs placed in graves with valuable offerings at a 7,400-year-old cemetery had apparently lived among people for many years, the researchers report in an upcoming Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. A nearby cemetery contains a grave of a male wolf with a person’s detached head nestled between its legs, a sign that the wolf was meant as a protector in the afterlife. —Bruce Bower

War in the family
For kids living in a war zone, emotional difficulties often arise more from beatings by a parent and other types of family violence than from witnessing conflict-related horrors, according to a year-long study of Afghani youngsters and their parents led by Yale anthropologist Catherine Panter-Brick. Youngsters exposed to war violence often displayed post-traumatic stress symptoms. But depression and behavior problems worsened mainly among kids whose families became increasingly violent, possibly in response to ongoing warfare, the researchers report in upcoming Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. —Bruce Bower

Early American child
A child’s cremated skeletal remains, found in the ruins of an 11,500-year-old house in central Alaska, offer a rare look at daily life and death among early colonizers of the Americas. Prehistoric foragers lived at the Alaskan site while hunting and fishing during the summer, say anthropologist Ben Potter of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his colleagues. The child’s body was placed in a pit formerly used as a hearth, they report in the Feb. 25 Science. Following cremation, residents apparently abandoned the house. Child burials and houses of about the same age in Siberia and elsewhere in North America resemble the Alaskan discoveries. —Bruce Bower


Convincing metaphors
Metaphors are forceful persuaders. These turns of phrase unobtrusively sway people’s opinions about how to deal with social problems such as rising crime rates, say Stanford psychologists Paul Thibodeau and Lera Boroditsky. A large majority of volunteers endorsed police enforcement after reading about a crime wave described as a beast, whereas most favored social reforms to treat root causes of law-breaking after reading that escalating crime is a virus, the researchers report online February 23 in PLoS ONE. In each case, participants said that crime statistics, not metaphors, shaped their opinions. Metaphor effects held regardless of people’s political affiliations. —Bruce Bower

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