.... Jamela

Born at Tell Tuneinir (Syria) around March 28, 2001. Arrived safe and sound in St. Louis (MO - USA) on Sept. 10, 2001. She is a pet, a watchdog and a living archaeological experiment. Jamela is the living representative of over 4000 years of dog history at Tueninir. Many thanks to all of the people who helped get her here, especially:

  • Pat and Bob McWhorter, David Hanlon, Carolyn Davis, St. Louis
  • Dr. Nazmi Abdalla and Dr. Pierre M. Bikai, Amman
  • Sammy Khouri, Damascus

Dog bones appear at Tuneinir as late as this Ilkanid Period (ca. AD 1350). These bones belong to a medium size dog excavated from Area 1, Square 66, Locus 002. It was Excavated on June 12, 1990 by Mitchell Grant. Area 1 is a residential neighborhood. Dog bones have also been identified by Dr. Michelle Loyet (Washington University at St. Louis) in the Ayyubid Period (ca. AD 1200) caravansaries (Areas 4 and 6). The oldest dog bones at Tuneinir date to the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2700 BC).

The upturned tail and tri-color markings give Jamela the look of a Canaan dog. Her size and weight seems to be larger than the norm.

Jamela weighed 25 pounds on 9/28/01 when she arrived in St. Louis
Jamela weighed 40 pounds in January 2002
Jamela weighed 50 pounds in May 2002
Jamela weighed 50.5 pounds in December 2002
Jamela weighed 54.1 pounds in February 2003
Jamela weighed 79.0 pounds on March 2004
Her first Estrus was on 10 January 2002
Her second Estrus was on 1 August 2002
Big surprise. Jamela continued to experience estrus during 2003 but has not show any estrus cycles during 2005.

Jamela caught and killed an adult rabbit on the evening of Oct. 3, 2002. She chewed the head off of the rabbit, then buried its body in her special hiding hole directly under Michael's office window. She dug up the rabbit on the afternoon of Oct. 5 and finished eating it. She began by chewing off and eating the back legs. She totally consumed the entire rabbit (bone, fur, etc.). It did not make her sick. One way to explain this behavior is that she was not hungry on Oct 3rd, so she "cached" the dead rabbit for two days. She always has plenty of dry food available, but that doesn't rank with a tasty rabbit. The absence of uneaten matter helps explain the low frequency of small bones at Tuneinir. Jamela's short term storage process is very interesting. She was very aggressive in defending her kill and dinner! Better photographs would have been taken if she was not trying to avoid Michael!

Jamela will "hide" her food bowl with leaves, sticks, and sherds when the bowl is put outside.

...... .


More Jamela photos after her biography...

Biography of Jamela (updated 27 May 2002):

Jamela was born on approximately 28 March 2001 in the village of Tuneinir, Syria. She was given to Hussein and Hasan Halif (sons of Ali Halif, guard for Tuneinir and the American dig house) prior to arrival of the American archaeologists on 26 May 2001. The young brothers grew tired of the puppy and left her to die on 5 June 2001. Jeanne Harding (NYC) and Lindalou Friesen (VA) took pity on the puppy and carried her back in a zam'beel (Arabic, rubber bucket) to the American dighouse. The co-directors (Michael and Neathery Fuller) were in agreement with Amira Fuller that the puppy could be adopted by the Americans and "possibly" brought back to St. Louis.

Jamela was born to one of the ten Canaan dogs belonging to the household of Abd el Tay and his brother Hudir Oweed Tay. They were pleased that the puppy was adopted by the Americans. Most households at Tuneinir have only one or two dogs. The Tay brothers like their ten dogs and boast that they have no problem with thieves because their "pack" is very defensive of their unfenced house and barns. The Tay and Halif families have deep roots in the Tuneinir village. Muslim historians record that the Beni Tay (at Tayma) were one of the Christian Arab tribes that existed in Arabia before the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Abdul Hameed Siddiqui 1983, Life of Muhammad, page 36). All of the Arab families at Tuneinir have been Muslim since the time of the Ottomans. Archaeological evidence demonstrates a strong Christian presence at the site from the Late Roman Period until the time of Tamerlane in the early 15th century.

The Tay family uses Canaan dogs to assist in herding sheep and goats. It is common for a shepherd to take two or three canaans while herding 100 to 200 sheep. The shepherd, riding a donkey, is followed by the herd while the Canaan dogs constantly circle the end of the herd making sure that animals are not lost and that stray dogs do not menace the herd. Tuneinir Canaans will vigorously pursue waw'wees (Arabic, wild dogs/hyenas) and arnab (Arabic, hares). Dog fights will occur if a careless shepherd takes his flock within 200 meters of a mudbrick residence belonging to another household. The village dogs will bark and bite strangers who appropriate mudbrick houses without a member of the household serving as escort.

The most aggressive dogs in the village of Tuneinir belong to the family of Ahmed Diab. The Canaans of the Diab household are rough coated and solid brown in color. The majority of Canaans at Tuneinir have white coats with masks of brown and gray. The Diab's dogs have cropped ears for the purpose of making them more aggressive and better fighters. The Diab family moved to Tunenir during the 1960s from the region of Latakia, Syria. We assume that Hadji Diab brought the brown coated, hyper-aggressive Canaans from the region of Latakia when he migrated.

The Canaan dogs at Tuneinir are not fed by their owners; the dogs survive by scavenging among the refuse thrown out by their owners. Dogs jealously defend "their refuse" and there is a definite order of eating: males, females, then puppies. Dogs drink from Ain Tuneinir (Arabic, Spring of the Many Bread Ovens) or the Khabur River. The Arab villagers intentionally instill anti-social behavior in the Canaans by harshly punishing both adult dogs and puppies for any infraction such as entering a house, too much barking, harming a herd animal, etc.

The Canaan dogs at Tuneinir love to dig holes (literally dens) against the outside of the owner's house or barns. Jamela has already started a couple of her own dens in the backyard of St. Louis, but she sleeps the night inside our house. She will does not mind being outside during daylight but barks and barks once the sun has gone down if she is left outside.

Jamela has buried some of her rawhide chew toys along one wall of our house. She digs the holes with her front paws, then covers the cache with her nose. This appears to be a "caching" behavior that may have significance to archaeological features at Tell Tuneinir and other sites in the Middle East.

Jamila reached a weight of 40 lbs. (18 Kilograms) by January 1st, 2002. She began to show evidence of entering an estrus cycle (fertility) that began with slight swelling and bleeding on January 10th. The flow of blood increased gradually over three days, then began to decrease. She was able to keep herself clean and did not desire any human help. Once the blood flow diminished, then her behavior significantly changed. She has been far to eager to "escape" and makes a new, deeper vocalization when she responds to the barks of other dogs.

Jamila chewed a 90 gram T-bone (from a beef steak) down to a 15 gram blob in less than an hour on 26 January 2002. She had been fed before receiving the bone. It was obviously a bovid bone before entering into the dog's mouth, but no identification to species would have been possible for the 15 gram blob that remained. It is very likely that it would have disappeared if left in her mouth for another 10 or 15 minutes.

Jamela weighed 50 pounds on May 27, 2002. She is just over a year old. She digs up moles, voles, snakes, and turtles. She plays with them, kills them, and eats them.

Jamela eats eggshells, bones, cloth, sticks, and even broken fragments of unglazed terracota flowerpots. The implications for Tell Tuneinir is very clear... Jamila's ancestors consumed tons of food scraps that should have been part of the archaeological record.

Jamela can not resist barking at bicycle riders and joggers. We discourage her from barking at bike riders and joggers, but it seems to be very instinctive. She barks at any intrusive animals (deer, coyote, foxes, squirrels and groundhogs). We discourage her from baking at the wildlife, but is very instinctive. Her ancestors would have been very effective at protecting fields and herds. American archaeology students living at Tuneinir complain about the ceaseless barking during the night of dogs in the village. It has probably been a common sound, at night, for centuries.

Jamela began to lose her winter coat during April. She produced a surprising amount of gray white dog hair. The quality of her dog hair might have been adequate for spinning. No, we didn't try it, but will in the future.

Stories Jamela would probably not want told:

We worked very hard to socialize Jamela to be around our friends and the children that come to play with out daughter. Her behavior was ideal up to approximately her second birthday and then a switch flipped inside her head. She bit an adult male friend on the hand when he reached down to pet her. He was astonished as he considers himself an expert in dogs and he did not see the bite coming. He was very forgiving about the bite and we wondered if he had done something to provoke her.

Jamela's second biting attack was on a 10 year old child that had often played with our daughter and with Jamela. Professor Michael Fuller and his daughter were both present at the attack. Jamela was luckily on a stationary leash when she "exploded" over Amira Fuller (daughter) to get at the child. She was attempting an attack on the face/neck. The leash proved strong enough to hold her and the child received only a minor bite, but did receive a terrible fright.

A family meeting on Jamela's fate found a split verdict. Neathery Fuller ( born into a "dog" family and a veteran of many dogs including Rottweilers, Doberman pinchers, Standard Poddles, Irish Wolfhounds, Jack Russells, Schnauzer, German Shepherds, Airedales, Cairn Terriers, etc.) voted to have Jamela destroyed. Amira Fuller and Professor Michael Fuller (raised in a "cat" family) voted to be more careful with visitors to Jamela.

We did contact the animal behavior trainier who specializes in large dogs at our local vet clinic. She responded that Jamela had become increasing difficult to handle when being boarded and that she had tried to work with Jamela with no success.

Ouch. Jamela was a problem boarder! She is hostile to all other dogs and hostile to almost everyone who tried to deal with her. Sounds like a job for the dog whisperer? Well, we were lucky to find a rural kennel owner (Ron) that specializes in tough dogs. Surprise, Ron has been able to gain Jamela's respect and trust. She obeys Ron and Professor Fuller.

Jamela absolutely hates the coyotes that sometimes skirt around our fence. She is not very fond of the deer. Jamela sounds the alert whenever the trash truck comes to the front of the house and is intolerant of any workman except for a close family friend named Jack. He has a healthy respect for her.

Did we socialize the hostility to non-family members and other dogs? No. We tried to counteract these behaviors with only limited success.

Jamela really does not want you to read this:

Coprophagia (eating feces). Yes, there is not a feces in our backyard after 4 years. This phenomenon was not true of our other large dogs. She may be using a brushy portion of the backyard for her feces, but it seems unlikely after inspecting those areas. She has never demonstrated C\coprophagia when on a walk because she is more interested in the walk. She has often urinated in the open portion of the yard when the family was with her, but never defecated. Jamela has only twice left a dog bowel movement inside the house when left by herself (for even 2 days in an emergency). Those two "in house" bowel movements were very nasty lose stool. Nasty.

Ok, back to less "weird" discussions...

The villagers do not give names to their dog except the pronoun, kelb. Amira Fuller decided upon the name Jamela (Arabic, "beautiful"). Jamela is the first Tuneinir dog to travel to St. Louis. Three other dogs were "adopted" by the American archaeologists digging at Tuneinir, but they were not exported. The first dog was Elvis in ca. 1989. Village rumor is that he was drowned after his "spoiled" behavior because intolerable to his owner, Ali. The second dog was named Louie (after St. Louis). He was the Tuneinir dighouse watchdog from ca. 1994 to 1997. He died at an age of approximately 5 years from a car injury. There is a remarkable story about Louie. He was very friendly with the Americans (who would sneak him food), but very hostile to all Arabs except for Ali and his family. One summer day in 1996, Amira Fuller (age 3) saw Louie sleeping in the shade of a pottery storeroom. She lay down and snuggled against his fur. He looked perplexed, but did not move. Ali replaced Louie with A'huwah Louie (Arabic, brother of Louie) in 1998. The new dog had the same markings and good temperment. Car related injuries were reported as his cause of death. The current unnamed dighouse watchdog has the same markings as the previous watchdogs. Canaan dogs at Tuneinir do like to chase cars and trucks. They also have the habit of sleeping under trucks.

The proportions and markings of Jamila resemble the Early Dynastic Period dog portrayed on the front panel of the Great Lyre from the "King's Grave" within the Royal cemetery at Ur (Zettler and Horn 1998, Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, page 55). Tuneinir was founded during the Early Dynastic Period as indicated by diagnostic pottery forms and a radiocarbon date (Beta-59953 / 2350 to 2135 BC). Dog bones comprise 0.2% of the identified bones dating from the Third Millenium at Tuneinir (Loyet 1998, Tell Tuneinir and its place in the Development of Animal Economy in the Middle Khabur Valley, Table 3). The overall size of Jamela is similar to the Iron II/Persian Period (ca. 1000 to 300 BC) dog skeleton uncovered in Area 1 of Tuneinir.

The archaeological pattern of dog bones at Tuneinir is very interesting. The elite houses from the Ayyubid Period (ca. AD 1150-1250) have virtually no dog bones (0.07%) while the non-elite neighborhood dating from the same time period have numerous dog bones that comprise 3.9% of all identified bones (Loyet 1999, The Potential for within-site Variation of Faunal Remains, Table 10). Dog bones (including a puppy) were identified in the Area 7 caravanserai and the Area 6 market (Loyet 1995, Preliminary Faunal Analysis of Area 7, page 2). Both the caravansei and market date to the Ayyubid Period.

Jamila does not resemble the larger and heavier breed of dog portrayed as the hunting dogs of Ashur-bani-pal in the Assyrian palace at Nineveh (Handcock 1912, Mesopotamian Archaeology, page 323). The Assyrian hunting dogs closely resemble the Egyptian version of the Mastiff. An Asian tribute offering during the 18th DYN includes a Mastiff and seven other dogs (Osborn 1998. The Mammals of Ancient Egypt, page 67).

A Late Period (1000 - 100 BC) Akkadian poem called the "Tale of the Fox" describes Jamela perfectly:

I am might in strength, the talon of Anzu, the fury (?) of a lion,

My legs run faster than bird on the wing,

At my loud outcry mountains and rivers dry up (?).

I take my onerous place before the sheep,

Their lives are entrusted to me,

instead of to shepherds or herdsmen,

I am sent off on my regular path in the open country

and the watering place,

I go around the fold.

At the clash of my fearsome weapons I flush out...,

At my baying, panther, tiger, lion, wildcat take to flight,

The bird can [not] fly away nor go on course.

No rustler thieves [from] my pens!

(Foster 1993, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature - Vol. 2, page 83.


Jamela sleeps in the garden at the Tell Tuneinir dighouse, June 2001. She was approximately 3 months old. She preferred moist dirt because of its coolness.

Unnamed adult male dog of Ali Hamid (guard for Tell Tuneinir) has brown markings similar to Jamela. He participated in mouth play with her and taught her something of the behaviors of a watchdog and herd dog. The fur of his back legs was always matted from wading in the Khabur River.

Amira Fuller (left) and Amal bent Ali (right) sit on cursee (Arabic, stools) in the shade at the Tuneinir dighouse and color a cardboard box to serve as Jamela's first doghouse. Iman bent Ali inspects their work. Stephanie and Katrina stand nearby and play while waiting for Edward (driver for the dig) to return. Dogs are very rare in the Assuri Christian village of Tell Sakra and the two Christian girls were terrified of the puppy. Dogs are common in the Arab village of Tuneinir and the Arab girls treated the puppy with coolness. Jamela was not very impressed with the cardboard doghouse. She preferred to sleep during the heat of the day under the young tree at the left edge of the photograph.

Jamela is the only dog that we brought to the USA. We did have two Canaan dogs who were befriended and loved by the Americans. Ali Hamid kept them as his watch dogs. The first "cute" Canaan puppy was nicknamed Louie (after our city, St. Louis). Canaans are very cute as puppies.

Louie had more black and less brown coloration in his face. He was also a tri-color Canaan. His ears were limp as a puppy but stiffened up as an adult dog. Dirt on the nose from his love of digging (like Jamela). Probaby some kind of relative to Jamela since all dogs freely breed in the village.

May 2008 and Jamela growls throgh a crack in the garden gate!!! Very protective!!
Updated 8 February 2006
Webpage migrated 2 April 2008
Webpage updated 2 February 2009