Did the people of the ancient world keep pets?
It seems highly likely that the people of the ancient world did keep pets. The fact that animals have been found buried with, or next to people, and that grave goods have also been found in the graves of animals are strong indicators of the feeling felt for these animals by the people who buried them. In addition, surviving images of animals on a leash or in close proximity to humans in ancient art also suggests that humans had relationships with these animals which could see them classified as pets.
Also, looking at it from the animal’s point of view, through the lens of the evolution of wolves into dogs, dogs have evolved into animals designed to be pets. The modern dog is, in so many cases, an incredibly loving and loyal creature to its master or owner. How would this quality have developed if the pet relationship had not begun in antiquity? Those dog breeds come in so many shapes and sizes, having been designed to be primarily a pet. White wolf evolves into a poodle, Great Dane, bulldog, dachshund, beagle, Jack Russell etc…
How would we know? What evidence would indicate this?
The anthropological evidence of the relationship of indigenous peoples to their pets, listed in the writings of James Serpell, in the chapter “Pet-keeping and animal domestication: a reappraisal” from his book In the Company of Animals, 2nd (Revised) Edition, 1996, also points to an ancient relationship between humans and their pet animals. Human beings are animals, as much as we would like to deny our mammalian reality. Our relationships with other animals are at the most fundamental level, merely, the relationship between animals.
I would also point to stronger relationships between humans and pet animals in antiquity, based on the supposition that early humans were less intellectually developed. The concerns of ancient peoples were far closer to those of their animals than they are today. People were not thinking about the latest book read, film watched or conceptually stimulating conversation shared in pre-sophisticated language and pre-written language times. The honest expression found in the eyes of an animal would reflect more closely similar feelings within their human companion.