Who let the dogs in? Lap dogs, canid sacrifices and funerary practices in the Roman cemetery of Llanos del Pretorio (Cordoba, Spain)

Abstract

Small dogs as pets, objects of affection and special consideration by their owners, are known in the Western Mediterranean since classical Antiquity through texts, epigraphy and iconography. The study of a small-sized canid with a brachycephalic skull discovered in a cemetery, among other specimens, in the southern Hispania yields new interpretations regarding the relationships between dogs and humans at the outset of the Common Era in the western Roman world and sheds light on how to evaluate their symbolic implications in funerary rites. The physical characteristics of these specimens were analysed through morphological, osteometric, palaeopathological and biochemical isotopes methods. The findings represent a step forward in the understanding of the everyday life, mobility and diet of dogs, as well as the cause of their death which, in the case of the small-sized specimen, appears to correspond to a deliberate sacrifice.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Ana Ruiz Osuna and Desiderio Vaquerizo of the Archaeology Seminar of the University of Córdoba for their assistance throughout this study. We also recognise Elena López Romero and Esther Checa of the Archaeobiology Laboratory IH-CSIC (Madrid) for their help in collecting the data for some of the tables and Mario Gutiérrez-Rodríguez for Fig. 1a. Finally, it is dedicated to the memory of “Rio”, who left us too soon.

Funding

This study was financed by the Consejería de Innovación y Empresa-Junta de Andalucía (project HUM-061658) in the framework of the State Plan for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2013-2016 (Juan de la Cierva-Incorporación) (RMMS).

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Martínez Sánchez, R.M., Rubio Valverde, M., Moreno-García, M. et al. Who let the dogs in? Lap dogs, canid sacrifices and funerary practices in the Roman cemetery of Llanos del Pretorio (Cordoba, Spain). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 12, 87 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01033-1

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Keywords

  • Roman dogs
  • Funerary practices
  • Southern Iberia
  • Animal sacrifice
  • Stable isotopes