Neolithic Graves in Europe Hold Remains of Dogs and People

Neolithic Graves in Europe Hold Remains of Dogs and People

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Neolithic Graves in Europe Hold Remains of Dogs and People:

Special status accorded to some canines even extended to the grave
Special status accorded to some canines even extended to the grave

Neolithic communities clustered near present-day Barcelona some 6000 years ago were really keen on dogs, in this life and the next.

Archeological evidence from at least four sites showed prehistoric people and their four-legged friends living in close proximity, working together and sharing a common diet mostly of grains and veggies.

“These animals were fully integrated into the Neolithic communities,” lead author Silvia Albizuri, a scientist at the University of Barcelona, told AFP. And the special status accorded to canines even extended to the grave.

In more than 2 dozen circular burial plots, the partial or complete remains of pooches were carefully laid out next to individual men, women, and children. But the dogs chosen to spend eternity with their masters paid a stiff price for the privilege: they were sacrificed at the time of burial, the study concluded.

The animals ranged in age between one and 6 years, with a quarter estimated at 12 and 18 months-old.”The selection of puppies and 1-year-old animals suggests the intention to sacrifice,” said Albizuri.

The Pit Grave people, in other words, loved their dogs to death.

Dogs not eaten

The preference for young dogs may also have stemmed from a reluctance to lose older ones already trained up in their guarding or herding duties.

In more than two dozen circular burial plots, the partial or complete remains of pooches were carefully laid out next to individual men, women and children
In more than two dozen circular burial plots, the partial or complete remains of pooches were carefully laid out next to individual men, women and children

A lack of cut – marks on the dog bones also suggests that before burial their flesh has not been cut off and consumed.

Canines and people laid to rest side by side were found at other Middle Neolithic sites in northern Italy and southern France, but the tomb of Bobila Madurell, just north of Barcelona, has more dogs than any other, the study said.

The remains of all but 9 of the 26 dogs examined were excavated there. Dogs were 1st used by humans for hunting and probably transport, scientists speculate.

As humans settled and began to practice agriculture some 10000 years ago, canines became sentinels against upright invaders and wild animals, especially their evolutionary cousins, wolves.

They also learned to herd other domesticated creatures, such as sheep, goats or cattle.”Dogs played an important role in the economy of Neolithic populations, taking care of herds and settlements,” the researchers noted.

The mid-sized dogs described in the study—standing up to half-a-meter tall, and weighing about 15 kilos—resemble “shepherd dogs of the current Pyrenees,” the mountain chain separating France and Spain, Albizuri said.

Bones from livestock discovered at the Spanish burial sites were scattered in a haphazard manner, further proof that Neolithic canines carefully laid to rest was in a class of their own.

The fifth millennium BC in southern Europe was dotted with a few large settlements, along with small villages or hamlets in plains or on hilltops. Archeologists have also Excavated the remains of simple farms, temporary shelters, and silos used to store grain.


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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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