Dogs and Horses buried with humans in ancient Italy

In the ancient community of what is now northern Italy, a fascinating discovery emerged from the depths of time: burial practices intertwining humans and animals, shedding light on enigmatic rituals and beliefs. Within the hallowed grounds of Seminario Vescovile, an archaeological site in Verona, lay the remains of 161 individuals from the third to first century BCE. Among them, 16 were interred alongside animals—dogs, horses, and pigs—raising intriguing questions about the relationship between humans and their animal counterparts.

The reasons behind these unique burials remain shrouded in mystery, prompting speculation ranging from enduring companion relationships to religious sacrificial practices. While some graves contained animals typically consumed by humans, such as pigs and chickens, others featured dogs and horses, animals not commonly destined for the dinner table.

To unravel the mysteries of these human-animal co-burials, a team of researchers embarked on a comprehensive analysis. Their quest delved into the demographics, diets, genetics, and burial conditions of both humans and animals, yet no definitive correlations emerged. Surprisingly, the individuals buried with animals did not appear to be closely related, challenging the notion of familial burial traditions.

The diversity among the human-animal graves further complicates interpretation. From a baby buried with a complete dog skeleton to a middle-aged woman interred alongside an entire horse and a dog skull, each burial tells a unique story. While animals like dogs and horses held religious significance in ancient cultures, individual relationships between humans and their animal companions cannot be overlooked.

The complexity of these burial practices suggests a delicate interplay between individual preferences and societal customs. Perhaps these rituals served multiple purposes, blending religious symbolism with personal connections and cultural traditions. As the authors of the study emphasize, the lack of clear patterns leaves room for various interpretations, inviting speculation into the rich tapestry of ancient beliefs and rituals.

This groundbreaking study, part of the CELTUDALPS research project, unveils a glimpse into the depths of history, hinting at hitherto unknown customs and beliefs that shaped the late centuries BCE in Italy. Coordinated by Marco Milella of the University of Bern and Albert Zink of the Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, this endeavor underscores the enduring fascination with the intersection of humanity and the animal kingdom across millennia.

Source: Public Library of Science

Leave a Comment