Ancient Animal Lovers: Dogs, Horses and Other Animals Found Buried Alongside Humans in Italy Over 2,000 Years Ago [Study]

Ancient animal lovers buried alongside their animal companions, ranging from dogs to horses, have been discovered by scientists at an ancient archaeological site in Italy dating back 2,000 years ago. This is according to a new study involving archaeologists and other scientists from different fields, who found the site known as Seminario Vescovile in the city of Verona. The site also consists of animals buried as part of food offerings.

While it is common to find animal remains in antique burial sites worldwide, the discovery of joint human-animal burials in the context of owner and pet relationship is unique.

According to the recent research paper, multiple people buried at Seminario Vescovile were accompanied by remains of seemingly ancient pets from the Late Iron Age in northern Italy around 3rd to 1st century BC, almost near the onset of the Roman Empire.

In modern times, being buried with one’s pet is very rare due to various cultural and religious reasons. However, the existence of centuries-old human-animal burials confirm that even our ancestors are also affectionate with their animal companions.

In the case of the pre-Roman humans, dogs, horses, and pigs were welcome to be laid rest with their human owners or for religious sacrificial practices.

Human-Animal Burials

Ancient Animal Lovers: Dogs, Horses and Other Animals Found Buried Alongside Humans in Italy Over 2,000 Years Ago [Study]
(Photo : Photo by Alessandro Carrarini on Unsplash)

In the research paper published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, February 14, scientists called the human-animal burials at Seminario Vescovile as a literal example of the “until death do us part” vow. In this multidisciplinary study, evidence suggest that some animal remains in the pre-Roman archaeological site and confirms that not all human-animal co-burials are related to cultural animal sacrifice practices.

At the site, 16 out of the 161 inhumations included animals remains in the form of partial or full skeletons. Authors of the paper said that four of these burials are of particular interest since they contain either horses (Equus caballus) or dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). Genetic analyses on the remains revealed that the ancient animal lovers were not related at all nor were part of a single family.

Also Read: Prehistoric Pet Dog Buried 6,000 Years Ago is the Earliest Proof of Domestication

Animal Sacrifices

In the past, animal burials were often linked to animal sacrifices as means to appease local deities, and it is a practice found worldwide, from the Americas to Africa, Europe, and Asia. In a 2014 anthropology study, researchers said that animal sacrifices were conducted in times of natural disasters and significant disorder, including drought, famine, and war.

Ritual killings involving animals during religious ceremonies also include dogs, chickens, goats, pigs, and turtles. Some ancient civilizations involved in this practice believe that the animal’s blood could “seal deals” with the spirits and that it could bring good luck, according to the organization Wounded Paw Project (WPP). Following this ritual, an animal’s carcass is often buried or burned as part of the sacrifice.

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