Ancient Siberians treated some dogs like family
A University of Alberta archaeologist is studying the largest collection of dog remains from a site in the circumpolar North.
|Excavations at the archaeological site of Ust-Polui, in the Russian city of Salekhard, have found the remains of more than|
115 dogs scattered around the prehistoric village [Credit: University of Alberta/Robert Losey]
The remains suggest there was a complex relationship between the people and dogs in the area roughly 2,000 years ago, said Robert Losey, speaking from Salekhard.
Losey’s interest in the relationships between ancient people and animals seems like a logical continuation of his own longstanding connection with animals, from growing up on a cattle ranch in Kansas to his bond today with his dog Guiness.
|A roughly 7,500 year old dog burial site at Lake Baikal in Siberia. The dog was buried under a stone slab, with a round |
pebble in its mouth, and other artifacts near its head [Credit: Robert Losey/University of Alberta]
“They were placed in simple graves in and around the living area. It seems entirely likely that people really loved some of these dogs and treated them like a member of the family.”
Other remains were found “scattered about…just like all other food remains at the site,” Losey said.
Some of the dogs have cut marks, indicating they were eaten, possibly as part of a ritual sacrifice, perhaps “in order to appease the spirits or to ask for some particular favour,” he said.
|A dog burial at the Ust’-Polui site in Salekhard, Siberia |
[Credit: Robert Losey/University of Alberta]
The dog remains found near the Lake Baikal site, which are about 8,000 years old, were all buried carefully. It appears the dogs died of natural causes.
“There’s a very different cultural setting in which those dogs lived, much more of a companion and a loved one I think than what we’re seeing in this area (Salekhard),” he said.
|Excavations at the Ust-Polui archaeological site [Credit: Scientific Research of the Arctic,|
Testing has revealed that dogs found in both areas were similar in size and form to Siberian huskies, with largely black and white fur, he said.
Chemical testing on the remains revealed both dogs and people at the Salekhard site largely ate fish, which means the dogs must have been fed.
It’s likely dogs were also used for transportation in the area, perhaps alongside reindeer, Losey said.
Author: Ainslie Cruickshank | Source: Edmonton Journal [June 20, 2016]