ArticlePublisher preview available

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

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

Abstract and Figures

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.
This content is subject to copyright. Terms and conditions apply.
ORIGINAL PAPER
Who let the dogs in? Lap dogs, canid sacrifices and funerary practices
in the Roman cemetery of Llanos del Pretorio (Cordoba, Spain)
Rafael M Martínez Sánchez
1
&Manuel Rubio Valverde
2
&Marta Moreno-García
3
&Alexis Maldonado Ruiz
1
&
Arsenio Granados Torres
4
&Antonio Delgado Huertas
4
Received: 11 November 2019 /Accepted: 17 February 2020
#Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020
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 bio-
chemical 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.
Keywords Roman dogs .Funerary practices .Southern Iberia .Animal sacrifice .Stable isotopes
Introduction
The relationship between dogs and humans is not only the
first, but the most exceptional, compelling and emotional
narrative of animal domestication. The earliest traces of
dogs in the Iberian Peninsula date to the end of the Upper
Pleistocene (Altuna 1994). Their presence multiplies in the
Neolithic (Detry and Cardoso 2010), a time frame with the
earliest cases in funerary contexts (Moreno-García 2003;
Albizuri et al. 2019). It is in the subsequent Copper Age
that their occurrence in the archaeological record begins to
be abundant enough to draw conclusions as to morphology
and dimensions. Although the data indicate slightly small-
er specimens, most are well-proportioned, with a balanced
appearance, an eumetric morphology, and a relatively ho-
mogeneous, medium size at a withers height of about
0.50 m (Daza 2017). Dogs in funerary contexts are also
very frequent throughout the Copper and Bronze Ages. In
the latter of the two periods, there are also traces that they
served for draught, and on some occasions, for consump-
tion (Grandal-dAnglade et al. 2019).
Important changes in dog morphology took place in the
Iron Age with an expansion of difference between larger
and smaller dogs. Dogs maintained nonetheless their place
*Rafael M Martínez Sánchez
rmmartinez@ugr.es
Marta Moreno-García
marta.moreno@cchs.csic.es
Alexis Maldonado Ruiz
amaru@ugr.es
Arsenio Granados Torres
arseniog@iact.ugr-csic.es
Antonio Delgado Huertas
antonio.delgado@csic.es
1
Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Granada,
Granada, Spain
2
Cordoba, Spain
3
Institute of History, Spanish National Research Council,
Madrid, Spain
4
Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences, CSIC-University of Granada,
Granada, Spain
Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (2020) 12:87
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-020-01033-1
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Article
Full-text available
Este trabajo ofrece una aproximación al paisaje de las áreas funerarias cordubenses de época altoimperial, sometidas a los vaivenes propios de una ciudad viva, en expansión y contracción alternas según las épocas, y objeto más que posible de especulación supuesto el sacrificio que representaba dedicar terrenos suburbanos de enorme potencial económico a fines funerarios y el alto precio consecuente de los loci. Creemos, de hecho, haber detectado ejemplos claros de lotizaciones bien planificadas en forma de recintos y acotados reforzados de forma ocasional mediante el uso de mensurae sepulcri, que analizamos a través de dos sepulcreta especialmente significativos excavados hace solo unos años.
Chapter
Full-text available
We analyze, from a historiographical and diachronic perspective, the territory probably attached to Corduba - Colonia Patricia during Roman times. We also collect the scarce information available in the literary and epigraphic sources related to the economic activities of the city. The main contribution of this work is a set of thematic maps where the main landmarks of the ager cordubensis, the roads, aqueducts, natural resources exploited (mines, quarries) and agricultural or productive sites are consigned on a digital terrain model.
Article
Full-text available
Damos a conocer con este trabajo, en absoluta primicia, un nuevo sepulcretum romano excavado recientemente en la necrópolis septentrional de Córdoba (España); un espacio bien planificado desde el punto de vista topográfico, que se organiza en recintos pareados con módulo predominante de 12 x 12 pies romanos, abiertos a una o más vías funerarias, delimitados por cipos de piedra –dos de ellos con indicación de las mensurae sepulcri–, y, en ocasiones, cerrados mediante muros de mampostería, con puertas de acceso en su fachada y ustrinum en su interior. La necrópolis fue sellada por una riada, lo que ha permitido recuperar la mayor parte de los enterramientos –52 cremaciones y 11 inhumaciones infantiles– intactos e in situ, con cronologías centradas en los comedios del s. i d. C. Todos estos materiales, procedentes de un seguimiento arqueológico vinculado a la construcción de un nuevo edificio de viviendas, están siendo estudiados en el marco de un proyecto multidisciplinar con investigadores de diferentes universidades –numismática, vidrio, cerámica, antropología, epigrafía, paleopaisaje, fauna, etc.–, del que este artículo constituye un primer avance.
Article
Full-text available
Findings of canid remains in graves at different sites in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula are evidence of a widespread funerary practice that proliferated between the end of the 3rd and the 2nd millennium BC, in particular, in the Early-Middle Bronze Age contexts. The discovery of four foxes and a large number of dogs at the sites of Can Roqueta (Barcelona) and Minferri (Lleida) respectively, stand out among the many examples of these types of grave goods. In this work, we have made an approximation of the relationship between humans and canids through the study of their diet by analysis of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in bone collagen. These analyses were complemented by archaeozoological, anthropological and archaeobotanical studies. The comparison of human and animal diets comprised a total of 37 canids, 19 domestic ungulates and 64 humans. The results indicate that the diet of the dogs was similar to that of humans, although δ¹⁵N values of dogs in Can Roqueta and Minferri are, on the average, 1.4‰ and 1.1‰, respectively, lower than those of humans. The offset between canids and the herbivorous ungulates of each site is not up to the established minimum for a trophic level, which implies an input of C3 plants and human intervention in the feeding of dogs and some of the foxes. Some particular cases in Can Roqueta suggest a specific food preparation, richer in cereals, for larger dogs (probably devoted to carrying loads), and possibly for at least one of the foxes. Full text link: https://rdcu.be/bgUs8
Article
This study presents the isotopic ratios, radiocarbon datings and anthropological analyses of five (N=5) Early Copper Age individuals from two archaeological sites (Arruzafa and Iglesia Antigua de Alcolea) of the Middle Guadalquivir Valley near the city of Córdoba (Spain). Four had been buried in the same grave, possibly in a single event or in a very short time lapse. The collagen residue analyses of the individuals offer δ13C values ranging between ‐20.08 and ‐18.4 and δ15N values between 8.57 and 11.15. The findings indicate that the infant and the elderly had, respectively, the richest and poorest animal protein diets, the first likely as a result of nursing. The combined study of these five individuals offers an interesting approach to a small segment of population of the farming communities occupying this territory at the beginning of the Copper Age (3200‐3000 cal BC).
Article
In this article, a zooarchaeological and isotopic analysis is presented for 26 dog exemplars (Canis familiaris). These dogs were deposited in burial and ceremonial structures in the northeastern Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Neolithic, within the Pit Grave cultural horizon (ca. 4200–3600 cal BC). Four archaeological sites of the Catalonian coastal strip are studied: Camí de Can Grau, La Serreta, Ca l'Arnella, and Bòbila Madurell (one of the most important necropolises of the Iberian Peninsula). The presence of these dogs is interpreted as evidence of accompanying offerings and represents the most ancient use of this animal in the context of burials within the studied territory. Although it is a not a globally recorded gesture during this period, in light of the present results, it can be considered as a stereotyped ritual activity and evidence of the close relationship between these animals and the human communities. The diet of most of the dogs must be considered mixed and very similar to that of the humans, including consumption of herbivores and terrestrial plants. Anyone clicking on this link before March 14, 2019 will be taken directly to the final version of your article on ScienceDirect, which they are welcome to read or download Share Link: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1YRkR,rVDBNpar