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In the Roman Empire, more than 2,000 years ago, miniature dogs already existed as companion animals.
Its size was similar to that of some current small breeds like the Pekingese or some types of Chihuahua. This is the main conclusion of a study carried out by archaeologists from the University of Granada (UGR).
The study, published in the journalArcheological and Anthropological Scienceshas made it possible to analyze the remains of severaldog burials found in the Roman necropolis ofPlains of the Praetorium, outside the walls of Roman Córdoba and related to about 70 human burials.
The scientists focused on themorphological features and in the appearance of the existing dogs in the Roman cities of the south of Hispania. They were able to extract at least two different morphologies: one of medium size, similar to that of different hunting and racing breeds of today, and another of very small size.
“In particular, a small dog stands out (just over 20 centimeters tall), withshortened limbs Yflattened nose, which we have found in a grave near human infant burials ”, explains the main author of this work,Rafael M. Martínez Sánchez, from the Department of Prehistory and Archeology of the UGR.
The finding constitutes one of the cases ofolder micromorphic dogs recognized throughout the Roman Empire. Although archaeologists do not know its external appearance (coat, color, ears, etc.), its skeletal structure is similar to current small breeds, such as the Pekingese or thepug, or individually considering your rounded skull, some types ofchihuahua.
"The existence of small dogs as pets,objects of affectionand special consideration for its owners, it has been known since classical antiquity, a fact corroborated by texts, epigraphy and iconography, ”says Martínez Sánchez.
Roman funeral rituals with dogs
Another aspect that has most surprised scientists is that, according to the analysis of various associated fetal bones, the animal was in a state of pregnancy at the time of death.
By studying the pathological aspects, the researchers were able to highlight an old hip injury, but also traumatic evidence that points to a deliberate sacrifice, by fatal cervical torsion.
The study of stable isotopes through bone collagen and tooth enamel points to adifferent origin for this specimen, surely alien to the city environment and perhaps of distant origin.
The finding, among other specimens, of a small animal with a brachycephalic skull in a Roman necropolis of southern Hispania opens up new interpretations regarding the role of this type of animals in their relationships with humans and their symbolic implications in thefuneral rituals.
Rafael M. Martínez Sánchez; Manuel Rubio Valverde; Marta Moreno-García; Alexis Maldonado Ruiz; Arsenio Granados Torres; Antonio Delgado Huertas. "Who let the dogs in? Lap dogs, canid sacrifices and funerary practices in the Roman cemetery of Llanos del Pretorio (Cordoba, Spain)”. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. DOI: 10.1007 / s12520-020-01033-1.