From Past Horizons
Cave used to bury the dead contained a mummified dog
A unique find in Mexico of a thousand year old naturally mummified dog, will be subjected to various tests, including X-rays and DNA.
A rare findThe National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) recovered the animal along with 2,500 other artefacts found in Cueva de la Candelaria in 1953 after they had been stored by those who had first excavated the site 60 years previously. It is one of the few examples of mummified dogs in the world, with other similar examples found in Peru and Egypt. Few dog skeletons are found in funerary contexts during the pre-Hispanic period and this mummified example which would have stood about 22cm high is the only one that has been found in Mexico so far.
INAH archaeologist, Alejandro Bautista Valdespino commented that the mummified canine lies on its right side with head and neck bent down, with back left leg flexed and front legs extended. “This finding generates expectations about the potential for new insights into the archaeology of northern Mexico, because it reinforces the idea of placing dogs as companions in the funeral traditions of the nomads of the region. “
Protecting the pastDuring an initiative to investigate the state of collections, archaeologists found that the organic artefacts had not undergone adequate conservation measures, so they were recovered and placed under the authority of the INAH.
Archaeologist Yuri Leopoldo de la Rosa Gutierrez, of the Coahuila INAH Centre said that the Candelaria cave where the artefacts were discovered was used by groups of hunter-gatherers as a site to deposit their dead.
Over four thousand objects and about 200 human bones had been found inside the cave, dating to the Late Prehistoric period (800-1200 AD) and this would place the age of the mummified dog at around 1,000 years old, although C14 dating will be required to confirm this.
New knowledge of the Laguna regionThe mummified dog is related to a type group called “harriers“.
Isaac Aquino Toledo, a DRPMZA researcher, recalled that the 3m deep rock shelter was first investigated in 1953 by INAH specialists; their discovery marked a turning point for the country’s archaeology since they gathered more than four thousand objects, almost all organic and in excellent condition, including textiles, basketry, wood and bone artefacts and the skeletal remains of about 200 individuals.
According to the archaeologists these items will enrich our knowledge about funeral customs that developed among the hunter- gatherers from 800 AD until the arrival of the Spanish in the north in the early seventeenth century.
Preliminarily examination suggests the mummification of the animal was due to natural causes, with the low humidity and constant dry climate prevailing in the cave.
It has even been suggested that the animal died from starvation, because, apparently, no visible injuries can be seen or clues to a cause of death.
Following the completion of conservation work and analysis of recovered objects, some of the artefacts will be displayed first in the Museo Regional de la Laguna.
Source: National Institute of Anthropology and History