Oral Presentation The International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ): 27th Annual Conference 2018

It’s a dog’s life: votive canid crania from Saqqara. (#47)

Mary Hartley 1
  1. Ancient History, Macquarie University, Sydeny, New South Wales, Australia

Introduction: During archaeological excavations in Egypt undertaken by Macquarie University in the Teti Cemetery North (Ockinga 2011: 119-138), more than 1,314 disarticulated canid skeletons were found. Similar deposits provide a relative date of the Late/Ptolemaic Period votive context for these canid remains. Morphological analysis of the crania was undertaken to determine similarities and differences in size and shape to ascertain if different species of canids were present, establish an estimation of the sex and age of each specimen, and investigate observable pathologies to provide evidence for the health, management and treatment of these animals during their lifetime.

Methodology: A sub-sample of 119 crania was selected based on completeness, and metric and visual examination was performed both in situ and post excavation. Eight canonical measurements from each cranium were recorded using hand-held sliding calipers, to the nearest 0.5 mm, and high resolution, scaled photographs of the superior, inferior and lateral views were recorded.

Main Results: Cranial morphology indicated that the majority of crania belonged to those of the common dog (Canis lupus familiaris) with the possible presence of three jackals (Canis aureus). Morphological characteristics identified and analysed provided a sex assessment ratio of 37 males to 4 females. Age estimation showed that the dogs did not reach old age. Evidence of sharp and blunt force traumas plus severe periodontal disease and substantial ante mortem tooth loss indicated the dogs appeared to have been part of a large scale breeding program and had experienced biological and environmental stresses, compounded by poor maintenance.

Principal Conclusions: To meet the high demand for dogs used in the votive practice during the Late/Ptolemaic periods in Egypt, these animals were bred and raised as a commodity with little affection or care going into their upkeep.

References: Ockinga, B. G. (2011), “In search of the New Kingdom tombs in the Teti Pyramid Cemetery North: Preliminary results of the 2009 and 2010 seasons conducted by Macquarie University”, in M. Bárta. F. Coppens & J. Krejči (eds), Abusir and Saqqara in the Year 2010/1, Prague: 119-138.