Roman burials with animals

It happened to some people from an ancient pre-Roman community in what is now northern Italy. They were buried with animals and animal parts of species such as dogs, horses and pigs. The reasons for Roman animal burials remain a mystery.

They could indicate a long-lasting companionship relationship between these humans and animals. It is also possible that they are practices of religious sacrifices. This is said in a study published in PLOS ONE and led by Zita Laffranchi from the University of Bern.

Roman animal burials had very diverse patterns.
Roman animal burials had very diverse patterns.

Various animals

There are 161 people buried in the Vescovile Seminary, an archaeological site in Verona from the 3rd to the 1st century BC. C. Of them, 16 appeared with some type of animal remains. Some of the graves contained remains of animals that people often ate. There were many pigs, a chicken and part of a cow. They could be food offerings to the dead. But four of the people buried at the site were buried next to the remains of dogs and/or horses.

Patterns were sought that could explain these animal burials. The demographics, diet, genetics and burial conditions of the buried humans and animals were analyzed. In particular, people buried with animals do not appear to be closely related to each other. It means that it was not a practice of a certain family.

Roman burials with animals were varied. People buried with dogs or horses had various combinations. There was a baby buried with a complete dog skeleton and a young man buried with parts of a horse. Additionally, a middle-aged man buried with a small dog and a middle-aged woman buried with a whole horse. Many other horse parts and a dog skull were found.

There were horses, dogs, pigs and other animals.
There were horses, dogs, pigs and other animals.

Mysterious reasons

The lack of patterns allows for multiple interpretations of these human-animal co-burials. Dogs and horses often had religious symbolism in ancient cultures. But specific individuals may also have been buried with their animal companions.

What is the possible origin of these funeral practices between humans and animals? The interaction between different individual traits and social customs would influence. And they may hint at rituals and beliefs unknown during the last centuries BC. C. in Italy. A mystery that has not yet been fully revealed.

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