Archeologists have unearthed what is believed to be the world’s oldest known pet cemetery in Egypt. It dates to the Roman Empire and includes the remains of 585 animals, who were analyzed to determine health, diet, and cause of death.
The dogs “tended to be older when they died. Many had lost most of their teeth or suffered periodontal disease and joint degeneration… ‘Such animals had to be fed to survive… sometimes with special foods in the case of the almost-toothless animals.’”
The cats, which outnumbered dogs nine to one, were laid gently and wearing “necklaces threaded with glass and shells.” Many were surrounded by pieces of pottery and other adornments.
There was no evidence of ritual sacrifice and many of the animals had injuries which healed, meaning they were cared for as treasured pets.
This is exciting, but not surprising. As my wife and I discuss in Welcome Home, our book about living with dogs and cats, since the first moment the timid wolf came out of the shadows, would become the dog, and move into our homes, humans and dogs (and cats) have been inseparable. Skeletal remains of old dogs with evidence of “multiple maladies including arthritic development” date back thousands of years. These dogs would only have survived from the care of humans.
Their discovery has led anthropologists and archaeologists to conclude that “traumatized elderly dogs were cared for by people… and then buried affectionately when they died.” The same is true of cats. Requiems about the death of cats date back thousands of years and include some of the West’s most celebrated poets.
While the cemetary is 2,000 years old, our relationship with dogs and cats is a love story older still. A grave marker from antiquity reads, “My eyes were wet with tears, our little dog, when I bore thee (to the grave).” How I know that feeling…
Have a comment? Join the discussion by clicking here.