Monday, June 23, 2014

Ashkelon - Largest Ancient Dog Cemetery in the World

The largest ancient dog burial ground ever discovered is in Ashkelon, a thriving city located on the southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea, 30 minutes by car from Tel Aviv.  The dogs were buried 2500 years ago.

To date, archaeologists have excavated the remains of more than 1400 dogs. The burials spanned a period of only 80 years. 

The dogs were buried on prime real estate
near a seafront bluff, the graves spread out over many acres.
Each dog was carefully positioned by itself, in a shallow pit, with no grave goods.  Dogs were placed on their sides, legs flexed with tails gently tucked around their hind legs, then covered with a mixture of earth and gravel debris. 

Why were they buried?  It's an ongoing mystery.  They were not offered as sacrifice, nor eaten.  They appear to have died of natural causes and their ages at death represent what you would expect in a contemporary population of village dogs - 70 percent puppies. (In feral dog populations most pups die before age one - it's a tough life.)  However some dogs were quite old with signs of arthritis and even injuries that had healed indicating that they'd been cared for to some degree. 

Dogs were all about the same size - 30 pounds and 20 inches tall.

The Ashkelon dogs looked a lot like this guy.

Read more about the ancient dogs of Ashkelon.

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