Monday, June 30, 2014

Post-Mortem Portrait of Saint Bernard and Child from 1850

You may have noticed that three out of the last six posts have been about dogs and death. The blogmeister apologizes for this, but she is writing an article about ancient canine burials and has her head buried in research.
Mourning portraits, also called post-mortem portraits, were commonplace when the 1839 invention of the daguerreotype made portraiture inexpensive.  It provided a means for the middle class to memorialize recently deceased loved ones. In the 1800s when child mortality rates were high, post-mortem portraits were sometimes the only picture the family had of the child.  Deceased children were usually posed as if sleeping or with a favorite toy.  This photo from my collection is especially poignant because the sleeping boy is posed with his beloved dog, who I think is alive.  

Daguerreotype, collection of the Jane Brackman
About 1850-1860

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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

All Work and No Play

We have a deadline this week.  Come back next week for new posts.
Dr. Barkman and her assistant Gus McBarkley

Monday, June 9, 2014

How Much Was That Doggie in the Window?

How much did a purebred dog cost in the 1800s when canine price tags were snobby indicators of breeding differences among not only dogs but also the people who owned themThe short answer is - a whole lot more than the $500 to $1500 you'd expect to pay now.

"Dachshunds of patrician blood and perfect
Blenheim and King Charles Spaniels, like
the large dogs, St. Bernards, Mastiffs, and
Great Danes, always command fancy prices
as do rare orchids, violins or books."

Considering that in 1890 $1 was worth around $40 in today's value, and the average annual U.S. income was less than $300, a pedigreed dog was expensive.  In general, people paid more for "proven" adult dogs, so puppies were cheap.   To get an idea of the actual prices, I looked at vintage newspapers, Victorian era dog breed magazines, and 18th and 19th century books. This is what I discovered. (I put the calculated worth in today's dollars in parentheses.)

 "Four English Setter dog pups for sale at Slaterback's gun shop, Commercial Street, $50" ($1042)
1875 San Francisco Daily Examiner 

In 1891, A Cocker Spaniel, Fox Terrier, and Black and Tan Terrier
might command $50 to $100 
($1250 to $2500).

In 1893, a King Charles Spaniel could cost as much as $350,
equal to $9000 today. But as a rule, a puppy cost
around $15 ($400) and an adult $75 ($1900).

In 1896, during the Alaskan gold rush, an average dog could
bring $50 to $100 
($1500 to $3000). Considering you might need up to
nine dogs for a sled team, that was pricey.

About 1900, exclusive hobby kennels operated by the wealthy gave way to a large number of small commercially operated kennels run by entrepreneurs of moderate means.  Dog prices plummeted. This is when kennels began selling puppies in newspapers.

1912 San Francisco Call classified ads- Puppies for Sale: Toy Poodle $25 ($600), Japanese Spaniel $15 ($350), Cocker $25 ($600), Boston Terrier $10 ($245), Pekingese $15 ($350), French Bulldog $35 ($850), Airedale $30 ($730)   

This is what Dobies looked like in 1914.
A pup might cost upwards of $50 ($1250)
Photo from Leighton's Book of the Dog, 1906

1914 New York Tribune Classified Ads - Puppies for Sale: Bull Terriers $20 ($500), Yorkshire Terrier $20 ($500), Wire Haired Fox Terrier $15 and up ($300 and up)
In 1914, a Yorkie puppy cost around $20, equivalent to
the $500 we might pay today. However, the annual wage
then was around $500 so purebred dogs were still the
privilege of the upper class.
Photo from Leighton's Book of the Dog (1906)

Monday, June 2, 2014

An Ancient Dog's Life Story at Lake Baikal

In the past, an ancient dog's life story was told through an analysis of his bones. Now a more comprehensive tale can be told as scientists supplement traditional archeology with modern technology including isotope geochemistry, DNA analysis, and radiocarbon dating.

A rich collection of prehistoric dog remains dot the south and west shores of Siberia's Lake Baikal, the largest and oldest fresh water lake in the world. The area's well-preserved Middle Holocene (three to nine thousand years old) hunter-gatherer cemeteries attract scientists from all over the world.
Siberia's Lake Baikal lies in a vast crescent 
about 400 miles north of Mongolia. The Baikal 
Archeology Project is a consortium of 
international scholars studying how 
social and environment pressures
 influence long term cultural change. 

An international team of scientists, led by Robert Losey, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alberta, examined 17 human and dog burial sites, most about 7,000 years old. Analyzing their findings within the rich well-studied culture of Lake Baikal,  the researchers concluded that ancient indigenous people thought of some dogs the same way they did other extremely powerful animals - NOT as simple beings whose souls collectively recycle back into the primordial species-soup, but as beings who, like humans, had distinct and  individual souls, and as such required appropriate mortuary rights so they could be reborn as the same "person". (Read about the 2013 study in the Siberian Times.)

Stone and bone implements surround the skull. 
The dog has a round rock in its mouth.  
Buried with artifacts the dog would have 
used regularly during its life indicates he 
had near human spiritual status. 

Although many dogs received no special treatment during life or at death, the remains of some dogs indicated that, like their people, dogs suffered injury and were nursed back to health. Both ate the same diets primarily consisting of fish, seafood and game.   People and dogs were buried near each other in the same cemetery, and in some cases, were buried together. One dog was buried with a decorative pendant (red deer teeth) hanging around her neck. In one case a man was buried with two dogs, one in each arm.
Using DNA and stable isotope analysis, 
researchers determined that the dog and 
human diets were the same. 
Note calf skull placed between 
the dog's legs.

Professor Losey told the press, "I think the act of treating [a dog] as a human upon its death indicates that people knew it had a soul, and that the mortuary rites it received were meant to ensure that this soul was properly cared for."

The Paleolithic Siberian dog looked 
a lot like this modern day Siberian Husky,
 only larger with significantly bigger teeth.  
Bone wear indicated he worked
along side his people, likely as a transport
animal hauling heavy loads.

Canids as persons: Early Neolithic dog and wolf burials, Cis-Baikal, Siberia; Robert J. Losey et al, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Volume 30, issue 2, June 2011, pp 174-189.

Read more about the project here.