Photo in the News: Dog Mummies Found in Ancient Peru Pet Cemetery

Dog mummy photo
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September 25, 2006—Just as modern dog lovers pamper their pets with morsels from the table and space on the bed, it seems that ancient Peruvians also treated their dogs like members of the family.

That's the conclusion archaeologists have reached after uncovering more than 40 mummified dogs in a thousand-year-old pet cemetery south of Lima, Peru.

Peruvian anthropologist Sonia Guillen and her team made the find while excavating a human cemetery of the Chiribaya culture, an agricultural society that thrived from A.D. 900 to 1350, before the rise of the Inca.

The researchers found 43 dogs buried in separate plots alongside their human owners, naturally preserved by the desert sands and ensconced with treats for the afterlife.

"We have found that in all the cemeteries, always, in between the human tombs there are others dedicated to the dogs, full-grown and puppies," Guillen told the Associated Press.

"They have their own grave, and in some cases they are buried with blankets and food."

The discovery speaks volumes about the high status the Chiribaya culture placed on the dogs, which Guillen says were prized for their skill in herding llamas.

But the find also raises questions about what, if any, claim Peru's modern-day dogs might have to these ancient, celebrated canines.

Guillen's team is currently trying to prove that the Chiribaya shepherds have descendants still living today, and that the dogs constitute a unique breed.

"We have found very similar animals with the same characteristics in Peru's southern valleys," she said.

"This shepherd is still among us."

—Blake de Pastino

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