Recent Trends in Pet Funerals – Saying Goodbye is Not New

Archeological Evidence shows Dog as Man’s Best Friend long ago

It’s clear, at least in most Western cultures, that dogs and cats have become more and more integrated into the closely-knit daily lives of typical families. For many, if not most, the family dog especially has found a place of importance and intimacy to a degree that would have surprised our grand and great grandparents. Family pets, both dogs and cats, have truly become treasured members of our families, and as result, pet funerals have becoming more and more common.

Archeological evidence suggests that pet funerals and other pet burial rituals were practiced by many cultures in ancient times.

While some may believe that this trend is a new and recent phenomenon stemming from our modern, Western philosophies and ¬†lifestyles, ancient archeological evidence suggests that pet funerals and other pet burial rituals were practiced by many cultures in ancient times. If this is a true understanding of the evidence, and we believe it is, then what we are seeing today in the rise of pet funerals is not the advent of something new, but rather the re-emergence of an important ritual that existed long ago. The ritual of man saying ‘goodbye’ in a meaningful way to his four-legged best friend seems to be as old as the bond that was first forged between them millennia ago.

It’s heart-warming to know that ancient men teamed up with their ancient dogs and viewed them not merely as beasts of burden, but also as beloved companions.

There’s considerable of archeological evidence for the love of humans for their dogs.

Much of the evidence that exists for the love of humans for their dogs is in the form of burial rituals. Here are a few such examples:

  • A 4th century grave was discovered in ancient Athens that contained the remains of a dog buried with a large beef bone near his head.
  • In 2006, archaeologists working in an ancient burial ground in Peru unearthed the well-preserved remains of 80 dogs buried among the remains of about 2,000 people. Each dog was buried in its own grave right next to its owner. Some were wrapped in llama-wool blankets and many were laid to rest with llama or fish bones placed next to their noses.
  • The mummified of a small fourth century B.C. dog was found in the Egyptian city of Abydos, buried alongside a man assumed to be his owner, and identified on his coffin as ‘Hapi-Men.’ Both sets of remains are now at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the dog has been dubbed ‘Hapi-Puppy.’Hapi-Puppy received a CT scan at the university hospital, and it was determined he was about two when he died, and resembled a modern day Jack Russell terrier.¬† According to Archaeology.org and Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo: “Hapi-Men must have loved his dog, and after his death, it seems that the dog pined away and died soon enough to have been mummified and buried with his master.” Ikram says this was not an unusual practice. “There are much earlier Middle Kingdom (2080-1640 B.C.) tombs that depict a man and his dog, and both are named so that they can survive into the afterworld together,” she says.
  • An excavation led by an archaeologist from the University of Georgia in the city of Carthage in Tunisia, unearthed the third century A.D. remains of a young adult buried in a carefully made grave. The young person was buried with an elderly dog at its feet, and a glass bowl was placed behind the dog’s shoulder.
  • The ‘Yasmina dog,’ named after the Yasmina cemetery in Carthage where it was found, resembled a modern Pomeranian. The dog was determined to have suffered significant tooth loss, spinal deformation, a dislocated hip and osteoarthritis. But with all that, the animal still lived into its mid to late teens, which means it was well cared for. Even in death, the young person and his dog could not be separated.

It’s heart-warming to know that ancient men teamed up with their ancient dogs and viewed them not merely as beasts of burden, but also as beloved companions.

While scholarly debate carries on regarding the actual time and circumstances when dog were first domesticated by humans, one thing seems clear – dogs have been leaving their paw-prints across the hearts and the lives of their human masters for thousands of years.