Aztec Dog Burial Site Found Under Mexico City Apartments Is World's Oldest Pet Cemetery

By Josh Lieberman on February 18, 2014 6:37 PM EST

aztec dog
An Aztec burial site containing 12 dogs was uncovered under a Mexico City apartment building. (Photo: Reuters)

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of 12 dogs buried under a Mexico City apartment building, a find which may be the oldest pet cemetery ever found. While dogs have been uncovered alongside humans bones before, this "exceptional" find marks the first time a group of dogs have been found buried together. The findings were announced last week in a Spanish-language report on the website of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

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"This is definitely a special finding because of the number of dogs and because we have found no connection to a building or with the deceased," said Rocio Morales Sanchez, an archaeologist on the discovery team. 

The dogs were buried together sometime between 1350 and 1520 A.D. by the Aztecs, who believed that dogs could protect buildings when buried underneath them. The age of the bones was determined by ceramics and other artifacts found in the pit and in the surrounding area. Michael E. Smith, an anthropology professor at Arizona State University who was not involved in the find, said that further analysis will reveal more information about the bones.

"That work will tell us about the breed of these dogs, and it may tell us how they were killed," Smitth said. "The full significance of the finds is rarely obvious at time of excavation; the analysis will give the full story." Smith added that although this isn't the earliest instance of a buried dog, "it is the first find where many dogs were carefully buried together, in a setting that is like a cemetery."

The dog burial site is located in the Azcapotzalco neighborhood of Mexico City, or the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. Now dry and covered with city streets, the area was once a lake around which the Aztecs may have placed their trash to prevent flooding.

In other pet cemetery news, humans in New York state can now be buried in pet cemeteries. Owners who are extraordinarily attached to their pets must be cremated if they want to be buried alongside beloved Fido, though. So if you live in New York, you now have that option. If that's what you're into.       

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