We are in southern Umbria, an area full of history and stories.
In the year 2001, during the excavations for the demolition of the former agricultural consortium in Amelia, a huge necropolis with 52 burials from IV century b.C. to II century a.C. was discovered.
Ancient and rich kits were found in those burials “a cassone”, but the most surprising discovery was a dog lay on the left side and with the tail in the middle of the legs and with the limbs strethced out.
The skeleton, dating back between the end of the IV and the beginning of the III century b.C, with a pendant on his neck, had been placed next to his child owner’s burial.
Burying dogs seems to have been a very ancient use, well before the period of Amelia’s dog. In Italy depositions of dogs in human tombs are even attested from the Neolithic to the Roman age.
Based on the form of the body and the size we can think that this dog was a greyhound, 55 cm tall. Today he is on display at the Amelia’s museum; this place originally was a Franciscan convent of the XIII – XIV century, a prestigious monument for the town. It is here that the statue-portrait of Germanicus Caesar, prince of the Julio-Claudian family, is preserved.
The skeleton of the dog was found next to a small sarcophagus with the remains of a child, with his head slightly raised and resting on a boulder. “He lay on his left side with his limbs stretched out backwards and his tail in the midst of them; the left cranial portion intact, has functioned as a point of accumulation of the numerous small fragmented elements of the right side; it is thought that he died from the breakthrough of this sector of skullcap”. – explain the experts of the Archaeological Superintendence.
He was an adult dog but not old, sick with a severe form of arthropathy. “The burials of dogs in the ancient world – emphasize the experts – are often interpreted as animals sacrificed with the function of guardian at the burial or faithful companions of the deceased who follow their fate. Amelia’s dog, in which the bronze pendant undoubtedly represents the emotional bond between the animal and its owner (or playmate?), is part of this tradition by accompanying a child in the world of the dead”.
From the moment of the discovery, for the recovery of the dog of the necropolis of Amelia, a technique was used that allowed to keep intact the state of anatomical connection of the skeleton in all its details and at the same time to be able to evaluate the musealization of the find. “In fact – explain the Superintendence – the choice of methods of intervention was conditioned by the desire to return a faithful image both of the characteristics of the location and of any cultural implications. The technique of tearing from the ground in a single block and also including part of the substrate, used for Amelia’s dog, is quite complex”.