Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Warriors-in-Training May Have Killed Dog Companions

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ONEONTA, NEW YORK—The chopped-up bones of 51 dogs and seven wolves have been unearthed at the Bronze Age site of Krasnosamarkskoe in eastern Russia. Dorcas Brown and David Anthony of Hartwick College noticed that the dogs, which ranged in age from 7 to 12, had been butchered in a very precise, but unusual, way. Marks on their teeth indicated that the dogs had all died during the winter months. Research into Eurasia’s early literature revealed that dogs were often associated with death and the underworld, and that dogs are also linked to a secret initiation rite for boys who trained to become marauding warriors. At the end of their training, during a midwinter ceremony, the 16-year-old boys ritually “died” and journeyed to the underworld. Then they painted their bodies black and wore dog-skin cloaks. Brown and Anthony think that the boys of Krasnosamarkskoe may have also had to kill their own dogs as the final step in becoming a trained killer.