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The remains of two Late Bronze Age initiation ceremonies have been discovered at Krasnosamarskoe in southwestern Russia.  Among the finds include bones from dogs and wolves believed to have been eaten during rites of passage in which teenage boys became ‘wolf-men’ warriors.  The bones, dated between 3,900 and 3,700 years ago, may be the first archaeological evidence of the existence of adolescent male war bands which have been described in ancient texts.

However, others argue that Indo-European mythology suggests dogs were regarded as having magical properties, including the ability to absorb human illness which would make dogs unfit for consumption.

Dog bones found at Krasnosamarskoe. Copyright: Anthony D. and D. Brown from Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

Nevertheless, the dog bones (image left) show butchery marks and burns consistent with sacrifice and cooking.  David Anthony from Hartwick College in N.Y. has been investigating the find and states the dog bones indicate there were at least two rituals involving 21 dogs, and DNA from the dogs’ teeth show they were predominately male – consistent with initiation ceremonies involving young boys.

Although the scientists also found bones of cattle at the site, analysis showed these had been slaughtered across seasons suggesting these animals were killed as a food source.  However, analysis of the dog bones indicate they were mostly killed during Autumn / Winter months, supporting the adolescent male war band hypothesis.  Such findings illustrate the more gruesome side to the ancient human-dog relationship.




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