, 18 tweets, 15 min read Read on Twitter
Pull up your comfy chair. Grab a drink & plop your favorite pet into your lap

This thread presents “The True Story about Ancient Greek Dogs” for the 3rd Public Archaeology Twitter Conference #PATC3. I’m a zooarchaeologist, so the question is what can we learn from their bones?
The first story of an ancient Greek dog is the most famous. Homer’s tear-jerking description of Argos, the neglected hunting hound, still moves us thousands of years later

It is so easy to see ourselves and our own furry companions in this scene
/1 #PATC3
“He looks quite handsome, though it is hard to tell if he can run, or if he is a pet, a table dog, kept just for looks.”

These categories of dogs are easy to find in both ancient texts and art. Hunting hounds were commonly depicted from the Bronze Age onwards
/2 #PATC3
In drinking scenes painted on drinking vessels in the 7th-6th c B.C.E., dogs (usually hounds) are often present. They’re usually on leashes and eating scraps or gnawing on bones. The boundary between a useful hunting hound and a beloved pet is blurred
/3 #PATC3
In the 5th century B.C.E., the small, toy dog becomes popular in iconographic scenes. In texts, this breed is famous as the Miletian or Maltese. These small dogs were depicted as appropriate love-gifts or playing with children

These are clearly pets.
/4 #PATC3
The strong sense that dogs were frequently thought of as pets and companions is heightened by scenes showing “good dogs” and “bad dogs” (in the words of Seth Pavnick)

Retweet and maybe @dog_rates will rank the following pooches on a scale of good to bad!
/5 #PATC3
These images and stories resonate with us today because they match our own attitudes towards dogs. But the story of ancient Greek dogs is more complex than only one about pets

Dogs were sacrificed too, like Patroklos’s hunting hounds burned on his funeral pyre
/6 #PATC3
While some Greek dog burials were for an old, beloved pet, others seem to parallel those of Patroklos. Dogs slaughtered and buried at the same time as a deceased individual might or might not evoke a sense of pethood in the afterlife. I suppose that’s debatable
/7 #PATC3
A closer study of dog bones in the Greek world reveals an even more complex story

The Agora Bone Well from Ancient Athens included the bones of over 150 adult dogs, deposited among 450+ newborn children. It was likely a purification ritual related to infant mortality
/8 #PATC3
Lynn Snyder’s study of these dog bones shows they were middling in size, neither the hunting hounds nor the toydogs described in texts or depicted in art. The numerous pathologies on their bones, often signs of healed trauma, suggests they were street-dogs or strays
/9 #PATC3
There are similar deposits elsewhere. A few show a similar infant mortality ritual, having both dogs & newborns. There’s a cistern at Kalaureia with sacrificed dogs & charred snakes, and I’ve studied one at Knossos with a few dogs, a pregnant sow & a young donkey
/10 #PATC3
Dog meat was sometimes eaten. Butchered dog bones show it was neither common nor uncommon

The dog mandible below is from Azoria on Crete. The cutmark on the interior was likely from removing the tongue. Unfortunately, no ancient Greek recipes for dog tongue survive
/11 #PATC3
Dog butchery in downtown Athens was small-scale, but likely on a commercial basis

The butchery methods were similar to pigs, with kneecaps chopped similarly off and dog mandibles given special attention. Like pork cheek, dog cheek, was potentially a cured delicacy
/12 #PATC3
The stories the ancient Greeks told about their dogs shows their domestic status as hunting hounds & cute pets. They even gnawed on a lot of bones!

But the true story is more complex. The bones show these categories, but also strays, sacrifice & dog consumption
/13 #PATC3
The story of modern dogs is equally complex. Twitter might be filled with cute dog pics, but the rampant mistreatment of animals exists, from designer puppy mills to factory farms. We can’t change the past, but we can use knowledge to work for a better future
/end #PATC3
I’ve replied to each Tweet w/ citations for images & articles. Thanks to the organizers of #PATC3, @lornarichardson & @james__dixon. Any questions?

And for more on ancient Greek pets check out the recent talk by @TylerJoChaos @ASCSAthens
And, #PATC3, if you want more #ClassicalZooarchaeology, check out my favorite ancient Roman dog in the thread below. She was definitely a good dog!
And to read other #PATC3 presentations, see the thread of threads below
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