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Archaeo-zoology Studies Say Canidae Were Bred in Teotihuacan with Ritual Purposes
Recreation of a burial at the Moon pyramid, Teotihuacan, where the use of canidae for rituals is observed. Photo: DMC INAH/H. Montano.

MEXICO CITY.- Archaeo-zoology studies applied to skeletons of canidae found in burials at the Moon Pyramid and the Quetzalcoatl Temple revealed they practiced hybridization between dogs and wolves.

Parting from archaeo-zoology studies applied to canidae skeletons in burials at the Moon Pyramid and Quetzalcoatl Temple, in Teotihuacan, specialists determined that this ancient culture practiced hybridization between wolves and dogs, which was used in rituals and was associated with the Teotihuacan militia.

“Wolves and dogs share 99.8 per cent of genetic information, so the cross between them practiced by Teotihuacan people is feasible. The dog-wolf carried the divine blood of the wild canine in an easily-led body”.

This was announced by archaeo-zoologist Raul Valadez Azua, from the team of specialists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in charge of analyzing the skeletons found at Burial 6 of the Moon Pyramid, discovered in November 2004 by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and specialists from the Aichi Prefectural University, Japan, as part of the Moon Pyramid Archaeological Project.

The analyses conducted by the UNAM Institute of Anthropological Investigations, about to be finished, determined that there were wolf-dogs in the offerings by identifying the species of the remains found at the Moon Pyramid and thanks to previous studies performed to animal remains at Quetzalcoatl Temple.

“Wolf-dog has been identified as a man-created animal, which reveals the advanced management of fauna as well as the knowledge held in Teotihuacan regarding the biology of species”, declared Valadez.

He mentioned that besides the skeleton’s analyses, the study includes iconographic research of fauna represented at the mural paintings as well as in the ceramics, increasing the knowledge of the use of fauna in Teotihuacan. According to the investigation, 120 animal species were used with different purposes.

“Uses did not end in exploitation of meat, bones and skin; they had deep knowledge of animal biology which was reflected in manipulation of organisms, captivity practices and domestication”.

Valadez Azua mentioned that between 1988 and 1989, as part of the Quetzalcoatl Temple Archaeological Project, several burials were discovered, among them, Burial 4, constituted by 18 individuals with their hands and feet tied up, dressed as high rank warriors.

“One of them carried 9 jaws made by Teotihuacan people out of fragments of palates and dental pieces of different specimens of dogs, apparently.

“Parting from measurements of teeth and palates, as well as the form of dental pieces, it was determined that 8 of the jawbones corresponded to hybrids of dog and wolf; 3 of them, to dogs, 2 to wolf-dog and coyote hybrids and one more to a dog and coyote hybrid.”

This identification, along with the analysis of several mural paintings at Teotihuacan, took the specialists to raise again the role of the wolf in Teotihuacan culture as symbol of militia.

“For years, any representation in Teotihuacan with the form of a canine was interpreted as a coyote in iconographic studies conducted between 1960 and 2000. To present, archaeo-zoology information points out that for every coyote found there are 20 wolves, leading to re-interpret the icons of canidae”.

Valadez explained that among the great prey animals, only the puma has a conduct system that allows its domestication. In the case of wolves, they can live with humans until their youth, with habits similar to the dog’s. After the age of 6 months, they begin to fight for the leadership of their group, and their temper turns it into a dangerous animal, making difficult to maintain them captive for long periods until the date of the ritual sacrifice.

“In Teotihuacan, there have been found complete specimens of young wolves, but only heads and fur from adults. Pumas discovered were kept alive until the day of the sacrifice, revealing they reached a deep knowledge regarding the captivity of pumas, which may have been bred with ritual purposes”.

The researcher declared that Teotihuacan Culture, as many others in Mesoamerica, adopted the great carnivorous as symbols of force, paired with the most powerful natural manifestations and linked with vital elements.

“They were destined to elites, therefore having heavier symbolic weight; prey birds, wolves, coyotes, pumas, jaguars and marine shells were part of this selected fauna, which size was also a manifestation of power and force”, he concluded.

The Burial 6 at the Moon Pyramid research project includes specialists Bernardo Rodriguez from the UNAM institute of Anthropological Investigations; Gilberto Perez, from the Postgraduate Program of the UNAM Faculty of Philosophy and Literature; Fabiola Torres, from the INAH National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH); Nawa Sugiyama, from the Postgraduate Program of Harvard University; Alicia Blanco, from the INAH Direction of Archaeological Salvage, and Luisa Mainou, from the INAH National Coordination of Cultural heritage Conservation.

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