Dog sacrifices in medieval Hungarian town may shed light on mysterious pagan customs

April 7th, 2009 - 2:45 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic Washington, April 7 (ANI): A new study has suggested that a medieval Hungarian town full of ritually sacrificed dogs that was recently discovered could shed light on mysterious pagan customs not found in written records from the era.

According to a report in National Geographic News, roughly 1,300 bones from about 25 dogs were recently discovered in the 10th- to 13th-century town of Kana, which had been accidentally unearthed in 2003 during the construction of residential buildings on the outskirts of Budapest.

Researchers found ten dogs buried in pits and four puppy skeletons in pots buried upside down.

These sacrifices probably served much like amulets to ward against evil-for instance, to protect against witchcraft or the evil eye, according to study leader Marta Daroczi-Szabo, an archaeozoologist at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.

About a dozen other canines were found buried under house foundations.

These animals likely served as “construction sacrifices,” Daroczi-Szaba said.

During the Middle Ages, it was customary in Hungary to lock sacrificial animals inside new houses or to slaughter the beasts as people moved in.

Sometimes dogs were beaten to death on the doorsteps or a chicken’s throat was slit.

Dogs were popular sacrificial animals in medieval Hungary. They were seen in two different ways: They symbolized loyalty, but they also stood for the deadly sin of envy.

The new findings show that “sacrifices were not a rare phenomenon, as one may have thought from isolated finds,” said Daroczi-Szaba. “It was practiced regularly in a Christian village,” she added.

According to University of Edinburgh archaeozoologist Laszlo Bartosiewicz, the fact that pagan customs such as animal sacrifice persisted for centuries side-by-side with the church is surprising.

“One wouldn’t expect these practices in Christian times. It’s exciting to see what was sacred and profane back then,” said Bartosiewicz.

“The great number of sacrifices we see (in Kana) will significantly improve our chances of interpreting what their meaning was,” he added. (ANI)

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