Ancient Dogs of the Tennessee River Valley

Author(s): Meagan Dennison

Year: 2017


Skeletal remains of domestic dogs, particularly dog burials, are common from prehistoric archaeological sites in the Southeastern United States. Efforts to describe these ancient canines have traditionally focused on body size and cranial morphology, however, more recently paleopathology has played a key role in understanding ancient canine lifeways and the interactions between humans and domestic dogs. Mortuary analysis can also bolster interpretations of life histories and dogs’ roles within human society. This paper describes the mortuary contexts and paleopathology for nearly 50 archaeological dog skeletons from two sections of the Tennessee River Valley – the Western Valley and the Ridge and Valley physiographic provinces. Dogs from the Western Valley date between 7,000 and ca. 3,500 years B.P. and are associated with foraging cultural groups, while dogs from the Ridge and Valley are much later, dating between 900 A.D., and 1500 A.D. and are associated with subsistence systems centered on maize agriculture. The social relationship between dogs and people manifests skeletally in traumatic fractures and/or metabolic diseases, as well as in the way dogs are treated in death. Differences in burial treatment and paleopathology between these two cultural groups indicate that dog lifeways changed within the context of anthropogenic cultural change.

Cite this Record

Ancient Dogs of the Tennessee River Valley. Meagan Dennison. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431010)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15242