Guardians in Life and Death: Dogs at Neolithic Çatalhöyük and Beyond

Author(s): Nerissa Russell

Year: 2018


Dogs often occupy a spiritually ambiguous position in human-animal relations. Domestic but not livestock, they typically share human space and diet more than most herd animals. They are more likely to be considered persons, with souls – a trait they share with wild animals. Here I examine the spiritual status of dogs in early Near Eastern herding societies, as livestock-keeping spread through the region and it became possible to situate dogs in relation to other domestic animals as well as wild ones. I rely primarily on data from Çatalhöyük in central Anatolia, where I have extensive contextual information, supported by patterning from other PPNB/early Pottery Neolithic sites. Drawing on the contextual analysis of animal bones, burial practices, and animal representations, I argue that dogs were not regarded in the same way as wild animals, but that they held greater spiritual power than domestic sheep and goats. This power is evident through taboos: on human consumption of dogs, and on dogs entering occupied houses. However, dogs lived near specific houses, and in death their primary role was the protection of houses and their dead human inhabitants, rather than of individual humans.

Cite this Record

Guardians in Life and Death: Dogs at Neolithic Çatalhöyük and Beyond. Nerissa Russell. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444499)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: 34.277; min lat: 13.069 ; max long: 61.699; max lat: 42.94 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20731