Domesticated Dogs in the Art and Archaeology of Iron Age and Roman Britain.

  • Kate Smith

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study investigates the symbolic role of the domestic dog in Iron Age and Roman Britain through contextual analysis of their faunal remains and interpretation of their representations in iconography. Previous studies have highlighted linkages between the species and ideas about death, healing and regeneration (Jenkins 1957, Ross 1967, Toynbee 1973, Henig 1984, Green 1992). Although these connections clearly did exist in the cosmologies of Britain and the Western provinces of Rome, this detailed examination of the evidence seeks to identify reasons why this might have been so. The enquiry was also designed to highlight any previously unnoticed patterns in the dataset that might add a further dimension to our understanding of how the domestic dog was perceived at a symbolic level.

    It has been established for some time that dogs appear in statistically significant numbers, compared to other species, in the special animal deposits that are a feature of certain Iron Age pits (Grant 1984, Wait 1985, Hill 1995). Dramatic evidence for ritual practice involving animals found at a Romano-British temple complex in Springhead, Kent, and comparable finds from both sacred and secular sites, suggest that domestic dogs were also a favoured sacrifice during this period. As well as analysing such archaeological evidence, this study draws on anthropological, psychological and historical writings about human relationships with the domestic dog in an attempt to forward our understanding of religious expression during antiquity.
    Date of Award2005
    Original languageEnglish


    • Domesticated Dogs
    • Dogs and society
    • Iron Age Britain
    • Roman Britain
    • Archaeology
    • Iconography

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