Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Roman Child Burial in Central France, with Puppy

Infant burials are very rare in pre-Christian Europe. We don't know what happened to the babies and young children who died, but they weren't put in cemeteries. A few infants were buried under houses, but most have simply vanished. So this very elaborate Gallo-Roman burial of a 1- to 2-year-old child is a very interesting find. 

The child was buried with a puppy. The puppy was wearing a bronze collar with a bell, so it was certainly a household pet.

Another view. More (in French) at INRAP.


G. Verloren said...

Aren't child burials relatively rare overall throughout most of history?

Given pre-modern childhood mortality rates, my understanding has long been that there was often a hesitancy to treat children as really "people" until they reached a certain minimum age - a sort of hesitancy to grow too attached, lest you suffer needlessly for a child that is snatched away during those uncertain early years.

Am I off the mark here? Obviously there are exceptions, and clearly we've found substantial numbers of child graves from many places and times... but I would suspect those would be more likely among wealthier families (better expectations of survival, more resources to conduct ritual burials), and among societies with specific religious or cultural beliefs or doctrines that would directly promote the practice of child burial (for example, belief that an unburied child would end up in Purgatory or similar), in effect counteracting an otherwise natural hesitancy.

John said...

You're right, infant burials were rare everywhere. Until the Middle Ages, when the Christian idea that all baptized children had to be buried in consecrated ground took hold. Children's bones don't preserve very well, so there still aren't that many infant skeletons, but medieval graveyards are full of tiny graves.