EXPERTS in Mexico are baffled by the discovery of a cache of a dozen dogs buried by the Aztecs half a millennium ago under the most mysterious circumstances.
The dog cadavers were found during salvage excavations in Azcapotzalco (in suburban Mexico City) by archaeologists from the National Institute of anthropology and history (INAH).
The dogs were placed there around 500 years ago, but unusually, without any apparent association to human burial – acting as a guide for the soul to the underworld, or as an offering dedicated to a temple or building.
The approximate date of their burial was ascertained from ceramic material recovered, known as Azteca III and manufactured during the late Postclassic period between the years 1350 to 1520 A.D., which was the height of Aztec rule in the area, said archaeologist Rocío Morales Sanchez.
"Burials of dogs have been found in archaeological contexts, but in this case, it is not associated with any construction or a human burial," he said.
"Without a doubt this is a special find, by the number of individuals and we have not found a link with a building or a deceased person," Sanchez added.
He explained that they would be digging deeper to find out if any evidence exists underneath this deposit to aid interpretation.
The dog skeletons will be analysed in the laboratory to ascertain the cause of death, whether they suffered from any disease or malformation.
The skeletons, which are in good condition, do not conform to any burial pattern. Their body shape seems to suggest a common type of dog, as special breeds such as the techichi are recognised by their short legs, while the xoloitzcuintli are identified by their loss of premolars in adulthood.