M.A. Theses: David Frederick Crellin, 1995

Is There a Dog in the House: The Cultural Significance of Prehistoric Domesticated Dogs in the Mid Fraser River Region of British Columbia

In 1988 and again in 1989 the skeletal remains of domestic dog (Canis familiaris) were uncovered at a prehistoric winter village site near Pavilion B.C. This thesis examines ethnographic, archaeological, and osteological data in an effort to ascertain the probable cultural significance of the canid deposits. In all, the remains of 15 dogs were recovered from the site. This is the largest number of individuals ever recovered on the B.C. Plateau. The partial remains of at least 11 of these individuals were recovered from the bottom of 2 storage pits located within the floor area of one of the largest housepits.

Certain aspects of the ethnographic record for the area are contradictory, but it would appear that some dogs were held in higher status than others. Analysis of the archaeological record points to special treatment of some of the individuals by the past human inhabitants. It would appear that a ritual of some kind may have taken place which involved the leaving of a dog carcass on the floor of the pithouse upon the abandonment of the dwelling.

Of special interest was the recovery of a complete articulated individual whose skeletal abnormalities indicated that the animal was probably exploited as a beast of burden or pack dog. There is the possibility that at least one other individual may have also served in this capacity.

The representation of a possible ritual sacrifice and the observation that certain individuals performed important economic tasks indicates that these dogs were an integral component within the prehistoric society that inhabited the site.