Peruvian archeologists unearthed the remains of some 137 dogs thought to be more than 900 years old, in an archaeological complex located within Lima’s main zoo.
According to Peru’s El Comercio, the dog skeletons were found in resting positions alongside human remains and were possibly buried with their owners as part of a ritual ceremony.
"We cannot determine with total certainty yet whether these animals were used in some kind of ritual, but given the evidence, that is the hypothesis we are handling," said Lucénida Carrión, head of the zoo’s department of archaeology.
Some of the remains were found wrapped in mummy bundles and accommodated with offerings made of vegetable rope and reeds, a feature of the old Lima culture, which developed between the second and sixth centuries.
Preliminary investigations by veterinarian Enrique Angulo, who is part of the research team, indicated that the remains are from dogs of different ages and that some of them suffered from diseases, though details remain unknown.
El Comercio reported that the dogs found are not thought to be the native pre-Incan hairless dog breed "(Perro Sin Pelo") but rather dogs with yellowish brown fur.
"This (the study) is a process. Carbon dating will be done abroad to date the finding more precisely," said Carrión.
She added that it is necessary to have financial support to continue these investigations and "to get a closer interpretation of our culture."
Archaeological research has taken great momentum in recent years in Lima, home to more than 300 archaeological sites, which according to experts, show the presence of a former millenary settlement in the Peruvian capital.
In 2006, National Geographic reported the uncovering of 43 mummified dogs in a 1,000-year-old pet cemetery south of Lima. Anthropologists working on the findings said the discovery happened while excavating in a human cemetery of the Chiribaya culture, an agricultural society that thrived from 900 to 1350, before the rise of the Inca empire.
In that dig, the dogs were buried in separate plots alongside their human owners, and in some cases with blankets and food.
EFE news agency contributed to this report.