The coffin of the child was surrounded by a variety of objects including miniature terracotta vases, glass pots, food items suggesting that the child belonged to an elite family.
Archeologists have unearthed the remains of a toddler and what seems to be that of a dog, which was most likely a pet from almost 2,000-years-ago. The findings are said to be exceptional because it was found in the course of a survey for a planned airport expansion in Aulnat in the Auvergne region of central France, reported the Daily Mail. The child who was buried was, at the time, only one-year-old and was also probably from a well-to-do family. The child and the dog were accompanied by numerous objects including clay jars, animal parts, and a small toy.
The child seems to have died around the same time as Jesus and when France was a part of the Roman Empire. The body of the child was discovered in a wooden coffin 80 cm long and buried in a two-meter by one-meter grave. The coffin was made with nails and marked with a decorative iron tag. The pet dog also had a decorative collar with a bell attached to it. According to The Guardian, the coffin was surrounded by around 20 objects including a number of miniature terracotta vases and glass pots thought to have contained oils and medicines, half a pig, three hams and other cuts of pork, as well as two headless chickens, and a toy.
“The items that accompany this deceased are absolutely exceptional, both in terms of quantity and quality,” the National Institute for Preventative Archaeological Research (INRAP) said in a statement. “Such a profusion of crockery and butchered items, as well as the personal effects that followed the child to his grave, underline the privileged rank to which his family belonged. A dog’s association with a young child is well documented in a funeral context, but here it is the collar and bell that are unusual.” Given the wealth of grave goods found at the site, the team suggests that the child belonged to an elite family.
In those times, it was customary to offer a part of the funeral banquet to the deceased. While half the portions were served to the living, the rest would be buried with the coffin of those who had passed away. The toddler was buried with terracotta containers filled with food and drink which were placed around the youngster's coffin, reported Live Science. Among the various items found in the grave, archeologists also made the "touching" discovery of a baby tooth placed inside a shell. They theorized that it could have belonged to a sibling of the deceased one-year-old.
"The graves of young Gallo-Roman children are often located outside the community funeral home and sometimes even buried near the family home," INRAP said, according to UPI. "These toddlers rarely benefit from the same funeral practices as their elders, who at that time were generally cremated." This grave is reportedly the oldest and most important find of a child’s burial tomb in France, dated to sometime between the first three decades A.D., which is more than 50 years after Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul. An older grave, believed to date from the Roman conquest of Gaul several decades earlier, contained a number of weapons, suggesting its occupant was a soldier. The excavation has been taking place since mid-November of 2020 and is expected to conclude at the end of next month.