The dog was a techichi, or “small Indian dog,” of a type that was about the size of a terrier and that is now extinct. But the scientists involved in the discovery know little else, including why it was buried at all.
“It might have been just a pet burial,” said Paul E. Langenwalter II, a research archaeologist who teaches archaeology at Biola University. “But it could be destruction of property. It was common to kill the dog along with burning or destroying any other personal property upon the death of the owner.”
The dog would have had erect ears and tail and stood about 15 inches high at the shoulder. A radiocarbon date places it at about 1,790 years ago, Langenwalter said.
Ancient pet burials are uncommon, he said; fewer than 10 have been found in Orange County, an area rich in Native American artifacts, and only a few dozen are known statewide.
Even more intriguing are the positioning of the dog and the placement of a “cairn” — a rock marker, in this case a large acorn grinding-bowl or metate — on top of it.