The concept of pets as beloved family members is not a new idea. Long before the Incan Empire ruled Peru, a group of people called the Chiribaya thanked and recognized their dogs as both working members of society and valued family members.
Since 1993, archaeologists and researchers in Peru have uncovered more than eighty dog tombs in pet cemeteries and human cemeteries created by the Chiribaya. Dog tombs were often placed between human tombs, and the four-legged friends were often buried with blankets and treats. Anthropologists are careful to point out that these dogs and puppies were not sacrifices; they were honored with special burial sites and tombs as thanks for their contributions.
Want to place these people on the map? The Chiribaya lived in the Osmore River valley, approximately 540 miles southeast of Lima in Peru. This farmer culture resided in the area from around 900 AD until around 1350 AD.
The particular type of dog found in these tombs and cemeteries is known as a Chiribaya shepherd. Evidence suggests they were talented herders. The breed is still around today in some form; the Bioanthropology Foundation of Peru has noted dogs with similar characteristics living in Peru’s southern valleys. The Chiribaya shepherds of the modern day have short snouts and long hair — much like the dogs in the Chiribaya tombs and cemeteries.
Now a team of researchers is trying to prove that the Chiribaya dogs can be classified as an original South American breed. There do seem to be some genetic links between these current Chiribaya shepherds and the remains found in the tombs in the Osmore River Valley. DNA analysis will reveal whether or not the Chiribaya shepherd is an original Peruvian breed — the Bioanthropology Foundation of Peru and San Martin University in Lima hope to have results from the analysis within a few months.