Muireann Ní Cheallacháin
In 2018 my team and I excavated a large square ringfort in Naas Co. Kildare, where people lived in the Early Medieval period, c. 1500 years ago! In one corner of the square ditch, we found a nearly entire skeleton of a small animal and when we cleaned the dirt of the bones, we realised it was a dog! We assumed that it was a beloved pet that was carefully buried. When we were digging the rest of the big ditch that enclosed the living quarters we found lots of other animal bone that had been tossed into the ditch as rubbish, like you would throw away ribs after a BBQ.
When we finished up on site, we washed all the animal bone and sent it to Mags our Animal bone expert who lives down in Cork. When we read her report, we were amazed to find that at least four adult dogs were living at Craddockstown and that they represent three sizes; a small cocker spaniel-size dog, two sheepdog-size animals and a slightly larger Labrador-size individual. Mags could tell us that they were well fed as a lot of the other cow, sheep and pig bones she looked at had gnawing marks on them from the dogs chewing on the bones that were thrown away!
But the biggest shock was our beloved pet dog buried in the ditch. Mags found evidence that someone actually removed the skin of this dog prior to the carcass being discarded into the ditch!!! Someone living at Craddockstown may have used pelt as a coat! We found some artefacts that suggest Hiberno Norse people lived or at least visited the ringfort at Craddockstown so we can’t wait to find out if any of our four dogs had Viking blood too!