LOWDOWN Summer 2009 page 34

A BIT OF HISTORY

FOUND:

ANCIENT ROMAN BASSET HOUND DE PROFUNDIS!

Since 1998, archaeological excavations have been taking place in the harbour of the Tuscan city of Pisa. This massive project described as investigating the equivalent of an underwater Pompeii - has thrown up some very interesting discoveries.

The harbour played an important part in the commercial life of the Etruscan and Roman empires due to its position at the confluence of two rivers, the Arno and the now extinct Auser. Pisa during this period, 400BC to 500AD, also had an extensive canal network.

Over thirty ships some Greek and Phoenician - have so far been found in the deep clay silt on the sea floor - some being remarkably well preserved. Many appear to have been capsized as a consequence of some natural disaster - possibly a tsunami.

These discoveries are very intriguing. I was interested to read that among some large amphorae terracotta storage jars hundreds of pork shoulder bones were found - all from the right side of the pigs. One odd theory for this explains this. Apparently, pigs generally sleep on their left side and that as a result, meat from the right shoulder is considered the more tender and so makes the best prosciutto!

However interesting this may be, it was the discovery of a particular skeleton that causes me to include this feature.

Under a capsized ship - thought to be from 10AD, the time of the Emperor Augustus; a near complete human skeleton was found amongst the cargo and debris. It is thought to be that of a sailor.

Francesco Mallegni, an anthropologist at the University of Pisa, said that the remains were of a forty years old male who was 170cms tall. He was strongly-built man, possibly a slave from northern Europe. His teeth were well worn down this likely caused by using them in tying and undoing knots. He had been pinned down by a wooden beam across his neck and his right foot appears to be torn off by a rope - perhaps as a consequence of being was thrown overboard during a storm.

Most fascinating to us is that he was found with his left arm outstretched; across which was the skeleton of a dog. This was described by Dottori Mallengi as having a long body and short, twisted legs, and being like a Basset Hound. It has been suggested that this was the sailor’s pet, and that the hound could have been used aboard the ship for catching rats. A Basset hound’s low centre of gravity would certainly have been an advantage aboard a rolling ship.

It is rather nice to think that we share a common appreciation across the centuries with this subject of the Roman Empire, who in death, was holding and possibly trying to save the life of his beloved Basset Hound.

Cover of the Basset Hound Owners Club newsletter Lowdown
hound history ☞

Since 1998, archaeological excavations have been taking place in the harbour of the Tuscan city of Pisa. This massive project described as investigating the equivalent of an underwater Pompeii - has thrown up some very interesting discoveries.

The harbour played an important part in the commercial life of the Etruscan and Roman empires due to its position at the confluence of two rivers, the Arno and the now extinct Auser. Pisa during this period, 400BC to 500AD, also had an extensive canal network.

Over thirty ships some Greek and Phoenician - have so far been found in the deep clay silt on the sea floor - some being remarkably well preserved. Many appear to have been capsized as a consequence of some natural disaster - possibly a tsunami.

These discoveries are very intriguing. I was interested to read that among some large amphorae terracotta storage jars hundreds of pork shoulder bones were found - all from the right side of the pigs. One odd theory for this explains this. Apparently, pigs generally sleep on their left side and that as a result, meat from the right shoulder is considered the more tender and so makes the best prosciutto!

However interesting this may be, it was the discovery of a particular skeleton that causes me to include this feature.

Under a capsized ship - thought to be from 10AD, the time of the Emperor Augustus; a near complete human skeleton was found amongst the cargo and debris. It is thought to be that of a sailor.

Francesco Mallegni, an anthropologist at the University of Pisa, said that the remains were of a forty years old male who was 170cms tall. He was strongly-built man, possibly a slave from northern Europe. His teeth were well worn down this likely caused by using them in tying and undoing knots. He had been pinned down by a wooden beam across his neck and his right foot appears to be torn off by a rope - perhaps as a consequence of being was thrown overboard during a storm.

Most fascinating to us is that he was found with his left arm outstretched; across which was the skeleton of a dog. This was described by Dottori Mallengi as having a long body and short, twisted legs, and being like a Basset Hound. It has been suggested that this was the sailor’s pet, and that the hound could have been used aboard the ship for catching rats. A Basset hound’s low centre of gravity would certainly have been an advantage aboard a rolling ship.

It is rather nice to think that we share a common appreciation across the centuries with this subject of the Roman Empire, who in death, was holding and possibly trying to save the life of his beloved Basset Hound.

Cover of the Basset Hound Owners Club newsletter Lowdown
hound history ☞

first published in LOWDOWN

editor Tony Roberts