Dog Skeletons Indicate Medieval Custom of Sacrifice

A discovery of multiple buried dog skeletons in a medieval town outside Budapest suggests that the custom of animal sacrifice was much more widespread in early Christian Hungary than previously thought.

Márta Daróczi-Szabó, who led the team of researchers that unearthed the bones of about 25 dogs in the town of Kana, believes that the residents sacrificed some of the animals to ward off evil.

The village was inhabited from the 10th to the 13th centuries, spanning the introduction of Christianity to Hungary.

The fact that pagan customs such as animal sacrifice persisted for centuries side-by-side with the church is surprising, noted University of Edinburgh archaeozoologist László Bartosiewicz.

Christianity came to dominate the region after the first king of Hungary, Stephen I, began his rule in A.D. 1000. Under his reign, pagan rituals such as animal sacrifices were explicitly banned.

"One wouldn't expect these practices in Christian times," said Bartosiewicz, who did not participate in the new study. "It's exciting to see what was sacred and profane back then."