2,000-year-old remains of infant and pet dog uncovered in France

Child was buried at beginning of first century surrounded by vases and animal offerings

An overhead view of the burial site in what is now Clermont-Ferrand. Photograph: Denis Gliksman/Inrap

French archaeologists have hailed the “exceptional” discovery of the 2,000-year-old remains of a child buried with animal offerings and what appears to have been a pet dog.

The child, believed to have been around a year old, was interred at the beginning of the first century, during Roman rule, in a wooden coffin 80cm long made with nails and marked with a decorative iron tag.

The coffin was placed in a 2 metre by 1 metre grave and surrounded by around 20 objects including a number of miniature terracotta vases and glass pots thought to have contained oils and medicines, half a pig, three hams and other cuts of pork, and two headless chickens.

The burial tomb was uncovered during a dig at a site at Clermont-Ferrand airport, in central France, to enable a development project to go ahead.

Archaeologists said they also found an ornamental copper pin used to attach a shroud, and a 30cm iron ring attached to a bent metal rod, believed to be a toy. The end of the rod had been slipped between the legs of a puppy placed at the feet of the deceased outside the coffin. The young animal was wearing a collar with bronze decorations and fitted with a small bell.

Archaeologists at the grave. Photograph: Denis Gliksman/Inrap

Those at the dig said they were particularly moved to find a milk tooth belonging to an older child, who may have been a sibling of the infant, placed on a fragment of broken shell.

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