What do changes in our beliefs about the death of our pets over the past century say about the relationship we have with our companion animals? In episode 90, Eric Tourigny from Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology discusses his research into historic pet cemeteries and how they reveal our evolving feelings toward these animals, from beloved pets to valued family members with whom we may hope to reunify in an afterlife. His open-access article “Do all dogs go to heaven? Tracking human-animal relationships through the archaeological survey of pet cemeteries,” was published on October 27, 2020 in the journal Antiquity.

Pet Project - Eric Tourigny
Pet Project - Eric Tourigny
Pet Project - Eric TourignyPet Project - Eric Tourigny
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Hosts / Producers

Ryan Watkins &  Doug Leigh

How to Cite

Watkins, R., Leigh, D., & Tourigny, E.. (2020). Parsing Science – Pet Project. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13506681

Music

What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers

Transcript

Eric Tourigny: By recording the epitaphs and the words that people use and the ways that they record the gravestones, you can reconstruct both the relationship that people had with animals during their lifetime, and the relationship that they hope to have – or they expect to have – in an afterlife or after-death.

Ryan Watkins: This is Parsing Science, the unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Ryan Watkins.

Doug Leigh: And I’m Doug Leigh. Today in Episode 90 of Parsing Science, we’ll talk with Eric Tourigny from Newcastle University in the UK about his research into historic pet cemeteries and how they reveal our evolving feelings toward these animals, from beloved pets to valued family members with whom we may hope to reunify in an afterlife. Here is Eric Tourigny.

Tourigny: Hello, my name is Eric Tourigny and I am an archaeologist at Newcastle University. I’m originally from Sudbury, Ontario in Canada. I grew up there went to university there, Laurentian University; studied anthropology. And then I went on to do a Master’s at Memorial University of Newfoundland in archaeology. And I spent three years working as an archaeologist in British Columbia. So moving from center of the country to one coast to then another, before finally moving overseas to the UK, where I did my PhD at the University of Leicester, in archaeology. But this is my first ever gravestone study. I’m trained as a sole zooarchaeologist, which is a combination zoology and archaeology. And then I’m a historical archaeologists, as well as zooarchaeologist, meaning I study the more recent period of history, so I focused on the last 300 years. Which, in archaeological terms … you know, my colleagues think of me as a very modern scholar … or a scholar of a very modern period, rather, because they’re all studying, you know, prehistory or the Romans, or Medieval period, if they’re treading on modernity. And so what I do is I look at animal bones recovered from archaeological sites. Few people realize how animal bones are one of the most common finds and archaeological sites. Usually they’re the remains of past meals that people have had … bone fragments. And what I do is I identify these broken up pieces of bone to the species and I look at, you know, age at death, species present, body portion present. And I can reconstruct not just what people used to eat, but past relationships with animals. So this foray into cemetery studies is quite new for me, but it’s been quite exciting.

Watkins: As so zooarchaeologist, Eric studies, the remnants of animals left in the archaeological record, often found in the waste that humans have discarded after meals, known as faunal remains. But his current study examines fauna that we have created to remember and mourn the loss of our pets: gravestones found in pet cemeteries. To begin our conversation, Doug and I were curious to hear how Eric got interested in the archaeology of where some of us inter our pets.

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