Zita Laffranchi, Stefania Zingale, Umberto Tecchiati, Alfonsina Amato, Valentina Coia, Alice Paladin, Luciano Salzani, Simon R. Thompson, Marzia Bersani, Irene Dori, Sönke Szidat, Sandra Lösch, Jessica Ryan-Despraz, Gabriele Arenz, Albert Zink, Marco Milella, “‘Until death do us part’”. A multidisciplinary study on human- Animal co- burials from the Late Iron Age necropolis of Seminario Vescovile in Verona (Northern Italy, 3rd-1st c. BCE)”, PLoS ONE 19/2 (2024) Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0293434


Animal remains are a common find in prehistoric and protohistoric funerary contexts. While taphonomic and osteological data provide insights about the proximate (depositional) factors responsible for these findings, the ultimate cultural causes leading to this observed mortuary behavior are obscured by the opacity of the archaeological record and the lack of written sources. Here, we apply an interdisciplinary suite of analytical approaches (zooarchaeological, anthropological, archaeological, paleogenetic, and isotopic) to explore the funerary deposition of animal remains and the nature of joint human-animal burials at Seminario Vescovile (Verona, Northern Italy 3rd-1st c. BCE). This context, culturally attributed to the Cenomane culture, features 161 inhumations, of which only 16 included animal remains in the form of full skeletons, isolated skeletal parts, or food offerings. Of these, four are of particular interest as they contain either horses (Equus caballus) or dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)-animals that did not play a dietary role. Analyses show no demographic, dietary, funerary similarities, or genetic relatedness between individuals buried with animals. Isotopic data from two analyzed dogs suggest differing management strategies for these animals, possibly linked to economic and/or ritual factors. Overall, our results point to the unsuitability of simple, straightforward explanations for the observed funerary variability. At the same time, they connect the evidence from Seminario Vescovile with documented Transalpine cultural traditions possibly influenced by local and Roman customs.