Digging the Dog: Anthropology and Archeology in Human-Canine Relationships and Encounters With the Sacred

Tracie A Laliberte, Salve Regina University


Despite the many medical, economical, and intellectual advances that technological proliferation has introduced into modern life, people perceive themselves as feeling acutely alienated from the sacred sphere. This study explores encounters with the sacred that people may experience in their relationships with dogs. Using anthropology and archaeology as a dual disciplinary system, dog artifacts are selectively surveyed, and using key questions regarding humanity and the technological, encounters with the sacred are placed into a more systematic framework, suggesting that they are not random, but rather part of a greater human pattern. The dog is explored both as a device, and as a bridge to the natural world. Five Positive Pathways are presented, rethinking the traditional hierarchy and acting as bridges along the human-canine divide. Canine companions are evaluated as focal things and as part of focal practices that have the capacity to center and engage the human individual with the richness of life. The dog is examined as connecting to the good life, and as a plausible alternative model of God in McFague’s scheme, which challenges the traditional Western view of God. Finally, ancient and contemporary cultural artifacts are identified and explored as providing openings for encounters with the sacred over time, and the human-canine relationship is viewed through the eight critical lenses of Spyker’s matrix, revealing new frontiers between technology and spirituality.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Cultural anthropology|Spirituality

Recommended Citation

Laliberte, Tracie A, "Digging the Dog: Anthropology and Archeology in Human-Canine Relationships and Encounters With the Sacred" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI13864423.