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WHY THE COLLIE?
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October 17, 2016
ITALIANO
 
 

The manuscripts that reported the real history of the Spanish "colonization" of the American continent and which were written in the sixteenth century, ended up by chance in Naples in the hands of the mysterious alchemist Raimondo de Sangro, Prince of Sansevero. From here they were stolen, and later found in the Savoia’s archives, where they had been kept hidden for centuries by those who wrote history from the winners' point of view.

However, there are other stories in history with which the winners deal very little. We want to tell one which is almost unknown, and is yet to be revealed and studied in depth.

In the late spring of 1911 Professor Hiram Bingham, teacher of Latin American History at Yale University and archaeologist by chance, went in search of Vilcabamba, the "Lost City", the secret place where the last Incas, who had escaped the Spaniards, had found refuge. When he thought he had reached the goal of his research, he found Machu Picchu instead.  However, Machu Picchu was not Vilcabamba and was not really lost, as Bingham found a settlement of some peasant families on his arrival.

The view that appeared to the members of the expedition left them speechless.

Machu Picchu was built on the top of a rock wall above the bed of the river Urubamba, at a height of 2350 meters; a great city, built, goodness knows how, on the base of the mountain. The buildings, built with surprisingly anti-seismic techniques, were made of large blocks meticulously cut and fitted together with the greatest care and precision, even though they weighed several tons. An unbelievable technology for a people who did not yet know the wheel!

The city probably dated back to the Emperor Pachacutec’s reign (1380-1460), the heyday of the Inca civilization, almost a century before Columbus opened the way to the thugs of the very Catholic Isabella, who had been made the sole beneficiary of the Inca's gold following the providential death of Pope Innocent VIII.

Suspended between earth and sky, Machu Picchu was the perfect sanctuary for a living god who was both generous and loving ; a huge temple dedicated to the Sun and inhabited by his priestesses. It was a place which was almost inaccessible from any part of the earth, but not from the sky above!

Professor Bingham returned again to Machu Picchu in 1912, with more suitable means and after his government had been assured of the cooperation of the Peruvian authorities. It was in that year that he made most of his discoveries.

No hidden treasures were found as he had hoped, but only pieces of pottery and other small everyday objects, together with a lot of mummies, which bore out the hypothesis that this was a place of worship where the priestesses of the Sun God lived, died and were buried. This is confirmed by the fact that among more than 160 mummies found, as many as 140 were remains of females.

The many mysteries which surround this civilization are destined to remain unsolved, as well as the innumerable secrets related to its end. The Incas, in fact, did not know how to write, despite the fact that they used a complicated system of knots of colored ropes made out of alpaca or llama wool.

The most important burial site found by Bingham was a terrace supported by a stone wall and dominated by a huge grey granite rock, which could be reached by two flights of stairs. Its position, overlooking the rest of the city, looks like a place used for religious ceremonies. Some tombs were found under its floor, the most interesting of which was marked with number 26, probably the High Priestess's burial place.

Inside the tomb they found the skeleton of a middle-aged woman, sitting in a contracted position with some small personal objects next to her, and some baked clay pots. A little further on there was the skeleton of her dog.

Among her personal items they found two long pins and some small bronze tweezers, evidence of a frivolous and ancient female flirtatiousness, together with a kind of small bronze spoon with a design representing the head of a bird in flight. There were also some shreds of woollen fabrics, two amphorae with the engravings of human faces, and a pot with a bas-relief sculpture representing a snake. The most interesting object was a concave bronze mirror, probably used to frighten the naive local peasants.

However, it is exactly the dog’s remains that we want to investigate, because in all likelihood they represent something that we would have never expected to find.

Dr. George F. Eaton, osteopath of Bingham’s expedition, so described the dog in his catalogued work of the material found in Matchu Picchu, The Collection of Osteolagical Material from Machu Picchu, in 1916:

"This animal was of a type similar to the Peruvian Inca collie-like dogs, described by Dr. Nehring under the name of Canis Ingae Percurius."

In fact, as the American zoologist Glover M. Allen reported in the 1920, the Swiss naturalist Johann Jakob von Tschudi (1818-1889) was the first to use the Latin name "Canis Ingae" in 1844, and described him as a long rough haired dog, with a small head, a pointed muzzle and small erect triangular ears. Its body was short and strong and it had rather short legs and a long, fully-haired tail. It  was usually ochre yellow-coloured with dark shadings. The skull was rather large compared to its size.

Forty years later Von Tschudi, the German paleontologist Alfred Nehring (1845-1904), reporting on the dog mummies found in the ancient necropolis of Ancon, Perù, in 1885, said that they were of a type similar to the collie and named them "Canis Ingae Pecuarius" ("Long-haired Inca dog " in English and "Perro Inca de pelo largo", in Spanish). This dog was approximately the same size as a small collie, but it was much more proportionate. The coat was thick, shorter on its head and legs, but very abundant on its neck and breast where it formed a kind of mane. It was light yellow, with irregular brown-stained parts. Its fully-haired tail was yellow as well. In most specimens ears seemed to have been clipped.

But what was the origin of this dog that many scholars judged similar to a collie?

When Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, he found a people considered by ethnologists to be of Asian origin and who had arrived in those lands together with animals, including dogs, as has always happened when people migrate. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Inca dogs were the descendants of those Asian dogs, even though things could have gone differently.

In 1955, Dr. Madeleine Friant (1929-2011) of the Laboratoire d'Austerlitz the Muséum de Paris, published a study entitled Du Chien de néolithique Bundsö (Danemark) au Chien des Vikings et au Chien des Incas in Zurich. In this study she compared the relics of various findings which highlighted a significant anatomical similarity between the pre-Columbian Inca dog and the Bundsö dog, a small sheepdog indigenous of the Scandinavian countries, dating back to about 3000 B.C., whose remains had been found in Bundsö, on the Danish island of Als.

According to Dr. Friant, towards the end of the tenth century the Vikings, left Scandinavia and reached Greenland. A century later, descending more and more to the south, they arrived on the island of Newfoundland and from there reached Canada, and finally pushed on as far as the Northern USA. Their animals and dogs travelled on their boats too.

It is likely that the Vikings pushed on further to South America, or more simply that they met the Indian tribes who lived in the same places in North America and that these tribes took the dogs  they had stolen from the Vikings, further south. There, it is possible that these dogs mixed with the dogs of Asian origin who had perhaps colonized those lands previously. In any case the anatomical similarity found by Dr. Friant between the Inca dogs and the one found in Bundsö would prove the descent of the Canis Ingae Pecuarius from the sheepdog of the island of Als.

If this hypothesis is correct, the dog found inside grave number 26 had descended from the Asian dogs, but even more closely from a European sheepdog that arrived in South America from Scandinavia.

On the other hand, going a little further back, we have to remember that towards the end of the eighth century the same Vikings had gone up to the Hebrides, and a century later had invaded the Shetland Islands.

So, before dropping into the New World, the Vikings had definitely met the ancient sheepdogs from whose evolution our breed would be born, including the dogs of the Shetland islands and those of Iona in the Hebrides, which in the seventh century Adamnanus talked about in the Life of St. Columba.

As we have mentioned Iona, we cannot forget the monk Brendan of Clonfert’s journey either which occurred in the sixth century. The chronicles of this journey were collected during the Middle Ages in the Navigatio Sancti Brendani. A friend of the Saints, and being holy he himself, he left Iona with the St. Columban’s blessing in search of the legendary "Tír na nÓg", the Land of Eternal Youth (Terra repromissionis sanctorum). This journey would have taken place almost 1,000 years before Columbus and would have touched the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and North America.

Unfortunately, we lack reliable evidence, but if this story was true we should assume that Brendan had sailed the Vikings’ route towards the New World five centuries before them, and that therefore the collie’s ancestors had arrived in America a long time before Columbus and the Vikings themselves.

These fantastic and fascinating hypotheses are interwoven with few certified scientific data and bring us to love the little dog buried in Machu Picchu, the dog of the Lost City which the Sun god placed as a guard for the secrets of the unhappy Inca people on a mountain close to the sky.

As we are always looking for the roots and history of our breed, we have seen new shoots sprout along the way and old branches fall down, all passionately loved, all strenuously defended. Then, unexpectedly, a new branch sprouts. We do not need scientific evidence to grasp the link with what is dearest to us. So, the small collie of the Lost City represents for us the old friend with whom to follow the last part of the way, our guide to the "Land of Eternal Youth".

In 1983 Machu Picchu was recognized a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen Glover M. (1920) Dogs of American Aborigines

Bingham Hiram (1913) The discovery of Machu Picchu

Bingham Hiram (1948) Lost City of the Incas

Domenici Davide e Viviano (2003) I nodi segreti degli Incas

Eaton George F. (1916) The Collection of Osteological Material from Machu Picchu

Friant M., Reichlen H. (1950) Deux chiens pré-hispaniques du désert d’Atacama. Recherches anatomiques sur le chien des Incas

Friant Madeleine (1955) Du Chien néolithique de Bundsö (Danemark) au Chien des Vikings et au Chien des Incas

Meinking Mary (2015) Machu Picchu

Mivart George Jackson (1890) A Monograph of the Canidae

O'Donoghue Denis (1895) St. Brendan the Voyager in Story and Legend