Bones in an ancient pyramid north of what is now Mexico City offer a window into the past of a culture long-since gone.
And researchers say the fossils show evidence of wolf-dog crossbreeding meant to be a symbol of the city’s warriors.
Mexican researchers said Wednesday they have identified jaw bones found in the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacán. Coyotes were also thrown into the mix.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History said the jaw bones were found during excavations in 2004 and are the first physical evidence of what appears to be intentional crossbreeding in ancient Mexican cultures.
The jaw bones were found in a warrior's burial at a Teotihuacán pyramid. Anthropological studies performed at Mexico's National Autonomous University indicate the animal was a wolf-dog.
"In oral traditions and old chronicles, dog-like animals appear with symbols of power or divinity," said institute spokesman Francisco De Anda. "But we did not have skeletal evidence ... this is the first time we have proof."
Wolf or dog-like creatures appear in paintings at Teotihuacán, but had long been thought to be depictions of coyotes, which also inhabit the region. But archaeologists are now reevaluating that interpretation.
Several jaw bones were made into a sort of decorative garment found on the warrior's skeleton at the 2,000-year-old site north of Mexico City.
The wolf-dog apparently served as a symbol of strength and power.
Dogs and wolves are very similar genetically, and there has been evidence of ancient remains that may show natural crossbreeding.
But archaeologist Raúl Valadez said the animal was the result of intentional selection. While the inhabitants of Teotihuacán had dogs, wolves and coyotes, they almost exclusively used wolf-dog bones in the ceremonial arrangement.
Of the bones found, eight were wolf-dog, three were dogs and two were crosses of coyotes and wolf-dogs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.