Thursday, April 2, 2015

Archaeology: Roman Britain

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     A complete horse skeleton, estimated to date to the first century CE, has been found at a site in England. Initial suppositions about this find strike me as not quite right, though I eagerly await results. The first supposition is that it might have been "someone's prize thoroughbred;" I can only hope the speaker meant that it might have been someones prized mount of somewhat restricted breeding, as the Thoroughbred did not exist, even as a breed conceptualized in its infancy, until the 16th century. The other is that this horse may have worked in the quarries, but this too seemed a little strange; the harnesses used by the Romans were woefully inefficient for horses. I had to check with a couple classicist friends, but Romans were not in the habit of using horses for haulage. Brittania was a relative "backwater"to the the budding Empire, though, so perhaps this horse marked just how different life on the distant island was. Most startling to me is the initial estimate of a live height of 1.5 meters, or about 14.3 hands, which would have been largeish for a Roman horse, and positively enormous for a horse from the isles. I do hope the find is examined both for accurate and detailed measurements, and for signs of pathologies that may indicate its job while alive.

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