In search of the ‘great horse’: A zooarchaeological assessment of horses from England (AD 300–1650)

Ameen, Carly, Benkert, Helene, Fraser, Tamsyn, Gordon, Rebecca, Holmes, Matilda, Johnson, Will, Lauritsen, Malene, Maltby, Mark, Rapp, Karina, Townend, Tess, Baker, Gary Paul, Jones, Laura May, Vo Van Qui, Camille, Webley, Robert, Liddiard, Robert, Sykes, Naomi, Creighton, Oliver H., Thomas, Richard and Outram, Alan K. (2021) In search of the ‘great horse’: A zooarchaeological assessment of horses from England (AD 300–1650). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 31 (6). pp. 1247-1257. ISSN 1047-482X

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Popular culture presents a deep-rooted perception of medieval warhorses as massive and powerful mounts, but medieval textual and iconographic evidence remains highly debated. Furthermore, identifying warhorses in the zooarchaeological record is challenging due to both a paucity of horse remains relative to other domesticates, and the tendency of researchers to focus on osteological size, which makes it difficult to reconstruct in-life usage of horses and activity related changes. This paper presents the largest zooarchaeological dataset of English horse bones (n = 1964) from 171 unique archaeological sites dating between AD 300 and 1650. Using this dataset alongside a modern comparative sample of known equids (n = 490), we examine trends in size and shape to explore how the skeletal conformation of horses changed through time and reflected their domestic, elite and military roles. In addition to evidencing the generally small stature of medieval horses relative to both earlier and later periods, we demonstrate the importance of accurately exploring the shape of skeletal elements to describe the morphological characteristics of domestic animals. Furthermore, we highlight the need to examine shape variation in the context of entheseal changes and biomechanics to address questions of functional morphology and detect possible markers of artificial selection on past horses.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Acknowledgements: This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK (AH/S000380/1). Helene Benkert was supported by a University of Exeter College of Humanities PhD Studentship. RT and MH would like to acknowledge the City of London Archaeological Trust and Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) for enabling the analysis of the horse bones from London.
Uncontrolled Keywords: england,biometry,conformation,horse,medieval,warhorse,zooarchaeology,archaeology,anthropology,archaeology ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1200/1204
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2021 01:17
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2023 10:32
DOI: 10.1002/oa.3038


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