Archaeology: Roman Britain

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 theory 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; while by today’s standard this barely qualifies the animal for being called “horse” and not “pony,” it is on the large side for first century Brittania– which of course could support, though does not prove, either of the provided theories.  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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