Animal Biographies in the Iron Age of Wessex: Winnall Down, UK, Revisited

Morris, James orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5756-0362 (2017) Animal Biographies in the Iron Age of Wessex: Winnall Down, UK, Revisited. In: The Bioarchaeology of Ritual and Religion. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 9781785708282

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During the 3rd to the 1st century BC on a small settlement consisting of a handful of roundhouses set in an area of open-country close to arable land, a six-year-old male horse was killed. Following its death the horse was partially dismembered; its lower jaw was removed, its tail and parts of its skin where cut from it, as were its hind legs and left forelimb, all below the knee. The now bloodied horse carcass was dragged, pulled and handled until it lay centrally within a pit on the outskirts of the settlement. The horse carcass was placed on its right-hand side, the remains of its head resting on its chest, its one remaining complete leg extended out away from the body. Once in position, soil was thrown into the pit, until the horse carcass was no longer visible. There the horse lay, the remaining soft tissue being slowly consumed by bacteria from the horses’ own gut and the soil which now enclosed it, until only the bones survived. What remains of the horse was next seen over two millennia later in 1977, when a team of archaeologists led by Peter Fasham excavated the site of Winnall Down, Winchester, ahead of the construction of the M3 motorway. The pit in which the articulated horse remains were discovered was labeled as pit 10161 and the horse bones, excavated from layer 10164, were duly bagged, cleaned, boxed and sent to the Ancient Monuments Laboratory at the University of Southampton. There they were subsequently examined and reported on by Mark Maltby, before finally being archived with Hampshire Museum service, where they remain to this day.

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