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Investigating the Methods and Practice of Ritual Horse Sacrifice and Butchery in Late Bronze Age Mongolia.

Author(s): Marcello Fantoni ; William Taylor

Year: 2017

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Although archaeological data link late Bronze Age cultures with the emergence of mobile herding in eastern Eurasia, the practices and social function of domestic horse sacrifice remain poorly understood. We investigated slaughter and butchery evidence from 18 sacrificial horse burials from the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur (DSK) Complex, a late Bronze Age Mongolian culture linked with the first emergence of horse herding and transport in the eastern Steppe. Using digital microscopy, we analyzed each specimen at 20x and 200x magnification, documenting visible cut marks and perimortem fractures. Despite taphonomic variability, we identified consistent placement of cutmarks on the atlas, axis, and rear of the skull related to disarticulation, as well as the dorsal vertebral surfaces and the ventral skull, which may indicate the removal of meat prior to burial. Finally, we noted punctures to the brain case or orbital region of some horses, consistent with use of a small axe similar to Iron Age horse burials. Such wounds were not regularly observed on all sample horses, and were absent from several otherwise intact skulls, indicating variability in slaughter methods. Results support previous analyses linking late Bronze Age ritual sacrifice to feasting, and suggest continuity between DSK and subsequent equestrian nomadic cultures.

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Investigating the Methods and Practice of Ritual Horse Sacrifice and Butchery in Late Bronze Age Mongolia.. Marcello Fantoni, William Taylor. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431929)


Spatial Coverage

min long: 66.885; min lat: -8.928 ; max long: 147.568; max lat: 54.059 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16766

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America