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A Monumental Horse Burial in the Armenian Highlands

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Here we report on the unprecedented discovery of the complete skeleton of a ritually interred adult stallion with a bronze ring in its mouth. The horse was buried in a unique 15-meters diameter monumental stone-built tomb excavated in the Aghavnatun necropolis located on the southern slopes of Mt. Aragats, in the northern fringes of the Ararat Depression, Republic of Armenia. The tumulus was roughly circular; the horse’s remains were found in situ, in an inner oval-shaped structure. Our methodological procedure included a detailed description of the burial, a taphonomic study of the bones, and meticulous morphometric observations and measurements, and thus we could provide a taxonomic defi nition and an age estimate. Direct radiometric dating of the horse’s skeleton provided a date of 2130±20 BP. The morphological characteristics of the horse, with its tall stature and slender feet, suggest that it was a large individual, similar to the extinct breed of Nisean horse previously known mainly from textual and iconographical sources. The metal ring found in the mouth of the horse suggests that it likely served as a breeding stallion. This discovery presents a unique combination of zooarchaeological evidence for the importance of the horse in the Parthian-Hellenistic worlds, and advances our understanding of the broad social signifi cance of the past breeding of equids in the Armenian Highlands.

About the Authors

A. Nachmias
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa

199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, 3498838

G. Bar-Oz
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa

199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, 3498838

D. Nadel
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa

199 Aba-Hushi Avenue, Haifa, 3498838

I. Petrosyan
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia

Charentsa 15, Yerevan, 0025

B. Gasparyan
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia

Charentsa 15, Yerevan, 0025


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For citation:

Nachmias A., Bar-Oz G., Nadel D., Petrosyan I., Gasparyan B. A Monumental Horse Burial in the Armenian Highlands. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2021;49(3):41-50.

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ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)