Accepted Paper:

Who's buried with who? The horse in human burials in Northwest Europe - status symbol, companion, transport or divinity?  


Pamela Cross (University of Bradford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the representation of horses in a cemetery site in Southeast England which suggest a deep-rooted, multifaceted relationship between humans and horses spanning a millennium. The site shows indications of various horse oriented ritual, including feasting, sacrifice and veneration.

Paper long abstract:

In history and zooarchaeology, animals are often mentioned simply in terms of their utility; as food sources, secondary products (such as hair, hide and bone), or as engines of transport. While the horse has at different periods of its relationship with humans occupied all of these roles, for the primary period of its domestication, zooarchaeological analysis suggests that horses functioned in only in a very limited way as food or secondary products. Instead, the horse occupied a special role. This role, as typically represented, was primarily as an engine of war. This is a role supported to some extant by the bioarchaeological evidence. The bodily evidence of horses from the Iron Age to the Early Medieval period appears to be primarily associated with burials or other seemingly ritual contexts. In Northwest Europe, horses associated with human burials predominantly involved men and stallions(probable) and have been interpreted as part of the Germanic Warrior burial tradition, so reflecting the view of horses as aspects of war and symbols of warrior status. While this may be true, it may only express a small part of the meaning of horse burials and what they indicate about human-horse relationships during this period. This presentation investigates an Anglo-Saxon site from the perspective of the horse depositions, considering their relationships with the humans both dead and living of the culture. The site suggests horses played complex, interactive roles in this society which may challenge our ideas of Anglo-Saxon ritual and religion.

Panel P14
Understanding humans understanding horses: constructed and co-created cultures