Potential Osteoarchaeological Evidence for Riding and the Military Use of Horses at Malbork Castle, Poland

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 Potential Osteoarchaeological Evidence for Riding and the Military Use of Horses at Malbork Castle, Poland

By A. Pluskowski, K. Seetah and M. Maltby

International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Vol.20 (2010)

Abstract: The paper explores interpretations of two sets of pathological horse vertebrae identified during analyses of animal bones from recent excavations at the castle at Malbork in northern Poland (formerly Marienburg in Prussia). One specimen dates to the 18th century and the other to the medieval period. The castle was initially constructed by the Teutonic Order from the late 13th century and occupied by military institutions into the 19th century, and is one of the largest fortified structures in Europe. The pathological vertebrae are attributed to prolonged load-bearing. The problematic interpretation of the remains from the medieval context as belonging to a warhorse is discussed. Warhorses are widely described in contemporary documentary sources which indicate that mares were typically kept in farms on the Order’s estates in late-medieval Prussia, while studs were separately stabled at castles. There is not enough data to confirm the medieval specimen as a warhorse, and both vertebrae may simply represent riding animals.

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Sharan Newman