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THE HORSE

Translated by Kirsty Bennett, and haiducul


Throughout archaeological sites the horse appears less often than other species of animals yet this does not reflect its importance. Some of the horse remains that have been discovered have been found in the graves of the nobility or just buried in settlements or cemeteries. From this we can observe that they had not only an economical importance but also a religious and mystical status. The remains of these horses are well preserved and we can draw a number of conclusions from the bones of the Geto-Dacian horses.
From the start we have to say that the horses are part of the eastern group of the horses of the Iron Age from Europe. They are medium sized (which means taller than the western group of horses) and also the skull is relatively shorter than the skull of the western horses.
From the archeological data we can surmise that the Geto-Dacian horses are descended from the eastern group of the horses of the European Iron Age. They are taller than western European horses and the skull is relatively shorter than the skull of the western horses.
In the Geto-Dacian world we can distinguish two groups of horses. On the one side there are ordinary horses with a primitive look, having a relatively large head but with a skull and muzzle of moderate length. Their body is massive and the legs are well proportioned but in general their size is relatively small. They were probably used as work-horses, possibly even for riding. They were not usually buried but there have been a few exceptions. In a grave in Agighiol, a horse of this type was found. It had a hide of 132.4cm until the withers. In Pereteu another was found of similar size; 131.6cm. Also a lot of the horses from the grave from In Zimnicea, a burial of a large number of the same type was found, along with a single horse in a grave in Catunu.
The other type of horse were considered to be superior, used exclusively by the tribal aristocracy for riding, standing at a height of around 140cm or even higher. This breed possessed smaller heads than the work-horses, longer necks and very long legs. These types of horses are usually buried in graves, but we can also find pieces of bones in the remains of the household rubbish. These superior horses have mainly been found in Zimnicea, Catunu and Agighiol.
Those two classes of horses are not really exclusive. There are other examples that are in-between the two classes. The superior horses were at the top of the scale. With this type of horses there are two issues which we should consider. The first one is their origin. We should consider the views of A. Bolomey, that they aren’t imported from the Scythians from the northern region because they could easily descend from the local horses that were living in this area at the end of the Bronze Age. The second issur is that S. Bokony shows that Phillip II, Alexander, the Greek kingdoms and then Rome imported special Scythian horses for improving their cavalry. We believe that the sources aren’t entirely exact and the horses were Geto-Dacian horses, who were closer and with whom all parties had strong economical contacts.
From the archaeological records of these buried horses we can deduce, with almost complete certainty that the examples from Zimnicea and Catunu were sacrificed and buried to fulfill a ritual. There are two types of ritual burial. On one hand the animals were buried together whilst on the other the horses from which they put in the grave only horses and the end of the legs. In Zimnicea and Catunu we found examples of both type of rituals. From the remains recovered from Agighiol it seems that two or three complete horses were buried there. We believe that there were actually three horses and as in the grave from Cugir they probably burned and buried complete horses.
Finally we should consider the economical aspect of the horses. They were used for utilitarian purposes as we can see from the marks on the teeth. The horse is also a source of food for the human population and because of its large size it is an important source of meat. One horse standing 130cm high could produce 300kg of meat, as much meat as a bull, 5 pigs, 10 sheep or even 10 goats. This is why the frequency of archeological finds of certain species is not a good way to establish their economical role.
There are only two examples of the donkey found in Zimnicea. Because it was found only at the Danube it means it wasn’t well known by the Geto-Dacians in La Tene age. It penetrated to the north very slowly coming probably from the south of the Danube and from the Greek cities near the Black Sea where it was relatively abandoned in the 6th century BC.