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Biomolecular evidence reveals mares and long-distance imported horses sacrificed by the last pagans in temperate Europe

French, Katherine M., Musiał, Adrianna D., Karczewski, Maciej, Daugnora, Linas, Shiroukhov, Roman, Ropka-Molik, Katarzyna, Baranowski, Tadeusz, Bertašius, Mindaugas, Skvortsov, Konstantin, Szymański, Paweł, Mellin-Wyczółkowska, Izabela, Gręzak, Anna, Wyczółkowski, Dariusz, Pluskowski, Aleksander, Andersen, Morten ORCID:, Millet, Marc-Alban ORCID:, Inglis, Edward and Madgwick, Richard ORCID: 2024. Biomolecular evidence reveals mares and long-distance imported horses sacrificed by the last pagans in temperate Europe. Science Advances 10 , eado3529. 10.1126/sciadv.ado3529

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Horse sacrifice and deposition are enigmatic features of funerary rituals identified across prehistoric Europe that persisted in the eastern Baltic. Genetic and isotopic analysis of horses in Balt cemeteries [1st to 13th centuries CE (Common Era)] dismantle prevailing narratives that locally procured stallions were exclusively selected. Strontium isotope analysis provides direct evidence for long-distance(~300 to 1500 kilometers) maritime transport of Fennoscandian horses to the eastern Baltic in the Late Viking Age (11th to 13th centuries CE). Genetic analysis proves that horses of both sexes were sacrificed with 34% identified as mares. Results transform the understanding of selection criteria, disprove sex-based selection, and elevate prestige value as a more crucial factor. These findings also provide evidence that the continued interaction between pagans and their newly Christianized neighbors sustained the performance of funerary horse sacrifice until the medieval transition. We also present a reference 87Sr/86Sr isoscape for the southeastern Baltic, releasing the potential of future mobility studies in the region.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
ISSN: 2375-2548
Funders: ERC (MSCA Fellowship)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 20 May 2024
Date of Acceptance: 20 April 2024
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 11:37

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