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Paleopathological changes in an Early Iron Age horse skeleton from the Central Balkans, Serbia

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During the rescue archaeological excavation in 2012 at site Ranutovac-Meanište near Vranje, southern Serbia, remains of the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt B-C) settlement were revealed. In one of the settlement pit a complete horse skeleton was
  Poster Paleopathological changes in an Early Iron Agehorse skeleton from the Central Balkans, Serbia Jelena Bulatović¹, Aleksandar Bulatović², Nemanja Marković¹ ¹Laboratory for Bioarcheology, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia²Institute of Archaeology, Belgrade, Serbia Background Acknowledgment ReferencesMaterials and methodsResults and discussion Figure 2. Horse skeleton in situ. Figure 3. – 1. Bowl with inverted oblique channeled or facetted rims; 2. Sshaped beaker; 3. Pear shaped beaker; 4. Clay coil.Figure 1. Map of Serbia (Central Balkans) with location of the site Ranutovac. Horse skeleton belong to mare, between 4 and 5 years of age, with anaverage withers height 134.7 cm. The skeletal abnormalities appeared onlower jaw, spinal column, pelvis, right thigh bone, shinbones, rightcalcaneus, metapodial bones, anterior and posterior proximal phalanges(fig.4)Observed abnormal changes in the mandible (fig.5) may be considered aspossible evidence for bitting. The enamel exposure in the form of a narrowband on the anterior surface of both lower second premolars is noted.Bendrey (2007a) argues that such bands of enamel exposure derive from abit coming into contact with the front edge of lower second premolars andwearing away a strip of cementum to expose the enamel beneath. Faintchanges to the diastema of mandible, involving roughening of the bonewere also observed, score 1 according to Bendrey (2007a). However, giventhat these changes in mandible are very slightly expressed some causesother than biting cannot be ruled out.Several pathological changes are recorded in the spinal column,particularly in thoracic vertebrae Th10–16, and lumbar vertebrae L1.Ankylosis between the joints of the zygapophyses ( articularis processum articularum  ) was observed on the right side between vertebrae Th10 andTh11 (score 1 ( spondylosis ankylopoetica ) according to Bartosiewicz andBartosiewicz (2002, 821)). Intensive bone proliferation ( osteophytes  ) inventral side of vertebral bodies from Th12 to Th16 was also visible (fig.6).These changes were more marked on the right side. Observed changes( spondylosis chronica deformans  ) can be classified as score 2 accordingto Bartosiewicz and Bartosiewicz (2002, 821). The possible cause ofspondylosis in the horse was intensive labor, such as riding and traction(Bartosiewitz and Bartosiewitz 2002; Plusowski et al. 2008; Janeczek et al.2012). The bone proliferation with exostoses in the lateral surface bellowthe rib head was observed in the eleventh right rib.The arthritic changes in head of the right thigh bone together with exostosesof the surface around  trochanteris majoris   (fig.7) indicate chronicinflammation of the joints ( osteoartritis  ). Interestingly enough, rightacetabulum has no signs of arthritis. Exostoses are visible at the edge ofthe ischiatic spina. Muscle attachments to the caudal side of the middle ofthe shaft of both shinbones are very robust, but they are much moreprominent in the right one (fig.8). Articular depression is observed in theright calcaneus. Similar articular depression noticed in cattle metapodialsand phalanges are interpreted as a result of osteochondrosis, heredityand/or environmental factors (Thomas and Johannsen 2011).Possible bitting damages and pathological changes in the extremities mayresult from the use of horse for riding and traction. However, pathologicalchanges in the spinal column, especially ankylosis of the right side betweenTh10 and Th11 and proliferative changes in the eleventh right rib are moresuggestive of horse riding. Most likely unsuitable pad saddle, probably similarin shape to the saddles of the Iron Age kurgans of the Altai (Levine et al.2000), was used through which the pressure of the rider’s weight was notequally distributed on horse spine.Pathological changes in the right hind leg ( osteoartritis  , prominent muscleattachments of shinbone, articular depression in calcaneus) indicate lowermobility (lameness) in relation to the other legs, which lasted until the deathof the individual. Conclusion The observed pathological changes in postcranial skeleton caused by chronicinflammatory processes of ligaments and cartilages are due to intensive use ofa horse for riding. Horses with such pathological changes had been riddenbefore the body growth was completed (Janeczek et al. 2012). Generalpathological condition and the right hind limb lameness indicate inappropriateutilization of the horse. Unsuitable saddle, intensive and inadequate useinfluenced the deceases and accelerated physiological aging of the horse. Bartosiewicz L, Bartosiewicz G. 2002. "Bamboo spine" in a Migration Period horse from Hungary.  Journal of Archaeological Science   29: 819–830.Bendrey R. 2007a. New methods for the identification of evidence for bitting on horse remains from archaeological sites.  Journal of Archaeological Science   34: 1036–1050.Bendrey R. 2007b. Ossification of the interosseous ligaments between the metapodials in horses: a new recording methodology andpreliminary study.  International Journal of Osteoarchaeology   17: 207–213.Cornevin C, Lesbre X. 1894.  Traité de l’age des animaux domestiques: d’après les dents et les productions épidermiques  . Librairie J.-B.Baillière et Fils: Paris.Daugnora L, Thomas R. 2005. Horse burials from Middle Lithuania: a paleopatological investigation. In  Diet and Health in Past Animal Population. Current Research and Future Directions.  Davies J, Fabiš M, Mainland I, Richards M, Thomas R (eds.). Oxbow: Oxford, 68–74.Janeczek M, Chrószcz A, Onar V, Henklewski R, Pikalski J, Duma P, Czerski A, Calkosinski I. 2012. Anatomical and biomechanical aspectsof the horse spine: the interpretation of vertebral fusion in a Medieval horse from Wroclaw (Poland).  International Journal of Osteoarchaeology   22.Johnstone CJ. 2004.  A Biometric Study of Equids in the Roman World  . Unpublished PhD thesis, University of York, Department ofArchaeology, York.Levine M, Bailey G, Whitwell K, Jeffcott L. 2000.  Palaeopathology and horse domestication: the case of some Iron Age horses from the Altai Mountains, Siberia.  In  Human Ecodynamics and Environmental Archaeology.  Bailey G, Charles R, Winder N (eds.). Oxbow: Oxford, 123  ̶ 133.Rooney J. 1997. Equid paleopathology.  Journal of Equine Veterinary Science   8: 430–46.Sisson S, Grossman J. 1975.  Anatomy of the Domestic Animals  . W.B. Saunders: Philadelphia.Plusowski A, Seetah K, Maltby M. 2010. Potential osteoarchaeological evidence for riding and the military use of horses at Malbork Castle,Poland.  International Journal of Osteoarchaeology   20: 335–343.Thomas R, Johannsen N. 2011. Articular depression in domestic cattle phalanges and their archaeological relevance.  International Journal of Paleopathology   1: 43–54.Thompson K. 2007. Bones and joints. In  Jubb, Kennedy and Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals.  Grant M (ed.). Elsevier Ltd, 2–180. This research is a part of the projects  “Bioarchaeology of Ancient Europe – humans, animals and plants in the prehistory of Serbia”,  no. III 47001, and  “Archaeology of Serbia: cultural identity,integrational factors, technological processes and the role of the central Balkans in the development of the European prehistory”,  no. OI 177020, funded by the Ministry of Education,Science and Tehnological Development of the Republic of Serbia. We would like to thank Dr RobinBendrey, CNRS and Muséum national d’Historire naturelle, France, for his kind scientific adviceduring the analysis of horse skeleton. We also thank our colleagues from the Laboratory forBioarchaeology, Belgrade, for their valuable comments and support. Analysis of the complete horse skeleton discovered in the pit wasundertaken on the macroscopic level. Sex identification was achievedusing the morphology of the pelvis (Sisson and Grossman 1975), althoughaccount was also taken of the presence of small vestigial canines. Theage of the animal was estimated according to lower incisor wear(Cornevin and Lesbre 1894). Withers height was calculated afterJohnstone (2004, 153). The enamel exposure on the anterior edge of thelower second premolars and changes to the diastema of mandible areinterpreted as possible damage caused by bitting, following Bendrey(2007a). The pathological changes observed in the spine were classifiedaccording to Bartosiewicz and Bartosiewicz (2002). The ossification of theinterosseous ligaments between the metapodials was quantified using thescoring system of Bendrey (2007b).The site Ranutovac (fig.1) is located 5 km north of town Vranje in southernSerbia. During the rescue archaeological excavation in 2012, necropolisdated back to the Early Bronze Age, as well as Early Iron Age settlementwere revealed. In one of the settlement pit a complete horse skeleton wasdiscovered (fig.2). The pit was approximately circular in shape; its depthwas 1.8 m and bottom diameter 2.1 m. This waste pit contained fragmentsof pottery, daub and charcoal. The horse skeleton was lying on its left sidewith extended limbs and head bent toward the chest, at a relative depth of1 m. The pit dated by the stylistic-typological characteristic of the ceramicfinds (fig.3) is determined to Hallstatt B following the central Europeanperiodization. Figure 4. Distribution of pathological changes in horse skeleton. Figure 5. Mandible with possible bitting damages.Figure 6. Right side of thoracic vertebrae (Th10-Th16) with spondylosis   changes.Figure 7. Proximal part of the right thigh bone with osteoartritis  . Figure 8. Prominent muscle attachmentsin shinbones (caudal view). The ossification of the interosseous ligaments between the metapodialswas observed. Proliferative new bone formation has bridged theinteresseous border between metacarpal II and metacarpal III (score 2after Bendrey (2007b)), while metacarpal IV is in initial phase of ligamentossification (score 1b after Bendrey (2007b)) (fig.10). The ossification ofthe interosseous ligaments between the metatarsals is expressed in thesame way. The pathological condition  desmoiditis ossificans ligamentum interosseum   is result of chronic inflammation of the interosseousligaments caused by trauma incurred during intense use of horses forriding or/and traction (Daugnara and Thomas 2002, 69).The anterior and posterior proximal phalanges exhibit bilateralosteophytosis of the distal abaxial borders in the insertion of the collateralligaments of the interphalangeal joint. According to Rooney (1997) this isa naturally occurring condition, while Thompson (2007) suggests thatchronic ossifying periostitis can develop as a result of a reaction totrauma, so it has local and non-infectious character. Figure 9. Right calcaneus witharticular depression.Figure 10. Metacarpals with different stagesof ossification of interosseous ligaments. Institute of Archaeology Belgrade The Fifth International Conference of the ICAZ Animal Paleopathology Working Group, Stockholm, 31 May – 2 June 2013
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