Sunday, November 26, 2023

Forty slaughtered horses mark site of ancient mass sacrifices

Remains of horses and also some cattle bore evidence of ceremonial killings.
Credit: Construyendo Tarteso 2.0

Mass animal sacrifice is sometimes mentioned in ancient Mediterranean literature, such as Homer’s Odyssey, but archaeological evidence of the practice is rare.

María Pilar Iborra Eres at the Valencia Institute of Conservation, Restoration and Research in Spain and her colleagues studied 6,770 bones found at the Iron Age site of Casas del Turuñuelo in southwest Spain1. They found that the bones were buried in three phases in the late fifth century BC and came from animals including 6 cattle and around 40 horses.

Some horses were deposited in pairs. The researchers also found evidence of burnt plant offerings and objects associated with spiritual activities, such as sheep knucklebones used for divination. Together, the artefacts suggest that the animals died as part of ritual sacrifices.

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