Horse sacrifice and butchery in Bronze Age Mongolia

L’article dans la revue

William TAYLOR, Marcello FANTONI, Charlotte MARCHINA, Sébastien Lepetz, Jamsranjav BAYARSAIKHAN, Jean-Luc HOULE, Victoria PHAM, William FITZHUGH, « Horse sacrifice and butchery in Bronze Age Mongolia », Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, vol. 31, juin 2020

Recent research traces the origins of Mongolian horse herding and riding as far as the late Bronze Age Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Complex (DSKC), a tradition known from its standing stones, burials, and monuments. DSKC monument sites are often found with large numbers of partial (“head and hoof”) horse burials buried at the monument periphery. However, despite the ubiquity of ritual horse inhumations, key questions remain regarding the process and significance of DSKC horse ritual. Here, we present detailed taphonomic, osteological, and cut-mark analysis of 21 individual horse burials from deer stones and khirigsuur mounds across Mongolia. Our results indicate a diversity of slaughter practices among horses at DSK sites, including blunt trauma to the forehead region with small and large implements and possibly throat-slitting. While the head, cervical vertebrae, and phalanges are the most commonly recovered elements from these sites, element presence and absence indicates the occasional inclusion of the tail and limb elements, which may be explained by the presence of connecting skin and soft tissue (e.g. hide). Most significantly, cut mark analysis demonstrates that elements found in DSK features were not only disarticulated, but were often stripped of meat – including vertebral muscle and tongue removal. These results indicate that the spread of horse-based ritual practices in Mongolia was coupled with the removal (and likely consumption) of horse meat, suggesting that, beyond their role in transportation, the role of horses as livestock was both socially and economically significant during the late second millennium BCE. (source : Journal of Archaeological Science)

Charlotte Marchina est maître de conférence et anthropologue à l’Inalco