Vanessa Reeves (AS ’15) attended the Bioarchaeological Northeast Regional Conference where she presented research she conducted with Lauren Hosek, Riding into Battle: An Early Medieval Mounted Warrior from the Czech Republic.
The subject of their project is Individual 261a found in an excavation site in an early medieval cemetery in Libice nad Cidinou, in what is now the Czech Republic. Key aspects of Individual 261a, including mortuary artifacts and skeletal markers,are helping to elicit a better understanding of the meaning and practices of being a medieval mounted warrior.
Artifacts found in association with the burial provide some clues to the identity of this individual. The iron spurs and possible draw reins buckle suggest a close association with horses. Several skeletal activity markers point to potential habitual equestrian activity. The blade wounds on the right femur and right innominate indicate that the weapon that produced them came from below, and moved in an inferior to superior direction. These wounds are consistent with a seated cavalryman shielding his left side while attacking with his right arm—leaving his right side exposed to attack from the ground.
In future research, the team hopes to find corresponding horse remains are needed. These remains could help us understand skeletal changes unique to the warhorse as developed over the life course, as well as corroborate the presence of shared combat injuries and the horse’s experience of battle.