Full horse skeleton unearthed at historic Virginia site

An archaeologist works to uncover the historic skeleton.
An archaeologist works to uncover the historic skeleton. © Mary Anna Richardson/Preservation Virginia

Archaeologists have unearthed the complete skeleton of a horse at Historic Jamestowne, the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America.

The skeleton is believed to date back to about the latter half of the 1600s, and is believed to be the first complete skeletal remains of an animal discovered at the historic site in Virginia in two decades of work.

Archaeological dig at Historic Jamestowne.
Archaeological dig at Historic Jamestowne. © Sarah Stierch

The remains were unearthed by archaeologists only metres from where the 1639 church tower was located, in what was a shallow ditch at the time of the Jamestown occupation.

Horses remains have been found at the site before. The remains showed signs of having been butchered, and were most likely eaten during the period of starvation at the fort around 1609-1610.

The latest find, just a foot or so below the surface, represent the first fully intact horse remains at the site.

Dr Bill Kelso, the director of archaeological research and interpretation, said the bones would be removed, analysed and preserved.

Researchers hope to gain insight into how the fully grown horse died. One suggestion is that it was led into the ditch to be euthanized, with plans to cover it over afterwards.

A photogallery of the remains can be viewed here.


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