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The Ancient Remains Of Horses Used For Pagan Sacrificial Rituals In Russia And Lithuania Revealed That Some Of These Equines Originated From Across The Baltic Sea

Mark J. Barrett - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual horses

During the late medieval period, pagans in the Baltic region of northern Europe acquired horses from nearby Christian nations to use in funerary rituals, indicating that the two communities had a close yet complex relationship.

According to a new study, the remains of horses unearthed from ancient sites in Russia and Lithuania revealed that some of the horses originated from across the Baltic Sea. It disproves previous theories that the Baltic pagans sacrificed horses from solely local breeds.

Among ancient Baltic tribes, sacrificial rituals involving horses were common practice during funeral ceremonies, especially for elite male warriors. The rituals often included gruesome acts done on the horses, such as beheading or live burials.

In some cases, horses were even buried next to humans. The custom ended around the 14th century C.E. when pagans converted to Christianity.

Researchers from Cardiff University used strontium isotope analysis to analyze teeth from 74 different horses that were buried in the cemeteries of eastern Baltic tribes. The cemeteries date back to the 1st and 3rd centuries.

Evidence showed that some of the horses traveled almost 1,000 miles before being sacrificed.

Additionally, about one-third of the horses were female, which confirmed that Baltic pagans did not just sacrifice stallions.

The fact that the horses came from a faraway land seemed to be more important than their gender.

To figure out where the horses came from, the researchers determined what soil, water, and plants the horses were exposed to by examining chemical traces that appeared in the horses’ tooth enamel.

Mark J. Barrett – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual horses

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