Leiden archaeologist discovers unique ancient horse grave in Sudan

According to Schrader, there are several reasons why the horse grave is such a significant find. First of all, it is rare for the skeleton of a horse to be so well preserved. But, besides that, it is the method of burial that is so remarkable. The archaeological site at Tombos was originally established in around 1450 BC as an Egyptian administrative centre. After the fall of the New Kingdom of Egypt, it became part of the Nubian Kingdom. This empire grew strongly both in size and prestige from around 1000 BC. ‘The fact that this horse was buried intentionally in a human grave and was accompanied by expensive, ritual burial gifts says a lot about the value that this early Nubian community attached to the animal,’ she explained.

Ritual and symbolic value

‘There are other known examples of Nubian kings and queens who had their horses buried with expensive burial attributes, but this grave is at least 150 years older.’ Schrader remarked. This shows that horses had a symbolic and possibly even emotional significance in the Nubian Kingdom that goes beyond simply functional use of the horse. ’I think it’s very special to see that people in this ancient culture cared about their animals as we do today, and that they gave them the same kind of burial as they gave people. The fact that they buried a valuable piece of ironwork with this particular animal also says a lot about how much they valued the horse,’ she says.

The iron bridle piece, found in the grave. It is one of the oldest pieces of iron found in Africa.

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