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Telldahl, Ylva (Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies)
Working Animals and Skeletal Lesions: Paleopathology of Cattle and Horse in Iron Age and Medieval Öland, Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies
Publication type:
Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Place of publ.: Stockholm Publisher: Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm Univeristy
Theses and papers in osteoarchaeology, ISSN 1652-4098; 7
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Keywords(en) :
Skeletal lesions, draught use of cattle, sacrificed horses, Iron Age, Middle Ages, Eketorp ringfort, Skedemosse wetland, Öland, sweden
Abstract(en) :

Central to this thesis is the relationship between animal husbandry practices and the associated pathological conditions. Since bone elements from the extremities are subjected to abnormal load when animals are put to hard work this research aims to go further and interpret the prevalence of varying lesions and their connection with animal husbandry by using methods such as osteometric analysis, conventional radiograpic and bone mineral study, as well as incorporated molecular analysis.

The results show that approximately 15% of the cattle extremities at Eketorp ringfort had some kind of skeletal lesion. Cattle metatarsals exhibited a higher frequency of lesions than metacarpals. Skeletal lesions connected to draught use were more frequently recorded on bone elements from male than from female cattle. The anterior phalanges 1-2 had a higher occurence of lesions than the posterior elements. In addition, there was a significant correlation between larger sized animals and lesions. Osteological measurements were also investigated using molecular sex identification. Several measurements in both fragmented and complete metapodials proved useful in separating cows from oxen or bulls.

Conventional radiographics were used on cattle metapodials from Eketorp ringfort to investigate the age structure in slaughtered cattle over 3 years of age. In phase III more male cattle were slaughtered before 8 years of age which could reflect the character of the site. The bone density analysis showed that modern cattle metapodials had higher values than the archaeological specimens which made intepretation of post-depositional changes problematic. The molecular analysis did not show any selected breed or specific type of animal. All but two of the Eketorp cattle belonged to haplogroup Y2 which is common in Southern Europe. The Y1 haplogroup (one in phase II and one in phase III) is common in Western and Northern Europe. The results point to that the Ölandic cattle population was homogeneous over time. The results from thirty-four bone elements show that twenty-five bones belonged to animals with red or light coat coloration and nine of uncertain, possibly partly black colour.


At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Accepted. Paper 4: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Public defence:
2012-12-19, föreläsningssalen, Botaniska institutionen, Lilla Frescativägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
Storå, Jan, Docent (Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory)
Bartosiewicz, László, Professor (The University of Edinburgh, Storbritannien)
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