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The Origins of Domestic Horses in North-west Europe: new Direct Dates on the Horses of Newgrange, Ireland

  • Robin Bendrey (a1), Nick Thorpe (a2), Alan Outram (a3) and Louise H. van Wijngaarden-Bakker (a4)

This paper presents direct radiocarbon measurements on horse skeletal remains from the Beaker period settlement at the site of Newgrange in Ireland, finds which have previously been argued as the earliest domestic horses in Ireland. The new determinations date the horse remains to the Irish Iron Age and shed important new light on the introduction of domestic horses to Ireland and to north-west Europe more generally. Although the new dates undermine the idea for the introduction of horses as part of a ‘Beaker package’, the early use of horse is not well defined archaeologically or chronologically and the earliest use of domestic horses in Ireland and Britain is still uncertain. This paper also identifies evidence for heavy bitting damage on the Iron Age Newgrange horse teeth and presents some possible parallels between the evidence from Newgrange and that at Tara, which has been previously linked with kingship rituals

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