17th century Austrian cellar has tell evidence of Ottoman ‘war camel’ near Vienna

17th century Austrian cellar has tell evidence of Ottoman ‘war camel’ near Vienna

A complete skeleton of a camel has been dug up from an Austrian cellar of 17th century and the skeleton has tell tale signs of the valuable riding animal that formed part of the Ottoman army.

It is assumed that the camel was either traded or left behind in Tulin town in the aftermath of the Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1683.

DNA analysis reveals that the beast was a Bactrian dromedary hybrid that was popular in the Ottoman army. This is also the first time that an intact camel skeleton has been found in Central Europe. The bone defects on the skeleton indicate that the animal was ridden and possibly wore a harness.

The journal PLOS One has reported this find as one that emerged from an archaeological digging that was carried out in preparation for a new shopping center in the town.

Researchers found this well preserved skeleton in the midst of ancient domestic rubbish, plates and pans and flagons that were filled into a cellar.

Alfred Galik, the first author said that it took some guesses before realizing that his team had stumbled upon an unusual find.

First I saw the mandible, which looked a bit like a strange-shaped cattle; then I saw the cervical vertebrae, which looked like horse, Dr Galik told the BBC.

Finally, the long bones and metapodials [foot bones] identified the skeleton as a camel.

Although many other partial skeletons were discovered and reported earlier including many from the Roman era, finding the skeleton of an entire camel was for the first time in central Europe. The shape of the skull and other genetic tests confirmed that the camel was born to a two-humped Bactrian father and one humped dromedary mother.

Such cross-breeding was not unusual at the time, said Dr Galik. Hybrids were easier to handle, more enduring, and larger than their parents. These animals were especially suited for military use.

Battle of Vienna dating back to 1683 is perhaps remembered more for the 20,000 strong cavalry charge under the leadership of Austrians Polish allies. The invading forces of Ottoman also used horses as well as camels for fighting as well transportation.

The skeleton evidences symmetrical wear and tear that is consistent with being ridden, but it does not show the evidence of strain that should be expected for a beast of burden. Dr.Galik added that this was perhaps a valuable animal that was well cared for.

Another interesting factor is that the skeleton was found inside the town that was surrounded but never captured by Ottoman. Researchers believe that the animal might have been left behind or traded by the invaders and after the Vienna war was lost, the townsfolk must have decided to keep it as a matter of curiosity.

In the normal course, the army should have butchered and eaten the animal and that practice is possibly responsible for the scarcity of similar intact specimens in the region.

17th century Austrian cellar has tell evidence of Ottoman ‘war camel’ near Vienna

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