Subject: Re: Indian horses From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Yuri Kuchinsky) Date: 1997/09/23 Message-ID: <email@example.com> Newsgroups: sci.archaeology,rec.equestrian,soc.history,alt.native [This is a repost of Hu's old post dealing with that very interesting horse skull found in Wisconsin, since a number of people expressed interest in it. Yuri.] Subject: Pre-Columbian Horses? From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Hu McCulloch) Date: 1997/09/04 Message-Id: <mcculloch.2.119.340EDB0B@osu.edu> Newsgroups: sci.archaeology email@example.com (ELurio) writes: > .... where is the evidence of pre-1500, post-pleistocene horses? > Physical evidence only, please. > eric l. In the Milwaukee Public Museum there is the skull of a mustang excavated in 1936 by W.C. McKern from a mound on Spencer Lake in NW Wisconsin (47BT2), and vouched for by McKern in the _Wisconsin Archaeologist_, Vol. 45, #2 (June 1964), pp. 118-120. Says McKern , "there remains no reasonable question as to the legitimacy of the horse skull that we found as a burial association placed in the mound by its builders." C-14 dates on stuff from the mound are all pre-Columbian: AD 890 +/- 65 AD 760 +/- 60 AD 750 +/- 60 AD 900 +/- 50 (---U. Wis. in _RadioCarbon_ vol. 9 (1967), pp. 530, 538-9.) AD 580 +/- 110 AD 530 +/- 150 AD 490 +/- 120 AD 1100 +/- 100 (---U. Mich. in _RadioCarbon_ Vol. 10 (1968), pp. 61, 72-73.) (Stuff is a technical term including charcoal, charred wood, and charred bone. I think these dates are uncalibrated, but that would not qualitatively change them.) So the record, such as it is, is that the skull was associated with the burial mound, and the mound was pre-Columbian. At present one can only conclude that the horse was pre-Columbian. The plot is admittedly complicated by an anonymous confession received by Robt. Ritzenthaler, then of the Milwaukee Public Museum, from a "Mr P" who claimed that as a lad he and a friend dug into a mound on Spencer Lake, and finding nothing of interest, inserted a horse skull as a prank before backfilling. (ibid, pp. 115-123.) However, Mr. P's mound was on the West shore, whereas 47BT2 was on the North shore of the lake. It was one of a group, whereas 47BT2 is an isolated mound. 47BT2 had been dug into, but McKern is certain that his skull was "approximately fifteen feet from the nearest wall of the pit excavation." Mr. P found no artifacts in his mound, yet the backfilled pit in 47BT2 was full of artifact debris. Furthermore, Mr. P's skull had no mandible (lower jaw), whereas McKern's skull had the mandible in place. It is clear enough from this that there were two mounds on different parts of Spencer Lake, and two horse skulls. It is particularly unlikely that Mr. P's skull could have grown a new mandible in the time it was in the earth! Nevertheless, Ritzenthaler, who also happened to be the editor of the series in which McKern's report on the excavation was to appear, took it upon himself to expunge all mention of the skull from the official report: W.C. McKern, _The Clam River Focus_ Milwaukee Public Museum Publications in Anthropology #9, 1963. In short, McKern, who did the digging, says it was a legitimate burial association of the mound, whereas Ritzenthaler, who was not even present, undertook to censor his data. The issue could of course be settled by a C-14 date on the skull. In 1996, Pat Fazzio, an historian from Laramie Wyoming, asked Dr. Ann McMullen of the Museum for such a C-14 date, but so far as I know no action has been taken on her request. The 1967-68 dates were ostensibly performed in order to establish that the skull was post-Columbian, but through some oversight the skull itself was not dated! (The one piece of charred bone doesn't appear to be from the skull.) But absent such a date, the record as it stands is that this is a pre-Columbian horse. The late Henriette Mertz raised a rucus over the Spencer Lake horse skull in the _Canadian Journal of Anthropology_, circa 1976, but I can't find the reference. She had learned of the above C-14 dates, but was unaware that they had been described in greater detail in _Radiocarbon_. -- Hu McCulloch Econ Dept. Ohio State U firstname.lastname@example.org _________________________________________________________________Click here to go one level up in the directory.