Dear Eric,

The problem of the fusion together of lumbar vertebrae is one I am dealing
with in my current research project, comparing riding, traction and
free-living horses. Such phenomena are described in the veterinary
literature. For example:

Townsend, H. G. G. and D. H. Leach (1984). "Relationship between
intervertebral joint morphology and mobility in the equine thoracolumbar
spine." Equine Veterinary Journal 16(5): 461-65.

Stecher, R. M. (1961). "Ankylosing lesions of the spine of the horse."
J.A.V.M.A. 138(5): 248-55.

There doesn't seem to be any concensus about why the vertebrae fuse. And
there probably is no simple answer. Such fusions are not uncommon, as you
can see from the above articles. I have seen fusion between the 5th and 6th
lumbar vertebrae in a 4 year old Chinese chariot horse. I think that the
horse was too young for the fusion to be either age related or probably
even life-style related, since at 4 years it couldn't have been used long
for traction.

Marsha Levine

On Mar 16 2005, Niels Johannsen wrote:

> Hi Erik, If you don't get an on-list reply from Marsha Levine on your
> interesting horse pathology question, I suggest that you contact her
> directly at [log in to unmask] She's done a lot of work on the pathology of
> horses, including vertebrae, which deals with the issues you bring up
> (ontogenetic age, riding exploitation etc.).
> Regards,
> Niels Johannsen
> Dept of Prehistoric Archaeology,
> University of Aarhus
> Denmark
>   ----- Original Message -----
>   From: Erik Filean
>   To: [log in to unmask]
>   Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2005 12:46 AM
>   Subject: [ZOOARCH] Horse age and pathology
>   I have some questions about a horse skeleton that will be starring in
> an upcoming paper by myself and two undergraduates. The bones in question
> come from an approximately 2m deep pit, one of two adjacent features next
> to the southwestern corner of a 2nd-century AD temple from
> Nijmegen-Maasplein, the Netherlands. We have much of the vertebral column
> (C1-C3 and T12 back to the sacrum, both halves of the pelvis, some pieces
> of cranium including many of the upper and lower teeth, a complete left
> hind leg and a left forefoot. There are a number of long bones in the
> adjacent feature that we suspect may be from the same horse.
>   The individual is male, judging by the well-developed lower canines,
> and the estimated withers height of about 153 centimeters makes it one of
> the larger ones I know of from the Roman Netherlands. Based on the tooth
> wear, I am estimating the age at 8 to 11 years. However, I was expecting
> an older animal than that because the 5th and 6th lumbar vertebrae are
> completely fused together.
>   Three questions, then. First: does anybody out there know how typical
> fusion of lumbar vertebrae is in horses of around 10 years of age?
> Second: could such a pathology be produced by either riding or draught
> use? And finally: is it likely that such a pathology would make the horse
> unsuitable for further use (i.e., so that it would be put down, or in
> this case might be chosen for use as a sacrificial animal)?
>   Erik Filean, M.A.
>   Department of Anthropology
>   114 Macbride Hall
>   The University of Iowa
>   Iowa City, Iowa, USA 52242

Dr. Marsha Levine, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3ER, England
phone: +44 (0)1223-339347 / fax: +44 (0)1223-339285