Horse burial discovered during digging in Paleo Faliro

13 January 2016
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A horse burial containing an unusually well preserved skeleton of a horse, intact even down to the hooves, was among the finds discovered during landscaping works around the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in the Faliro Delta. The find was presented to the Central Archaeological Council in a session held on Tuesday, with members stressing its importance.

“In the Faliro necropolis we have found four complete horse burials, as well as parts of other skeletons, therefore it is not something rare for the area. What is rare and surprised us was the degree of preservation of the specific skeleton, which even has its hooves. For zoo-archaeologists or a university, this find could be an excellent opportunity for a study. Having such a large number of skeletons – four is quite a number! – such a study could reach a number of conclusions on races and the evolution of species. From this point of view, this find is very important,” the head of the West Attica, Piraeus and Islands Ephorate Stella Chrysoulaki explained.

Chrysoulaki is in charge of the dig, which is near the works to dig an artificial canal in the grounds around the centre.

She noted that a horse burial in a graveyard for people occurred now and again, while it was not strange for the Faliro necropolis “where unbelievable things happen.” She noted that it was a cemetery stretching from the archaic era into the Classical era, containing many strange and unusual finds.

One such was the discovery of two skeletons, possibly of a couple, lying with their hands clasped, she said. This indicated that they actually died together, since rigor mortis did not allow other conclusion, she said.

A total of 136 burial sites dating back to the archaic era had been found in the 840 square metre ancient cemetery, including the horse burial and sections of a mass grave, burial urns and other finds. The irregular arrangement of the urns and the improper orientation of the dead are believed to be due to shifts in the ground due to the movement of the coastline, since the site is very near the sea.

The Central Archaeological Council gave the go-ahead to not preserve the ancient structures found, which mostly consisted of holes in the ground, while the skeletons have been removed for study. Proposals were made to display and highlight some of the finds of the region in the cultural centre, such as the horse burial, in order to illustrate the area’s history.

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