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Journal Article

Horse riding and the shape of the acetabulum: Insights from the bioarchaeological analysis of early Hungarian mounted archers (10th century)


Coqueugniot,  Hélène       
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Berthon, W., Tihanyi, B., Kis, L., Révész, L., Coqueugniot, H., Dutour, O., et al. (2019). Horse riding and the shape of the acetabulum: Insights from the bioarchaeological analysis of early Hungarian mounted archers (10th century). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 29(1), 117-126. doi:10.1002/oa.2723.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0003-2ADB-8
Abstract Horse riding is a human activity that has particularly interested bioanthropologists and paleopathologists working on the reconstruction of activities from skeletal changes in ancient populations. However, various sample and methodological limitations, such as the absence of direct evidence connecting the individuals and the activity, result in a lack of confidence regarding what changes should be included in the so-called horse riding syndrome. Focusing on the ovalization of the acetabulum, regularly mentioned in literature, we analyzed comparative samples of presumed riders and non-riders to evaluate its reliability for the identification of horse riding. We relied on a Hungarian Conquest period collection (10th century CE), including several individuals associated with horse riding equipment or horse bones in the graves. Direct and easily repeatable measurements were used to calculate an index of ovalization of the acetabulum (IOA). The index values were compared according to the presence or absence of archaeological deposit. An extra-group of presumed non-riders from the documented Luís Lopes Skeletal Collection (Lisbon) was used for comparison. Early Hungarians buried with horse-related grave goods exhibited a higher overall IOA compared with the ones without and those known not to ride (p = 0.049 in the latter case, with left and right values combined). Our results suggest that the ovalization of the acetabulum may indeed be a promising indicator to be included in a set of markers for horse riding. The analysis of further different types of pathological and nonpathological skeletal changes (e.g., joint and entheseal changes) will contribute to a more reliable identification of horse riders in anthropological collections.