Weird, “hybridized” animal skeletons, including a cow-horse and a six-legged sheep litter the bottom of storage pits in an Iron Age site in England, archaeologists have found. One pit even holds the bones of a woman with a slit throat laid on top of animal bones, the scientists said.
The unusual remains belong to an ancient people who lived in southern England from about 400 B.C. until just before the Roman invasion, in A.D. 43, said dig co-director Paul Cheetham, a senior lecturer in archaeology at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom.
It appears that the people dug the pits to store food such as grain near their dwellings. They had “no decent way of refrigerating stuff” back then, and the chalky earth would have provided a cool storage area.
The people would have used each pit for only a year or two before digging a new one. Just before they abandoned a pit, it appears, the people buried a hybridized animal in it, sometimes with the flesh still attached, possibly as a way to honor the gods, Cheetham and his colleagues said. (When skeletons are well connected, or articulated, it indicates that the individual had ligaments and flesh holding it together when it was buried, the researchers said.)
These “hybrids” would have been formed from the body parts of various other animals.