THE Roman military station at Newstead, Melrose, has yielded a very large number of bones of domestic animals and portions of the skeletons of a number of wild animals. The smaller bones found during the excavations were usually at once forwarded to the Natural History Department of the University of Edinburgh, but the remains of horses, oxen, and other large mammals were inspected from time to time at Newstead, only the bones that required special study being sent to Edinburgh.

The majority of the bones were found in pits, wells, or ditches. From the contents of these pits, wells, and ditches, and especially from the relation of the animal remains to coins, altars, pottery, and other objects, the age of which is approximately known, it may be safely assumed that the majority of the bones unearthed belonged to domestic animals in the possession of the auxiliaries who occupied the Roman fort in the vicinity of the Eildon Hills during the latter part of the first or the middle part of the second century of the present era.

It may be mentioned that nearly all the bones are extremely well preserved. Many of the skulls are so complete that exact measurements can be taken of the face and teeth as well as of the cranium. In Neolithic times the long bones were usually broken up for the sake of the marrow, and sometimes the skull cap was fractured that the brain might be removed, but there is little evidence that either marrow or brains formed part of the diet of the Newstead garrison. Whether horses as well as the domestic oxen, sheep, goats, and pigs were used as food it is impossible to say, but seeing that the majority of the horse skulls examined belong to aged animals, it may perhaps be inferred that the practice of eating horseflesh so common in Europe during the Early Stone age was not followed during the earlier centuries of the Christian era. That horses were used as food in the north of Europe at a later period is made sufficiently evident by the Icelandic sagas.


Recent enquiries indicate that in prehistoric times at least four species or races of wild horses inhabited Western Europe.