Researchers have unearthed a remarkably well-preserved camel skeleton, which they believe comes from the time when the Ottoman forces were present in Vienna in the 17th century.
Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna discovered the skeleton during excavations for a new shopping centre in the town of Tulln, near Vienna, which was besieged by the Ottoman Turks in 1683. According to the researchers, the creature was an adult male and roughly seven years old.
Alfred Galik, paleontologist from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, and the lead author of the study, said, “It is the first complete camel skeleton found in Central Europe and Central European territories under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Camels are alien species in Europe and Austria, [and] the town of Tulln is closely situated to the large river/stream of the Danube.”
According to the researchers, it was not killed in combat, but instead may have been abandoned by the Ottomans as they retreated, or traded with locals who kept it as a curiosity. They also added that it was not a beast of burden but probably a valuable riding animal.
Initially the researchers believed that they had stumbled on the remains of a cow or a horse. However, further examination revealed that it was a camel. The researchers stated that camel was dumped in a refuse pit that also contained ceramic plates, flagons, other animal bones and general household rubbish. Anatomical and DNA tests revealed that the camel was born to a Bactrian camel father and a dromedary mother. According to them, such hybrids were stronger and easier to ride than pure dromedaries or Bactrians.
“The two species are able to interbreed, which results in larger, more powerful and efficient hybrid offspring. Crossbreeding probably took first place in Assyria at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC and this technique continued through antiquity towards modern times. Hybridization was improved as the Arabs went into Iran and Central Asia (the natural range of the Bactrian camel),” added Galik.
The findings were published in the PLOS One journal.