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New project in the pipeline! Running wild: The ecology of Denmark’s wild horses in the mid-Holocene

During the late Atlantic, c. 7000 BP, prior to the expansion of agriculture, wild horses re-populated large parts of northern and north-western continental Europe after several millennia of rarity. Traditionally, the period is thought to have been characterized by dense tree cover, and the re-population by a species conventionally thought to be a steppe animal in this kind of landscape is thus somewhat of a puzzle.

Konik horses used in rewilding project in the Aarhus area. Photo: Jens-Christian Svenning
Konik horses used in rewilding project in the Aarhus area. Photo: Jens-Christian Svenning

Herbivorous animals can be divided into grazers, mixed feeders and browsers based on their preferred diet. As grasses are particularly abrasive, the different dietary regimes results in different types of tooth wear. Through isotope analyses and detailed studies of tooth wear on horse teeth dated to the late Atlantic and the early sub-Boral period, c. 7000-4500 BP  from present-day Denmark it should thus be possible to determine the extent of the primeval forest cover at the transition from hunter-fisher-gatherers to farmers around 6000 BP and the plasticity of the wild horse.

The project is a collaboration between Center for Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World (BIOCHANGE) and the Department of Archaeological Science and Conservation, Moesgaard Museum as part of BIOCHANGE director Jens-Christian Svenning’s VILLUM Investigator project funded by VILLUM FONDEN and runs from autumn 2021 until the end of 2022.


Further information:

Jens-Christian Svenning. Professor and center director at BIOCHANGE, Department of Biology, Aarhus University. Mail: svenning@bio.au.dk; mobile: +4528992304