The study on the Austrian find calls it a "sunken ship of the desert" and an "exotic animal." What exactly was found in a cellar containing centuries-old trash during excavations for a planned shopping center in Tulln: the full skeleton of a 17th-century camel. That a complete skeleton was found is unique, but the presence of camel bones is less so: The Ottoman army used the creatures for transportation and, in some cases, food, and their bones have been found in the region. But the completeness of the skeleton shows "the animal was not killed and then butchered," says archaeozoologist and study author Alfred Galik in a press release. He suggests it may have been traded or left behind by the troops, possibly following their siege of Vienna in 1683, reports the BBC.
The locals "did not exploit this alien animal" for food upon its death, as the Ottoman troops "certainly would have done," write the authors in the study, published in PLOS One. "Exploitation of camel flesh especially in times of need was absolutely necessary," and the regularity with which that happened is "a reason for the scarce preservation of camel finds in general." What researchers were able to glean from this find: The male camel was the hybrid offspring of a female dromedary and male Bactrian camel and probably castrated, which would have made him easier to handle. Crossbreeding, which was not unusual for the time, made for larger animals that "were especially suited for military use," Galik explains. To wit, the study points to bone defects that indicate the animal was harnessed and ridden, reports the BBC. (Oil workers recently made a big find in Siberia.)