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Article

The Early Modern Silesian Gallows (15th–19th Century) as an Example of Stray Animals Utilization before the Rise of Institutional Veterinary Care

1
Division of Animal Anatomy, Department of Biostructure and Animal Physiology, Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences, ul. Kożuchowska 1, 51-631 Wrocław, Poland
2
Institute of Archaeology, Faculty of Historical and Pedagogical Sciences, University of Wrocław, ul. Szewska 48, 50-139 Wrocław, Poland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Mietje Germonpré
Animals 2021, 11(5), 1210; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051210
Received: 15 March 2021 / Revised: 20 April 2021 / Accepted: 20 April 2021 / Published: 22 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human-Animal-Environment Relationship in the Past)
The history of veterinary medicine starts from ancient times. The lack of professional veterinarian education and institutional veterinary services from the Middle Ages to modernity resulted in, partially, a basic realization of these duties by blacksmiths, herders, butcher guilds, municipal doctors, and executioners. Therefore, the archaeological excavations carried out at gallows in three towns of Lower Silesia, together with the archaeozoological analysis of unearthed animal skeletal remains, brought valuable information on human–animal–environment relationships in the past. This includes the role of an executioner or a knacker (in animal population control), the utilization of stray animals, and the use of animal products accessible in a knacker’s yard. This work highlights the history of early modern towns that attempted to solve the problems surrounding the lack of veterinary care, before the rise of modern professional veterinary education, and the introduction of the veterinarian profession in modern human society. The results show that the majority of investigated animal skeletal remains came from adult and healthy animals, and after animal death, some parts of animal bodies were used (e.g., leather, fat, bones) by knackers as sources of additional profits, but the main sanitary problems could not be permanently eliminated.
In the past, executioners played an important role in the legal system. Besides sentence executions, they also worked as dogcatchers (i.e., eliminating stray animals or cadavers of dead animals from towns), and were responsible for sanitary conditions within their towns and closest neighborhoods. Archaeological explorations of gallows in the towns of Lower Silesia (Poland) provide evidence of such activities, including animal skeletal remains. Archaeozoological analysis of these materials from the towns Kamienna Góra (Landeshut), Złotoryja (Goldberg), and Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg) are the subjects of this study. Our work also stresses the nature of the executioner’s profession in animal health control and town hygiene maintenance before the development of modern veterinary services. The results show significant differences in the frequency of species and distribution of anatomical elements in accessible assemblages compared with animal skeletal remains unearthed in typical waste pits or classical inhumation, allowing the assumption that the animals were anatomically adults, and their health statuses were generally good. The dominant species, equids and dogs, were represented by skeletal remains, with the predominance of less valuable body parts (distal parts of appendices, caudal parts of the vertebral column). The fragmentation of accessible bone assemblages narrows the ability of larger conclusions (i.e., minimum number of individual estimations). The work enlightens the complex role of executioners pertaining to the hygiene of early modern town communities, a role later replaced by professional veterinarians with all of the consequences of the transition process. View Full-Text
Keywords: gallows; animal; knackers’ yards; waste pits; utilization; dogcatcher gallows; animal; knackers’ yards; waste pits; utilization; dogcatcher
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MDPI and ACS Style

Chrószcz, A.; Poradowski, D.; Duma, P.; Janeczek, M.; Spychalski, P. The Early Modern Silesian Gallows (15th–19th Century) as an Example of Stray Animals Utilization before the Rise of Institutional Veterinary Care. Animals 2021, 11, 1210. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051210

AMA Style

Chrószcz A, Poradowski D, Duma P, Janeczek M, Spychalski P. The Early Modern Silesian Gallows (15th–19th Century) as an Example of Stray Animals Utilization before the Rise of Institutional Veterinary Care. Animals. 2021; 11(5):1210. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051210

Chicago/Turabian Style

Chrószcz, Aleksander, Dominik Poradowski, Paweł Duma, Maciej Janeczek, and Przemysław Spychalski. 2021. "The Early Modern Silesian Gallows (15th–19th Century) as an Example of Stray Animals Utilization before the Rise of Institutional Veterinary Care" Animals 11, no. 5: 1210. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11051210

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