Week 4 Round-up

This week included a lot of recording and sorting, some massive earth-moving, and preparing to leave site!

We digitised a bunch of plans and context sheets, and we also continued monitoring the finds in the archive annex and updating the database with location information.

We were so grateful to have friends of the project get those incredible drone photos for us on Tuesday. You can see some sneak peeks here.

A very excited trench team looking at the drone photographs.

Some interesting finds came out in all the processing, such as the yellow glass bead and bone pin below. The bead came from an environmental sample taken in 2013 of 9th/10th-century context; multiple 2013 samples run this season also produced several other beads, but all but one of those were ceramic (the other a crinoid fossil, “Saint Cuthbert’s bead”). The bone pin is from a context tray from Trench 5c that we looked at today before organising storage. It was from an area of the long stretch of medieval wall where we had previously only been finding modern material, until we extended the trench (see below).

In the trenches, we moved so much earth!

First, we extended the old 2002 trench along the longest stretch of standing wall which we are calling Trench 5c. The extension was to learn more about the rubble that is scattered perpendicular to the face. Some of the stone positions suggest that another wall came out of the length we still have.

Then, we fully exposed a large stone surface abutting the dolerite up at the postern gate trench we called Trench 5d. It’s not clear exactly what was happening, and we thought bringing down the inner face would answer our questions. It only gave us more questions! Two large stones with tool marks appear to have fallen down into the northern end of the trench. On the southern side of the trench, a large spread of mortar appeared.

Thursday was the big day of rubble-removal with the help of Stuart and Steve from the Castle team. We would bet at least a [literal] tonne of rock was removed. On Friday, the well-room was cleared of the big stones, so we mattocked and shoveled as much soil as we could. We also cleaned off the steps! Finally, we photographed the steps and well-room even though both are not yet completely excavated.

It’s our last day on-site this season, so we wanted to let you know about what to expect in the off-season:

At least two blog posts will be headed your way in the next few weeks. First, Alice will be providing an update on the environmental assemblage and what it tells us about cereals at Bamburgh during the early medieval period. Then Graeme will do his usual end-of-season post with a round-up and tentative interpretations, plus some thoughts on our next steps.

Please also keep an eye out for news regarding our publication of the Bowl Hole research!

As always, follow us on social media for the latest information on our research and upcoming field school opportunities. That’s all for now, but you will definitely see us next year, back in the outworks!

Rabble-rousing and Rubble Removal

Today we had a little bit (okay, a lot) of extra muscle in the form of an excavator and two of the Castle’s grounds team. Stuart and Steve took down part of our seaward fence and brought over a digger to remove the largest dolerite blocks from the suspected well room.

Sneaking up on us.
Stuart is in the zone!
Our first glimpse of the other side of the arch.
Looking down the steps, and there is light on the other side.
Making some headway.
Graeme has clambered through the arch and stops to ponder.
We have multiple exposed courses of masonry showing us at least three distinct phases in the likely well room.
A slot possibly for a timber that roughly pairs with one on the seaward wall, or maybe even the timber for the pulley for the well?
Our arch on this side is clearly part of the wall, as the voussoirs (wedge blocks) and springer (block where the arch meets the vertical supports) are embedded in what looks like the same phase of wall.
Graeme is bouncing off the walls in delight.

The last video there broke some news today: we will be here in these trenches again next summer to find that well. Bet on it!

Way Back Wednesday: Marine Life

A few members of our team went into the archive annex this morning to do some housekeeping: checking on and changing silica gel packets in the boxes of small finds. We have indicator strips that show when a box is no longer dry due to ambient humidity. Lauren grabbed a random box of environmental archaeology small finds to have a nose around, and, much to her surprise, it was mostly material she herself had found and recorded while managing environmental processing in 2013: stycas, glass and ceramic beads, and some flint flakes. In an amongst those bits from nearly a decade ago, two examples of local marine life appeared.

First, another St. Cuthbert bead! This one was found in 2010 in a burnt context from Trench 3. It seems to be associated with the stables phase of the trench, around 10th century. We hope to do a deep-dive post (pun intended) on crinoids in the future, as they have been on our mind after the large one we found earlier this season.

The second was something that struck Lauren and the finds team as odd years ago: it looked like a tiny cowrie shell. True cowrie shells (family Cypraeidae) were often found historically in Indian Ocean trade networks, so this miniature version was separated out as a small find because it seemed non-native to the area. The sample was taken in Trench 1, associated with an early medieval linear feature. Further research shortly after the dig in 2013, however, revealed more information about this tiny mollusc.

This shell is from the family Triviidae which has a two species local to the North Atlantic and North Sea, but the species are often called the “European cowrie” and “northern cowrie.”

The European or spotted cowrie is used to refer to trivia monacha (da Costa 1778), a carnivorous snail that lives at the low tide of the shore. They usually have dark spots on the pinkish upper shell, which our specimen does not have.

The “northern cowrie” is trivia arctica (Pulteney, 1799) which has an unspotted shell. These species were actually thought to be one and the same until 1925. Both species prey on sea squirts, and they are in turn food for fish like Atlantic cod, who also occasionally turn up in our animal bone. Our shell is also a bit chalky to the touch, but it’s not immediately clear if ours is a proper fossil and thus old at the time it was deposited in the sample or if it was alive contemporary to the occupation of the context from which the sample came.

Living t. arctica specimen, image by Frans Slieker (NHMR).

Why do we care so much about tiny molluscs? Why does it matter that this was found here? Molluscs are extremely useful when studying the environment in the past. Some snails have very specific habitable ranges that can help us infer climate information, and today is especially valuable in understanding periods of climate stability and instability in the past. Others are fantastic to chemically profile to understand the water and plant life signatures for a particular region, which was a methodology we used in our interpretation of the Bowl Hole burial ground skeletal material.

This particular shell was saved because it looked different from the mollusc shells we had been finding previously. It turns out it was local, but it was probably not being collected for food unlike the winkles we find en masse, so we don’t have examples of it in the record.

For more information and more images:

Gallery of the Family Triviidae via National History Museum Rotterdam

Differentiating the species

T. monacha, European cowrie: entry for Encyclopedia of Life, entry in World Register of Marine Species

T. arctica, Northern cowrie: entry for Encyclopedia of Life, entry in World Register of Marine Species

Museum Monday

This Monday, we’d thought we take a bit to talk about the re-installation of some of our most interesting artefacts in the Castle’s state rooms. For years, many of the conserved finds from the BRP and Brian Hope-Taylor’s excavations were tucked away in a little room at the far end of the gift shop in their own little exhibit. The only problem was that folks would reach the gift shop and often go no further. We were stumped as to how to draw attention to the artefacts and information placards when there was delicious fudge and souvenirs in the previous room. A few years ago, some of the artefacts were integrated into the existing state rooms displays, Our one-of-a-kind (okay, one of, like, three in all of northwestern Europe) 6-billet pattern-welded sword was logically in the armoury on the first floor of the keep; it’s uniqueness was sometimes not recognised when displayed amongst the shiny and sharp medieval and post-medieval bladed weaponry. While this melding of artefacts into existing spaces increased the quantity of eyeballs on the artefacts, it still felt like something was missing. How could we best use these artefacts to tell the stories of Bamburgh Castle?

The past year has allowed the curators to combine cutting-edge technology and some tried-and-true, good old-fashioned museum display protocol to give us a more holistic glimpse into the three millennia of occupation of the site.

The first room, what was the medieval kitchen, has been streamlined to focus on five particular assemblages in detail. The large wooden model of the castle is still there, but it is now joined by video screens and a projected animation on the upper story wall. The video screens stand behind the glass display cases or freestanding artefacts. This room features the Bamburgh Beast and filigreed thumbnail (both of gold) each in a minimalist mount, while the carved-interlaced stone chair-arm is positioned as it would have been during its period of use to really help you understand the wear patterns on the leading edge where great kings would have rested their fingers. Each video panel shows magnified views of the objects as castle owner Frankie Armstrong pleasantly and engagingly shares further information about the objects in his family’s care. From these short videos, you really get a sense that a deep responsibility to the stewardship of this shared heritage is the underlying driver for this revamped exhibit.

As you wind your way through the adjacent rooms, you eventually reach the salon where the curators have taken great care to give voice back to half of the population that is often written out of history elsewhere: the women. Here at Bamburgh, however, formidable women stand out to us through the material culture individuals whose names are now lost to us and the documented works for the public good by named post-medieval owners. The salon, a heavily gendered space in the early modern period, is the perfect matrix for these snippets of women’s history through objects. We hope in the future to see this exhibit expand to include more historically gendered objects (such as latch-lifters and girdle tools) and really engage with this idea of performed gender and femininity. As the named women hold elite status as well, so we hope to be a part of developing the artefacts on display to include objects associated with lower status women in our long history here.

The ground floor of the keep is our next stop, where there is now an interactive dig touch-panel. It allows you to excavate computer-animated grid squares of our former Trench 1 and Trench 3 to find artefacts that our team discovered over the years.

The traditional museum display case are also used in the base of the keep, with cases full of interesting artefacts and small placards describing them. The cases are now mostly organised by theme, allowing you to see every-day items like stycas, knives, and dice, and the more high-status and ornate material grouped together as well. Also, the fantastic sword we discussed earlier has found a home in the lower level of the keep.

You can still come visit us to the end of this week to chat about the archaeology with our team up at the windmill in the West Ward, and then take a walk through the state rooms to see some of our best finds in their new displays!


Sunday was rolling along rather pleasantly, from an overcast morning to a glorious afternoon…but with the warmth and the burning off of the mist, we were invaded!

It wasn’t Vikings (who never took the castle, by the way, and we have almost no archaeological evidence of them in the castle environs)…

It wasn’t tourists…

It was the dreaded THUNDERBUG!

Based on Ernst Heeger’s illustrations from Beiträge zur Naturgeschichte der Insecten. Als Beiträge zur Fauna Oesterreichs, a text in German held in the Smithsonian collections. This is from a section on thrips, but using the old synonymous name “physopod.”

In recent memory, most of us can only recall a single nightmarish day in 2019 when they swarmed the castle. But today, oh, today was much worse than that day. We all know that insects, spiders, and earthworms are a standard part of the job of excavation. We’ve made our peace with that, and usually those little bugs get relocated or brushed away gently, no harm, no foul. But not today.

Today, these little pests covered our arms and necks, so small that you’d be surprised how you could feel every footfall of each miniscule foot. But their little feet were so irritating, tap-dancing across our sun-cream-sticky flesh! No, they didn’t bite us, but they crawled over every inch of exposed skin. They landed on our lips and were smushed as we aggressively tried to wipe our faces clean. They flew into our eyelashes and poked us in the eyes. They squirmed into our ears and nostrils. It was revolting.

So in preparation for all-out war tomorrow, we have done a little reconnaissance on our enemy:

Common blossom thrips with measurements.
Vivek Kumar, University of Florida’s Entomology and Nematology Dept.

SCIENTIFIC NAMES: Thysanoptera (order with over 6,000 species), Thrips (genus with about 280 species)

The genus and generic name for the creature comes from the Ancient Greek for “woodworm,” which is weird because they are definitely not worms (annelids). The University of Chicago’s Classical language app Logeion cites the Lewis & Short Latin dictionary: thrips, thripis (m.), transliterated from the Greek θρίψ. The Greek is found in the Liddell & Scott Greek-English lexicon, but the citations are a bit harder to find. Pliny the Elder refers to the woodworm literally in several passages of his Natural History, for example while describing the resistance of tree species to infestation. Martianus Capella (Late Antiquity/early 5th century, but studied and used throughout Carolingian education discourse) also uses the word, but as a synonym for worthless things, in Book II, Section 164 of his De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (“On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury”). You can also access the Perseus database on which the app is based here.

OTHER ALIASES:  thunder flies, thunderblights, storm bugs, storm flies, corn flies, corn fleas, corn lice, harvest flies, harvest bugs, freckle bugs

DESCRIPTION: 0.5mm-15mm long, slender body, two pairs of fringed or feathery wings folded over its back, only the left mandible (lower jaw), usually black or brown in adult stage except for a few species that stay yellowish like juveniles

As there are over 170 species found in Britain, it would be folly to detail them all, but they all share the same basic characteristics. They have a slurpy tube (that’s not the scientific name) through which they secrete saliva into their food that starts the digestion process and then suck it all back up. Remember those gross little feetsies we mentioned above? They have a grippy pad on each of its six feet called an “arolium” that inflates with the bodily fluids of the insect and helps it climb in any direction, defying both gravity and common decency. There are an astonishing number of thrips-centred websites.

KNOWN HANGOUTS: often among cereal crops and flowers, and, apparently, Bamburgh Castle for the weekend

ACTIVE TIMES: hot and humid weather, and particularly weather systems that can form thunderstorms (correlation, not causation, by the way), in the UK flourish between April-September

They’ve been around since about 300 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs (but probably annoyed them too when they showed up) and around the time of the dolerite magma injection that intruded into the sandstone at Bamburgh. Their entire life-cycle takes about a month, but they can lay 100 eggs in that time. Some can complete their life-cycle in two weeks if the temperature is high enough!


Some thrips are pollinators, which is almost always a good thing and why we should be nicer to insects like bees. Some species prey on other thrips, the eggs of wasps and moths, and mites (which are not insects because they only have two body parts). Others eat fungi. Thrips also have a cool means of flight that is worth reading about.


Thrips can destroy crops by eating their tissues from aesthetic damage like stippling/mottling or silvery patches (and little poo stains), to the formation of galls, to full defoliation of plants. They can also spread about 20 different plant viruses, such as the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. In addition, they are extremely invasive and have been found on every continent. Thrips can also reproduce asexually, where the female lays eggs without a mate. Numerous gardening websites also warn that they become pesticide-resistant quickly, and that biological control (like increasing natural predators) is preferable to chemical control.


  1. Wear long-sleeves to cover up.
  2. Cry deeply.
  3. Borrow some of the repellent the Australian students brought all the way from the only continent that is actively trying to harm you.
  4. Get back to work.

Week 3: Round-up

This week was particularly full of environmental processing, finds sorting, and trench recording! Not as much rubble has been removed from the main trench as the blocks left are much too big to be moved by hand, but we will have an update on the steps below.

The flotation tank has been up and running almost non-stop to get through backlogged samples. Nat runs a tight ship, and that ship is the HMS Floaty McFloatface. Multiple crude ceramic beads have been found this week in sorting the floated material.

Ceramic bead.

In finds, we’ve spent a lot of time sorting the huge volume of washed material from last week. Among this, we found an unusual number of very large teeth from cattle and horse which we discussed further here. And we found a possible buzz-bone!

Worked bone that may have been a toy or musical instrument.

We also spent some time illustrating finds to scale under the guidance of Finds Supervisor Margot.

LJ drawing a small copper alloy buckle.

A “new” bit of wall that has peeked out where it is interrupted by the Victorian stairs that go down to our old Trench 5a. It has been de-greened and a small trench has been opened up between St. Oswald’s Gate and the arch that looks towards Lindisfarne. So far we’ve revealed a lovely spread of mortar on the medieval masonry and lots of modern rubbish at its base.

The main wall along which the 2002 trench used to run has been further revealed and photographed. Multiple teams have each taken a few metres of wall to draw. These are just like the section drawings we do of vertical stratigraphy (the layers of occupation, or lack thereof, we can see in the soil), but instead we’ve got the masonry blocks of a standing wall to draw to scale.

More steps in Trench 5b have been partially uncovered, but not fully excavated due to particularly stubborn (and massive) rubble. These give off medieval vibes akin to what was found elsewhere in the early survey of the outworks stairs undertaken by our director long before we opened these trenches.

Steps down toward the arch.

What more will we discover in our final week? Stay tuned!

Soiled! Part 3

Another other useful “behaviour” of soil is how it compacts, which can be recorded to differentiate contexts and predict how drainage in the area works! Compaction is incredibly important in modern agricultural practice as it can affect the structure of the soil, which in turn determines how long water is retained. Compact soils also make plant growth more difficult because roots are unable to absorb the required nutrients.

The compaction of soil is how much space is between the particles, and therefore it can be measured as density (how much stuff is packed into a known space). The spaces between the particles are called pores, which can hold air and water. Causes of compaction range from heavy farm equipment (not really a problem in our trenches as no one was farming in them and tractors were not A Thing) and regular treading by foot, to something as small as a raindrop.

Martin Watts (Mill Archives, 2016) after the Luttrell Psalter, Add MS 42130 at the British Library (circa 1340)

Processes to break compacted soil can be artificial or natural. The earliest means of turning soil involved wooden and bone or antler hoes and stone-blade hand-implements. With the advent of farming and associated animal domestication in the Neolithic period, animal-drawn ploughs first appear in Mesopotamia and the Indus River Valley. In Uruk (Mesopotamia, now Iraq), the earliest visual representation of ploughs appears around 3000BCE! Natural means of loosening compact soil include things like plant root growth, animal burrowing (“bioturbation”), and freeze-thaw cycles.

Archaeological records usually employ some standard terminology described by the Museum of London Archaeology Service when it comes to compaction. Their system differentiates between coarse-grained sediments, finer soils, and peat.

Coarse-grained sediment are deposits like gravels and sands, which in general have angular edges to their particles. They can be varying degrees of cemented, requiring larger tools like mattocks and picks. Compact sediment can be excavated with mattocks and heavy troweling. Loose soil is easily moved simply with basic troweling.

Finer sediments include silts and clays which take a long time to settle out of moving water. For these sediments, they use a hardness to softness spectrum, and another bit of vocab: friable. The spectrum includes hard (unable to mould), firm (difficult to mould), and soft (easily moulded). “Friable” means it’s not mouldable because it crumbles immediately.

Is this silty clay or clayey silt? (USDA)

Peat, which we unfortunately don’t get here, has three categories: firm, spongy, and plastic. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but “plastic” in this sense means extremely mouldable, squishable, and smeary.

Peat. (Peatlands.org)

Way-Back Wednesday: Things Get Dicey

Digging around the archives, we came across a number of lovely bone dice! Not enough for a game of Yahtzee, but we’ll take what we can get…

Our dice all are made of animal bone, polished smooth, with incised ring-dot or ring-ring-dot markings for each face. The incision is a common decorative technique using a hand drill and found on all sorts of objects across time and space, and, when they represent numbers on dice, they are called pips which seem to simplify over time to single dots. Dice games are known to have existed since the Neolithic in Scottish contexts, but actually started as other thrown objects probably associated with fortune-telling and, later, gaming using four sides of a sheep’s “knucklebone” (more of an ankle bone). The Romans loved dice and used large and small variations; the Egyptians are believed to have the first 20-sided die (for you DND fans) during the Ptolemaic Period. Dice would have been extremely popular ways to pass the time and hopefully win something valuable during the Roman and medieval periods.

Modern dice have opposite faces that add up to 7, so the faces would be paired 1-6, 2-5, 3-5. Early dice were not perfect cubes, and in the medieval period they may have had opposing faces that added up to prime numbers: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6. Some medieval dice had repeating numbers and were rolled in pairs: one die had 1, 2, 3 on two faces each, the other with 4, 5, 6. Dice are rare in the early medieval period but often in the 7 configuration we are familiar with. They usually reappear in the archaeological record in our area in the 12th century in the primes system. Standardisation only becomes fashionable at the end of the medieval period around 1450 when they move back to the 7 configuration. Check out this open access article comparing late medieval dice in the Netherlands and UK.

Some of the dice we have on display in the castle may have been “loaded,” primed for cheating, one method of which involves weighing one face with a drop of mercury so that the opposing face turns up more often. For more on an assemblage of dice including several cheat dice, check out this brief piece from Fordham’s Medieval London project. We haven’t done a proper statistical analysis of the rolls of any dice from our archive yet, but we may have rolled a few for bragging rights in the windmill. There was no clear run of luck for any of us, which must be a good thing.

Let’s talk a little about the dice we pulled from the archive. Because the early records of the dig are not all digitised, we could only access summary spreadsheets from our office in the windmill, so we unfortunately don’t have as much information about the contexts as we would like. This is absolutely something we can revisit as we reconcile records in the archives! All but one of the dice are associated with a single context in the centre of Trench 3, and the outlier is actually from a context just below the one in question, both part of the medieval to late medieval midden.

Two pieces kept apart for hundreds of years…SF1549 and SF1556

The first die is actually in two pieces discovered on separate occasions in the same area in 2004. SF1549 (meaning “small find number 1549) is a broken quarter with the only complete face showing a 1. SF1556 is another rough quarter showing part of side 5 and part of side 6. When put together, side 5 is complete. The 1 side is opposite the partial side 6, which tells us this is a die in the 7s category. The pips are double-ringed dots. The hollowed inside of the die shows no sign of tampering.

They match!

SF1756 is much smaller, but also a 7s die. It too has a double-ringed dot motif for the pip, and there is no obvious cheating mechanism. This was found in 2004.


SF6394 was found in 2009, associated with the same context as the others. It also has opposing faces that equal 7 and a double-ringed dot motif. There is also no particular penchant for landing on a particular number when rolled.


The last die we pulled was SF1896. This one was found just under the context where all the previous ones were found. This die is not even close to a perfect cube, as it has only two square faces: sides 1 and 2. The shape may have been why side 1 and side 2 tended to face up more often than any of the narrow rectangular sides. The incised pips are a single ring and dot. York Archaeology (formerly York Archaeology Trust) has a wonderful gallery with a similar rectangular die that seems to also have the 1 side on the square face. Our die is the only one in the primes configuration we have found so far digging through the archives, so there’s a chance this is earlier than the 7 configuration dice, that otherwise are expected to be late medieval. This context was under the context of the other dice, which by the law of superposition suggests that what is deeper in the stratigraphy is earlier (few examples exist of this rule failing in archaeology).

Care to try your luck?

Fresh from the Trench: Buzz-Bones

Pig foot bone with drilled hole.

Right at the end of the day yesterday, another bit of worked bone came out of the trench near what we’ve been calling The Stump. This bit of medieval wall seems to include two different fills of rubble that still has us scratching our heads, but we’ve found 13th century green-glaze in and around it.

The Stump.

When it first came out, we thought we had another toggle, as we already had two, but our two previous possible toggles were made of the shafts of long bones. This new bit of bone is a pig phalange (axial metapodial), and the more we looked at it, the more intrigued we were. The particular choice of bone and placement of the drilled hole could suggest this was used as an instrument or toy.

Squeaky clean buzz-bone.

Known as buzz-bones, these simple sound-makers have been found in contexts from the prehistoric period through the medieval period. You run a string through the hole and thread one or more on a cord that you twist. When you pull the string, they spin, creating a buzzing or humming noise. The worked bones were commonly misidentified as toggles across Europe, but evidence in modern Scandinavia and Shetland have fostered confidence in recent years that it was an implement often used by children.

Figure 17 showing how the buzz-bones worked from York Archaeological Trust’s Insight Report, Games and Recreation c. AD1400-1700 (Nicola Rogers, 2017).

Mouthy Monday

We’ve long been finding remains of toothy beasts among the various phases of occupation in Trench 3, from the Iron Age roundhouse habitation, to early medieval industrial area, to late medieval rubbish pile. The cattle were driven up into the fortress on the hoof, and they were likely butchered somewhere in the West Ward. On the large cattle bones, we occasionally find obvious cut marks where de-fleshing occurred, as well as chopped long bones that were broken open likely for access to the marrow. The nicest cuts of meat would be brought up to the top of the mount during the early medieval period, while the artisans based in the area of our trench were getting the less beefy bits: we find a lot of cranium bits, jaws, loose teeth, vertebrae (back bones), phalanges (the equivalent of finger bones), and the ends of long bones (like the femur and tibia). We also find the remains of horses on occasion, but those seem to mostly comprise cranial fragments and some foot bones. In the material we’ve just washed from 2019, we’ve found more teeth than usual from a context dating to the 8th century near the mortar mixer.

Cows have incisors only on the lower jaw, so when they chew, they cut their veg against a pad in their upper jaw. The bits of jaw we’ve found contain cheek teeth (premolars and molars). Fully-grown cattle have 12 premolars and 12 molars, and they need those molars to allow them to grind up grass and chew cud. We can get a rough idea of the age the individual was when it was butchered by looking at the teeth! The modern cattle industry ages their animals by looking at the incisors, but we can still gather some information from these cheek teeth.

Check out this bit of jaw above. We have two massive teeth still set in place, and they seem to be very worn. Wear may be different from one individual to another based on their diet and genetic predisposition. In addition, the wear pattern can also be compared to various animal husbandry guides that use dental data to predict age. The hollow below the roots of the teeth were where permanent teeth were waiting to erupt, but this channel seems to have healed over, also suggesting this animal was an older individual.

Upper horse jaw.

A second bit of jaw, possibly horse, is equally interesting: this individual has worn teeth above the jawline and former gum, but a permanent tooth waiting beneath each milk tooth. Milk teeth are what many call “baby teeth,” or, more scientifically, “deciduous teeth.” The cheek teeth of horses consist of 12 premolars and 12 molars, just like cows. In horses, there are no temporary molars, so the fact that we have a cap of milk tooth above a permanent tooth tells us we’ve got premolars soon to be replaced. Their teeth are constantly erupting their whole lives, replacing the worn down surfaces of the long permanent teeth. The permanent premolars of horses erupt between 2 to 4 years of age depending on mouth location, so this specimen is likely under 4 years old.