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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Scientists Discover Fossils of Ottoman's 'War Camel'

War Camel

(Photo : ALFRED GALIK/VETMEDUNI VIENNA) A camel skeleton unearthed near the river Danube in Lower Austria, Tulln

Archaeologists have unearthed the first complete camel skeleton used in a military campaign by the Ottomans.

The complete 300 year-old preserved skeleton was rescued from an abandoned pit in Tulln, a Lower Austrian town on the banks of the Danube in 2006, prior to the construction of a shopping center.

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Researchers believe the male camel was used as a riding animal or "war camel" during the 17th-century Osmanic-Habsburg wars when the Ottoman empire sought to expand throughout central Europe. The animal may have died during the Siege of Vienna in 1683.

Researchers used DNA analysis to identify the camel's breed. They discovered it's a cross-bred, Bactrian-dromedary hybrid, which would have been common in the army. Its bone defects also suggest it was ridden using a harness. It had a maternal DNA from a dromedary (also known as the Arabian or Indian camel) and paternal genes from a Bactrian camel

The new finding is unique because it's the first complete camel skeleton to be discovered in central Europe. Isolated camel bones have previously been located in Serbia and Belgium.

Archaeozoologist Alfred Galik identified the animal as a camel after initial speculation it could have been a large horse or cow.

"The animal was certainly exotic for the people of Tulln. They probably didn't know what to feed it or whether one could eat it," said Galik.

Since the entire skeleton was preserved, Galik said the camel could have been traded as part of an exchange rather than being killed for food.

The Ottoman Empire emerged in the 14th century and peaked under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The empire twice failed to conquer Vienna, the second time in 1683.

The findings appeared in the issue of the journal PLOS One.

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