Thousand-year-old bone skate discovered in Moravian city of Přerov 

Zdeněk Schenk

Archaeologists from the central Moravian city of Přerov have announced a unique discovery. While carrying out excavations in the centre of the town, they came across an ice skate made of animal bone dating back some 1,000 years.

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

Experts from the Comenius Museum in Přerov, a town situated on the River Bečva, have been carrying out rescue digs in the basement of a house located on the city’s Upper Square. While sifting through the soil, they unearthed a bone skate dating back to the 10th or 11th century. Archaeologist Zdeněk Schenk says it was most likely made of horse shin bone:

“The object has a specific shape. On one side, it is curved into a tip which has a hole drilled in it and there is another hole at the back. They were used to thread a strap through, which was used to attach the skate to a shoe or to a wooden sledge.”

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

The bone blade was found amidst fragments of pottery produced between the second half of the 10th and the first half of the 11th century. This helped archaeologists determine the age of the object:

“It dates back to the time when there was a very important fortress in the area of the Upper Square. It served as a stronghold for Polish King Boleslav the Brave, who occupied Moravia at the time and had his soldiers stationed there.”

Unlike today, people who lived in the area a thousand years ago did not use the blades for sports or leisure, but simply to get around in winter months, explains Mr. Schenk:

“Rather than skating, they would shuffle along the frozen surface with the help of a stick or two. They would also attach the blades to sledges to carry a load of goods across the frozen water.”

Zdeněk Schenk | Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

The bone blade is not the first such object found in Přerov. A similar find was made there in 2009 and more such blades have been unearthed over the years in the wider area of the city. Zdeněk Schenk says this is probably due to its location:

“The Upper Square is located on a hill above the left bank of the River Bečva. But at that time, the whole early medieval agglomeration, with the exception of the fortified square, was actually made of several smaller settlements located along the branches and the meanders of the Bečva River.”

Photo: Lenka Kratochvílová,  Czech Radio

Mr Schenk also points out that similar discoveries of “ice-skates” made of cattle or horse bones have been reported in other parts of Europe:

“We know of other similar pieces found in Central Europe and especially in north-western Europe, in Scandinavia. They mostly come from the same time-frame as the one from Přerov and they are often found in 10th century Viking settlements.”

The thousand-year-old skate discovered by archaeologists in Přerov will soon be shown to the public. It will go on display at the city’s castle as part of an exhibition dedicated to the history of the region.

Author: Ruth Fraňková
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