Posts Tagged ‘horse’

The horse, a purebred, was wearing a bronze-plated military saddle and ready to go when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the ancient city of Pompeii in A.D. 79. The horse, too, was covered in pumice and ash.

Almost 2,000 years later, archaeologists unearthed the immobilized horse, along with the remains of two others, in the remnants of a stable attached to a sumptuous suburban villa in Civita Giuliana, outside the walls of what remains of Pompeii, the Archaeological Park of Pompeii said in a statement on Monday.

The horses are among a growing list of archaeological treasures dug up at the Pompeii site, discovered in the late 16th century. This year, Pompeian excavations have found a shrine with wall paintings that hint at Roman life in the first century; the skeleton of a man who had fled the volcanic eruption only to be buried by a rock; and a well-preserved fresco in a house on the Via del Vesuvio depicting the mythological rape of Leda, the queen of Sparta, by Zeus in the form of a swan.

The horses probably perished soon after the volcanic explosion, with their frozen postures suggesting they had been unable to wrest free. The saddled horse and its elaborate harness were discovered over the summer, the archaeological park statement said.

Instead of stirrups, the saddle had four bronze-plated wooden horns, one in each corner, to help keep the rider stable. Researchers compared the saddle to those used by Romans around the time Mount Vesuvius erupted.

In May, researchers completed a plaster cast of the first horse found at the site. The dimensions suggested that the horses, including the latest discovered, had been of a valuable breed, officials said in a statement, a type used to display social status.

The discovery of the horses confirmed that the stable had been part of a prestigious estate, Massimo Osanna, the Pompeii site’s general director, said in the statement. The villa was enhanced with “richly frescoed and furnished rooms, and sumptuous sloping terraces facing onto the Gulf of Naples and Capri, as well as an efficient servant’s quarter, with a farmyard, oil and wine warehouses and densely cultivated lands,” according to the statement.

Archaeologists discovered 15 rooms from the villa in the early 20th century, and smaller finds since then. In 1955, dividing walls were found in excavations at Civita Giuliana. In recent decades, scavengers visited the site too, digging illegal tunnels below the estate.

To stop the illegal tunneling, official excavations began again this year. In 2019, with the aid of 2 million euros ($2.27 million), archaeologists will continue the work with an eye toward opening the site to the public, Mr. Osanna said.

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By Sam Wong

Why the long face? Horses can remember the facial expressions they see on human faces and respond differently if you smiled or frowned when they last saw you.

Leanne Proops, now at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and her colleagues at the University of Sussex showed in 2016 that horses respond differently to photographs of happy or angry human faces. Now they have studied whether horses can form lasting memories of people that depend on their facial expressions.

First, they showed horses a photo of one of two human models, displaying either a happy or angry face. Several hours later, the model visited the horse in person, this time with a neutral expression. As a control, some horses saw a different model in the second part to the one they saw in the photograph.

Crucially, the models didn’t know which photo the horse had seen earlier. In the early 20th century, a horse called Clever Hans amazed audiences by appearing to answer simple mathematical problems by tapping his hoof. It turned out he was responding to involuntary cues from his trainer. Proops’ study aimed to eliminate such cues.

Stop pulling faces!
Stop pulling faces!
Pal Teravagimov Photography / Getty
By Sam Wong

Why the long face? Horses can remember the facial expressions they see on human faces and respond differently if you smiled or frowned when they last saw you.

Leanne Proops, now at the University of Portsmouth, UK, and her colleagues at the University of Sussex showed in 2016 that horses respond differently to photographs of happy or angry human faces. Now they have studied whether horses can form lasting memories of people that depend on their facial expressions.

First, they showed horses a photo of one of two human models, displaying either a happy or angry face. Several hours later, the model visited the horse in person, this time with a neutral expression. As a control, some horses saw a different model in the second part to the one they saw in the photograph.

Crucially, the models didn’t know which photo the horse had seen earlier. In the early 20th century, a horse called Clever Hans amazed audiences by appearing to answer simple mathematical problems by tapping his hoof. It turned out he was responding to involuntary cues from his trainer. Proops’ study aimed to eliminate such cues.

The team found that the horses remembered the models’ previous facial expressions.

Horses prefer to look at negative and threatening sights with their left eye, and positive social stimuli with their right eye. In the study, when they saw a model they had seen frowning earlier, they spent more time looking with their left eye. They also exhibited more stress-related behaviours, like scratching and floor sniffing. In contrast, when they saw a model they had seen smiling earlier, they spent more time looking with their right eye.

Many other animals have shown an ability to remember human faces, including sheep and fish. Wild crows will hold a grudge for years against people who have treated them badly, and even teach other crows to mob their enemies.

However, the horses seem to form an opinion about people based only on their expression in a photograph. “That’s something we haven’t really seen in animals before,” says Proops.

“The horse family has the most expressive faces after the primates, so logically they pay attention to faces and expressions,” says Frans de Waal at Emory University in Atlanta. “Horses surrounded by people have ample opportunity to learn what our expressions mean.”

Journal reference: Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.03.035

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2167423-horses-remember-if-you-smiled-or-frowned-when-they-last-saw-you/

Psychologists studied how 28 horses reacted to seeing photographs of positive versus negative human facial expressions. When viewing angry faces, horses looked more with their left eye, a behaviour associated with perceiving negative stimuli. Their heart rate also increased more quickly and they showed more stress-related behaviours. The study, published February 10 in Biology Letters, concludes that this response indicates that the horses had a functionally relevant understanding of the angry faces they were seeing. The effect of facial expressions on heart rate has not been seen before in interactions between animals and humans.

Amy Smith, a doctoral student in the Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research Group at the University of Sussex who co-led the research, said: “What’s really interesting about this research is that it shows that horses have the ability to read emotions across the species barrier. We have known for a long time that horses are a socially sophisticated species but this is the first time we have seen that they can distinguish between positive and negative human facial expressions.”

“The reaction to the angry facial expressions was particularly clear — there was a quicker increase in their heart rate, and the horses moved their heads to look at the angry faces with their left eye.”

Research shows that many species view negative events with their left eye due to the right brain hemisphere’s specialisation for processing threatening stimuli (information from the left eye is processed in the right hemisphere).

Amy continued: “It’s interesting to note that the horses had a strong reaction to the negative expressions but less so to the positive. This may be because it is particularly important for animals to recognise threats in their environment. In this context, recognising angry faces may act as a warning system, allowing horses to anticipate negative human behaviour such as rough handling.”

A tendency for viewing negative human facial expressions with the left eye specifically has also been documented in dogs.

Professor Karen McComb, a co-lead author of the research, said: “There are several possible explanations for our findings. Horses may have adapted an ancestral ability for reading emotional cues in other horses to respond appropriately to human facial expressions during their co-evolution. Alternatively, individual horses may have learned to interpret human expressions during their own lifetime. What’s interesting is that accurate assessment of a negative emotion is possible across the species barrier despite the dramatic difference in facial morphology between horses and humans.”

“Emotional awareness is likely to be very important in highly social species like horses — and our ongoing research is examining the relationship between a range of emotional skills and social behaviour.”

The horses were recruited from five riding or livery stables in Sussex and Surrey, UK, between April 2014 and February 2015. They were shown happy and angry photographs of two unfamiliar male faces. The experimental tests examined the horses’ spontaneous reactions to the photos, with no prior training, and the experimenters were not able to see which photographs they were displaying so they could not inadvertently influence the horses.

Journal Reference: Amy Victoria Smith, Leanne Proops, Kate Grounds, Jennifer Wathan and Karen McComb. Functionally relevant responses to human facial expressions of emotion in the domestic horse (Equus caballus). Biology Letters, 2016 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0907

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160209221158.htm