Matt Hennessey excavates a horse skeleton under the foundations of the Theatre Royal. - Source: Fairfax
July 10, 2013
The earth under the Isaac Theatre Royal has yielded a 150-year-old circus pony's skeleton - still wearing its horseshoes.
The skeleton is believed to date back to the mid-1800s when the Gloucester St site was a large, open paddock used by visiting circuses.
It is the latest, and perhaps most bizarre, in a haul of ancient artefacts uncovered at the site.
Site manager Steve Rogers said the bones were found by one of his workers during demolition work last Thursday.
"It was found in the excavation behind the facade by the marble stairs," he said.
"We were scraping the ground and the bloke said, 'I think you better come and have a look at this, cause we found a bone'."
Rogers called in archaeologists.
Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd director Katharine Watson said it was unusual to uncover a horse bone, let alone an entire horse skeleton. She said: "In 15 years of doing this I've never seen a horse's bone before."
Watson believed the skeleton was that of a pony or a small horse. It could be a circus animal as it had been properly buried, in a grave 1.5 metres below the surface.
It was unusual the dead animal had not gone to the glue factory or become dog meat, she said.
It was likely to have been buried in the 1860s or 70s.
An article published in The Star in July 1891 recalls the area had hosted The Rink Stables housing 60 horses.
Watson said the bones had been taken away to be examined and put into storage.