Vienna Siege Veteran Camel Found

Science Fields

Austrian archaeologists have unearthed the skeleton of a camel, which apparently saw the Ottoman Army’s catastrophic defeat at the Second Siege of Vienna.

The complete skeleton found in a refuse pit at Tulln, Lower Austria, is believed to belong to a camel which served as a transport animal during the 1683 siege of Vienna.

After the unsuccessful attempt of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to storm the city in 1529, the Ottoman armies, commanded by Kara Mustafa Pasha – a former Greek slave who rose to the top state position under Sultan Mehmed IV – laid siege to Vienna for a second time in 1683. After 18 consecutive attempts failed to breach the defenses of the city because of the lack of heavy siege guns lost to the rain-sodden soils of the Balkans during the march, Jan Sobieski, the King of Poland who arrived with reinforcements, attacked and routed the Ottomans. The defeat was the starting point of a 250-year retreat of Ottomans from the European territories they had conquered until then.  

Top,inside and side views of the skull of the camel unearthed in Austria – Galik et al.

Findings from extensive morphological studies and DNA analyses by Alfred Galik and colleagues from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, published online inPLOS ONE, show that the camel was a hybrid male. Genetic evidence showed its mother was a single-humped dromedary, also known as Arabic camel, and the father was a two-humped Bactrian also known as an Asian or Indian camel, native to the Central Asian Steppes. 

Pointing out that camels were used as pack animals alongside horses in the Ottoman army and were eaten when food was scarce, the researchers note, however, that there were no signs showing the camel had been slaughtered and butchered. Hence, the animal could have passed to Austrian owners in an exchange, they conclude. 



  • 1. “Complete camel skeleton unearthed in Austria”, PLOS, 1 April 2015
  • 2. “1683: The siege of Vienna”, History Today, 7 July 1983