Mary A. Littauer: Self-Taught Expert On Horses of Ancient Times, Dies at 93

Historians in the News

Mary Aiken Littauer, whose love affair with horses began with a childhood pony, blossomed with her marriage to an officer in the cavalry of Czar Nicholas II, and flowered famously when she became a leading expert on horses of ancient times, died on Dec. 7 at her home in Syosset, N.Y. She was 93.

Mrs. Littauer's scholarly career did not begin until her mid-50's, when her husband's health would no longer permit him to maintain his standards of horsemanship. The standards were high indeed: Vladimir S. Littauer was the author of eight books on riding and training horses, and his instructional techniques are still used.

Not wanting to ride alone, Mrs. Littauer was restless. Her husband suggested she write a book about horses.

She had had no college education, but decided to start at the beginning. By bringing her keen intelligence and considerable horse sense to archaeological discoveries, she would write about when and how horses and men got together. Her first article, "The Function of the Yoke Saddle in Ancient Harnessing," appeared in the British journal Antiquity in 1968.

The same year, Mrs. Littauer was introduced to Joost Crouwel, who had just earned a degree in classical archaeology from the University of Amsterdam and was beginning his doctoral thesis on Mycenaean chariots. A collaboration of three decades began.

Dr. Crouwel became professor of Aegean archaeology at the University of Amsterdam. Mrs. Littauer gained fame as the Grande Dame of the study of horses.

The two wrote about 65 articles for academic journals, usually with each other though sometimes with other scholars and sometimes individually. A typical title: "The Earliest Evidence for Metal Bridle Parts."

They wrote two books, "Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden Animals in the Ancient Near East" (1970) and "Chariots and Related Equipment from the Tomb of Tutankhamen" (1985). Both became standard reference works.

"They have set international standards that will last for many years," said Peter Raulvig, an archaeologist and linguist who also studied chariots.

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