The earliest known domesticated horses were both ridden and milked according to a new report published in the March 6, 2009 edition of the journal Science. The findings by an international team of archaeologists could point to the very beginnings of horse domestication and help explain its early impacts on society.
Researchers from Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pa., and the universities of Exeter and Bristol in the U.K., uncovered the evidence in Kazakhstan, the world's largest landlocked country situated in Central Asia. Data gathered by archaeologists supports the hypothesis that the horse-rich area in the vast, semi-arid, grassy plains, or steppe zones, east of the Ural Mountains in Northern Kazakhstan, contributed largely to the development of two neighboring cultures, the Botai in north-central Kazakhstan and the Tersek in the west.
"Having a domesticated animal that could be eaten, milked, ridden, used as a pack animal and potentially for haulage would have had a tremendous impact on any society that initiated or adopted horse herds," said Sandra Olsen, curator of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Olsen directed several archaeological teams that excavated sites in Kazakhstan from 1994-2002. Her work in the Botai Culture sites of Krasnyi Yar in 2000 and Vasilkovka in 2002 was supported by the National Science Foundation. Her earlier work in the region was supported by National Geographic.
Archaeologists say horse domestication may have begun in Kazakhstan about 5,500 years ago, about 1,000 years earlier than originally thought. Their findings also put horse domestication in Kazakhstan about 2,000 years earlier than that known to have existed in Europe.
The research team used various techniques to discover that horses provided food and milk, to show that domestic horses differed from wild horses from the same region, and to prove that horses were harnessed and poss
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation