Researchers used a novel method of analyzing residue from fat-soluble lipids found on ancient Botai pottery to find traces of fats from horse milk, leading to the conclusion that people consumed horse milk at the beginning of the Copper Age some 5,500 years ago. Mare's milk is still a staple of consumption in Kazakhstan where it's usually fermented into a slightly alcoholic drink called 'koumiss.'
Additionally, examinations of ancient bone remains showed that horses were similar in shape to Bronze Age domestic horses but different from more ancient wild horses from the same region, suggesting that people selected wild horses for their physical attributes, which were exaggerated through breeding.
"It is quite surprising that the Tersek and Botai horse metacarpals differ significantly," said Olsen. "The Tersek culture and the Botai culture are considered to be the same culture by many archaeologists--they are separated by just two days' ride on horseback, and they're very similar in terms of their material culture. To find there may have been a difference in the sizes of their horses was something that I did not expect."
The team also used a technique to search for 'bit damage' caused by bridling or harnessing horses. Researchers found tell-tale traces of the use of a thong bridle on the gap between the teeth of the lower jaw. A thong bridle is simply a leather thong draped over this gap and knotted under the chin, with the trailing ends acting as the reins. Plains Indians called this a war bridle or racing bridle and it most likely is the type of bridle that was developed first.
"The domestication of horses is known to have had immense social and economic significance, advancing communications, transport, food production and warfare," said the Science paper's lead author, Alan Outram of Exeter. He said the findings are significant because they change "our understand
|Contact: Bobbie Mixon|
National Science Foundation