Saturday, March 07, 2009

Horses Were Domesticated 5,500 Years Ago

Life In The Former Soviet Republics 15 Years After USSR Breakup

I actually know something about this topic, having written the entry on "Chariots" in the Encyclopedia of the History of Invention and Technology (coming late summer from Facts on File Books). I researched the earliest known instance of chariots: burials in Sintashta-Petrovka, east of the Ural Mountains--which sits in northern Kazakhstan.

What was in those burials? Racing chariots! Built to hold only one man. Those date back to 2000 BC, and it was thought that horses were domesticated about that time too, or just a couple of centuries earlier. (Earlier, heavier carts had wheels that were solid, not spoked. They were pulled by oxen, usually.)

But as these two articles, one from the Los Angeles Times and one from Radio Free Europe describe, new evidence has been found--in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world--didn't know that. The picture above, btw, is of a man riding in Icic, Kazakhstan.

Anyway, archaeologists figure that the Botai culture of northern Kazakhstan domesticated horses around 3500 BC. The evidence? Horse milk residue in pottery, horse manure used as roofing material in pit houses, horse skulls with bit-wear-marks on their teeth. Oh, and 90% of the bones in the garbage piles belonged to horses, and the leg bones were more slender than wild horses' would be, suggesting they were being bred for speed.

And--hate to say it, but if those bones are ending up in the garbage, maybe bred for food as well?

The research is published in this month's issue of the academic journal, Science.

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