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Horses Tamed Earlier Than Thought

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« on: March 05, 2009, 05:48:27 pm »

The site has only recently been opened to researchers

                                                 Horses tamed earlier than thought 

March 5, 2009
Horses were domesticated much earlier than previously thought, according to a team of researchers.

They found evidence suggesting that the animals were used by a culture in northern Kazakhstan 5,500 years ago.

Until now, the earliest evidence of horse riding was metal parts from harnesses dating from the Bronze Age.

Writing in Science, a team from Exeter University, UK, suggested that the community in Kazakhstan rode their horses 1,000 years earlier.

They also ate them and drank their milk, possibly as an alcoholic brew.

The researchers traced the origins of horse domestication to the Botai culture of Kazakhstan.

Analysis of ancient bones showed that the horses were a similar shape to domesticated horses from the Bronze Age.

The team studied the remains for evidence of damage to their mouths and teeth caused by the riding bits used to harness the animals.

The scientists also analysed the remains of food and drink in pottery and traces of horse meat and milk.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2009, 05:54:34 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2009, 05:55:59 pm »

Communities in Kazakhstan have been
milking horses for thousands of years

Horse milk is still drunk in Kazakhstan, usually fermented into an alcoholic drink known as koumiss.

Lead researcher Dr Alan Outram from Exeter University, said horse domestication was an important indication of the state of human civilisation.

"The domestication of the horse does have implications for human culture globally," he said.

"It increases people's ability to trade and it has great advantages in warfare.

"So if we are moving the origins of horse domestication much further back, we are going to have to think about the impact on the development of human culture at the time."

Some researchers associate the domestication of the horse with the spread of bronze working across Eurasia thousands of years ago.

It may also be linked to the ancient expansion of the Indo-European languages - a widespread language group which today includes English, German, Hindi and Persian.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2009, 05:58:39 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2009, 07:08:33 pm »

                                         Horses first domesticated 5,000 years ago

Randolph E. Schmid,
Ap Science Writer –
Fri Mar 6, 2009

– Medieval knights, the warriors of Saladin, Roy Rogers and fans lining racetracks around the world all owe a debt to the Botai culture, residents of Central Asia who domesticated horses more than 5,000 years ago.

New evidence corralled in Kazakhstan indicates the Botai culture used horses as beasts of burden — and as a source of meat and milk — about 1,000 years earlier than had been widely believed, according to the team led by Alan Outram of England's University of Exeter.

"This is significant because it changes our understanding of how these early societies developed," Outram said.

Domestication of the horse was an immense breakthrough — bringing horsepower to communications, transportation, farming and warfare.

The research, reported in Friday's edition of the journal Science, also shows the development of animal domestication and a fully pastoral economy may well be independent of famous centers of domestication, such as the Near East and China, Outram added.

Compared to dogs, domesticated as long as 15,000 years ago, and such food animals as sheep, goats and pigs, horses are relatively late arrivals in the human relationship.

"It is not so much the domestication of the horse that is important, but the invention of horseback riding," commented anthropologist David W. Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. "When people began to ride, it revolutionized human transport."

"For the first time the Eurasian steppes, formerly a hostile ecological barrier to humans, became a corridor of communication across Eurasia linking China to Europe and the Near East. Riding also forever changed warfare. Boundaries were changed, new trading partners were acquired, new alliances became possible, and resources that had been beyond reach became reachable," observed Anthony, who was not part of Outram's research team.

Some researchers believe this new mobility may have led to the spread of Indo-European languages and many other common aspects of human culture, Outram said.

In addition to carrying people and their goods, horses provided meat and even milk, which some cultures still ferment into a mildly alcoholic beverage.

The date and place of horse domestication has long been subject to research, and the steppes of Central Asia and the Botai culture have previously been suggested as possibilities.

But the new report adds extensive detail to the tale.

Outram's team developed a troika of evidence the Botai domesticated horses.

• Studies of the jaws of horses from the site show tooth wear similar to that caused by bits in modern horses, an indication of riding. A 1998 paper by Anthony raised the possibility of such findings, but the new report is much more extensive and detailed.

• The leg bones of the Botai horses are more slender than those of wild horses, indicating breeding for different qualities.

The new way of measuring and analyzing horse leg bones "shows here for the first time that the Botai culture horses were closer in leg conformation to domestic horses than to wild horses. That is another first," Anthony said.

• And complex studies of ancient ceramic pots from the location showed evidence they once contained mare's milk.

"This is, apart from being fascinating, something of a smoking gun for domestication — would you milk a wild horse?" said Outram.

Anthony agreed: "If you're milking horses, they are not wild!"

"The invention of a method to identify the fat residues left by horse milk in ceramic pots is a spectacular and brilliant advance," he said of Outram's paper. "It is really important to be able to identify the fats in the clay pots as not just from horse tissue, but precisely from horse milk."

Still today mares are milked in Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

"The Kazakhs ferment it into a sour tasting and slightly alcoholic drink called 'koumiss.' It is clear that dated back at least hundreds of years, but beyond that no one knew. Who would have thought it was a practice that went back 5,500 years, at least," Outram said.

The new research was funded by Britain's Natural Environment Research Council, the British Academy and the U.S. National Science Foundation.


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« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 06:09:39 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2009, 06:06:03 pm »

                                      New Evidence Of Early Horse Domestication

(Nov. 3, 2006)

— Soil from a Copper Age site in northern Kazakhstan has yielded new evidence for domesticated horses up to 5,600 years ago. The discovery, consisting of phosphorus-enriched soils inside what appear to be the remains of horse corrals beside pit houses, matches what would be expected from Earth once enriched by horse manure. The Krasnyi Yar site was inhabited by people of the Botai culture of the Eurasian Steppe, who relied heavily on horses for food, tools, and transport.

"There's very little direct evidence of horse domestication," says Sandra Olsen, an archaeologist and horse domestication researcher at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. That's because 5,600 years ago there were no saddles or metal bits to leave behind. Equipment like bridles, leads, and hobbles would have been made from thongs of horse hide, and would have rotted away long ago. Likewise horses themselves have not changed much physically as a result of domestication, unlike dogs or cattle. So ancient horse bones don't easily reveal the secrets of domestication.

With research funding from the National Science Foundation, Olsen's team took a different tack. They looked for circumstantial evidence that people were keeping horses. One approach was to survey the Krasnyi Yar site with instruments to map out subtle electrical and magnetic irregularities in the soils. With this they were able to identify the locations of 54 pit houses and dozens of post moulds where vertical posts once stood. Some of the post moulds were arranged circularly, as would be most practical for a corral.

Next, geologist Michael Rosenmeier from the University of Pittsburgh collected soil samples from inside the fenced area and outside the settlement. The samples were analyzed for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium concentrations by Rosemary Capo, University of Pittsburgh geochemist, and her students. Modern horse manure is rich in phosphorous, potassium, and especially nitrogen, compared to undisturbed soils. But because nitrogen is mobile in soils, it can be lost to groundwater or transferred to the atmosphere by organic and inorganic processes. Phosphorus, on the other hand, can be locked into place by calcium and iron and is more likely to be preserved in the soils for millennia.

As it turned out, the soil from inside the alleged corral had up to ten times the phosphorus concentration as the soils from outside the settlement. Lots of phosphorus can also indicate a hearth, said Capo, but that phosphorus is usually accompanied by a lot of potassium, which is not the case in the corral at Krasnyi Yar.

The corral soils also had low nitrogen concentrations, says Capo, reducing the likelihood that the phosphorus came from more recent manure. "That's good, actually," she said of the recently completed nitrogen analyses. "It suggests we've got old stuff."

Even more compelling will be if we find long-lived molecules of fat, or lipids, directly attributed to horse manure in the soils, says Olsen.

The latest results from Krasnyi Yar site will be on display Monday morning, 23 October, at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Philadelphia.

Early as the Botai were, they were probably not the first to domesticate horses, says Olsen. "The very first horse domestication was probably a bit earlier in Ukraine or western Russia," she said. "Then some horse-herders migrated east to Kazakhstan."

Horses allowed the Botai to build large perennial villages with, in one case, hundreds of homes. They did so without the benefit of agriculture, Olsen explained, as theirs was a horse economy.

The Botai were able to stay put year-round because horses are very well adapted to cold winters, she said. "Horses can survive ice storms and don't need heated barns or winter fodder," Olsen said. They are, in fact, some of the last remaining large, Ice Age, Pleistocene mammals living in one of the last places on Earth where Pleistocene vegetation survives.

Because they were domesticated, the horses supplied meat year-round and vitamin-rich mare's milk from spring through fall. "No one in their right mind would try to milk a wild mare," said Olsen.

There is also evidence that the Botai were carrying a lot of heavy material, like rocks and large skulls, over long distances. That is a lot more practical and explicable if they used pack horses.

Later people of the same region adopted shepherding and cattle raising, said Olsen. That created a more nomadic culture, since sheep and cattle are not well suited for sub-zero climates and therefore needed to be taken south in winter. The tradeoff, she says, was that cows and sheep give far fattier milk year round, which can be made into yogurt and cheese. Sheep also provide wool.

Kazakh people today still eat horsemeat. They were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle during the Soviet era and have returned to small village pastoralism, Olsen says.


Adapted from materials provided by Geological Society of America.
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 MLA Geological Society of America (2006, November 3). New Evidence Of Early Horse Domestication. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2009, from­ /releases/2006/10/061023192518.htm
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2009, 06:12:17 pm »

The Botai culture in northern Kazakhstan is named after the site of Botai, where 99% of 300,000 recovered animal bones were from horses. Botai was a culture of foragers that rode horses to hunt horses, a peculiar adaptation found only here and only between about 3600-3000 BCE.

 Sandra Olsen’s (2003, 2006) excavations at Botai and Krasnyi Yar found layers of horse dung in house pits, suggesting either stable-cleaning or possibly a roof sealed with horse dung, clear indicators of domestication. Also, whole horse carcasses were butchered in the settlement as a regular practice extending over hundreds of years. Since the Botai culture had no domesticated cattle, they had no animals big enough to drag carcasses, so at least some horses were kept for meat in or near the settlement.

Recently scientists led by Alan Outram at Exeter University have found traces of horse milk residues in clay pots from Botai. The milking of horses of course indicates that they were domesticated.

But is there direct evidence that they were ridden? Outram dismissed our evidence for bit wear at Botai. Bit wear is a pathology commonly found on the premolars of bitted horses. A bit is used only to ride or drive a horse, and Botai lacked wheeled vehicles, so bit wear would mean riding.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2009, 06:15:33 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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