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Vesuvian Sky
10-08-2013, 10:55 PM
Ever wondered where and when the horse was originally domesticated? Up until relatively recently, explicitly sound archaeological evidence was missing. Here is a brief history of the archaeology of horse domestication:

I. Why the Steppes and not 'West Asia'?

Though its been demonstrated through archaeological investigation that the territory of 'West Asia' (or perhaps the Northern Middle East) has given us many of our earliest metallurgical archaeological horizons, agricultural societies, centers of proto-urbanization and perhaps now even the earliest evidence of the wheel, it lacks compelling evidence for earliest horse domestication due to the fact that by the mid-holocene, c. 5000 BCE, the vast majority of wild horse remains are overwhelmingly represented more on the steppes with a frequency of 40% compared to the rest of western Eurasia. Simply put, horse was what was for 'dinner' on the steppes but only because wild horses were far more frequent there then anywhere else:


http://imageshack.us/a/img703/636/yd9o.png

In Europe and Asia, large hordes of horses survived on the steppes in the center of the Eurasian continent, leaving smaller populations isolated in pockets of naturally open pasture (marsh-grass meadows, alpine meadows, arid mesetas) in Europe, central Anatolia (modern Turkey), and the Caucasus Mountains. Horses disappeared from Iran, lowland Mesopotamia, and the Fertile Crescent, leaving these warm regions to other equids (onagers and asses).


http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2011/08/wild-horses-500x360.jpg

II. Problems in interpretation concerning Equine archaeology

For years, it was long thought that the Dereivka stallion of Eneolithic Ukraine, which was excavated in 1967, possessed the earliest evidence of horse domestication on the steppes. The stallion was thought to be found within the context of the Sredny Stog cultural horizon based on the stratigraphic layer it was uncovered from. Much emphasis was placed on the stallion because most of the other equine remains found within the Sredny Stog cultural horizon were thrown out of the archives they were kept in and therefore permanently rendered unavailable for further analysis.

Fortunately, the Dereivka stallion appeared to possess wear facets more than 3 mm deep discovered on the lower second premolars and was, as mentioned prior, dated about 4000 BCE based on stratigraphic evidence. This dating however was challenged by a German archaeologist Alexander Hausler and subsequent analysis from dental material on one of the worn teeth later produced a radiocarbon date of 700–200 BCE, indicating that this stallion was actually deposited in a pit dug into the older Eneolithic site during the Iron Age, presumably during the 'Scythian Age'.

It wasn't until years later, that the 'hard archaeological evidence' for pre-historic horse domestication on the steppes would appear. In the 1980s and 1990s, teams of archaeologists from the Petropavlovsk Pedagogical Institute (now Petropavlovsk University) began excavating a site that would come to be known 'Botai' located in northern Kazakhstan.

It would come to be known, that the prehistoric human occupants at 'Botai', were connected to their horses. In a report from 2009, it was shown that pottery contained evidence of mare's milk.


http://www.redorbit.com/media/uploads/2010/01/9c3a8e5d92dba277722f0c592ae7a8a71.jpg

Various horse bones found had telltale signs of being bred after domestication:


http://www.redorbit.com/media/uploads/2010/01/3708bb1cb06e469e0127595b3498cff61.jpg

Remote sensing techniques revealed curvilinear arrangements of dark spots that were interpreted as post moulds from fences or structures. To test whether these might represent corrals, soil samples were collected within one enclosure area.



http://www.carnegiemnh.org/uploadedImages/CMNH_Site/Anthropology/Graphics/Botai/Fig17.jpg

The elemental analysis of these soil samples revealed elevated phosphorus concentrations as would be expected where manure was concentrated. The elevated sodium concentrations found may be indicative of horse urine.

The final 'smoking gun' for horse domestication, came from wear facets of 3 mm or more found on seven horse premolars in two sites at Botai, dated about 3500–3000 BCE. The Botai culture premolars are the earliest reported multiple examples of this dental pathology in any archaeological site, and preceded any skeletal change indicators by 1,000 years:


http://www.newscientist.com/data/images/ns/cms/dn16713/dn16713-1_300.jpg


The above demonstrated the Botai culture as a major user of domestic horses by about 3,500 BC, close to 1,000 years earlier than the previous scientific consensus. This does not necessarily mean they were the first to domesticate horses, but makes them the earliest known candidate.

Smaug
10-08-2013, 11:01 PM
Subscribed!

Prisoner Of Ice
10-08-2013, 11:15 PM
There's actually now evidence of horses buried upright at something like 12000 BC.

There's also even evidence for neanderthal horse domestication but no obvious smoking gun like the upright burial. Considering we now know they were seafaring 50K years ago, a bunch of horses all dead in a line as if it was a hitching post seems like good evidence to me, though. The la scaux caves also imply something more than what you would show towards what you considered a game animal.

Vesuvian Sky
10-08-2013, 11:21 PM
There's actually now evidence of horses buried upright at something like 12000 BC.

There's also even evidence for neanderthal horse domestication but no obvious smoking gun like the upright burial. Considering we now know they were seafaring 50K years ago, a bunch of horses all dead in a line as if it was a hitching post seems like good evidence to me, though. The la scaux caves also imply something more than what you would show towards what you considered a game animal.

They could have simply been hunted though. Usually to prove hard evidence of horse domestication, we look for telltale signs:

1) Are they being enclosed?

2) Do they have bit wear on any of their molars (evidence of riding/harnessing)?

3) Are secondary products being extracted from them (like mares milk)?

4) Is their evidence of spinal wear from riding on the bones?

There's a little more that goes into finding evidence for earliest domestication which goes beyond whether or not the remains were simply found buried or what not. Or even a simple depiction for that matter. So far, the most complete analysis of these four points comes to us from Botai.

Prisoner Of Ice
10-08-2013, 11:32 PM
There's no proof per se. It would probably be impossible going back that far; it would take an extremely lucky find to give solid evidence even if it were very common. As you show here, there's been no solid evidence of horse domestication going back even to what historical sources claim until very recently.

Vesuvian Sky
10-08-2013, 11:38 PM
There's no proof per se. It would probably be impossible going back that far; it would take an extremely lucky find to give solid evidence even if it were very common. As you show here, there's been no solid evidence of horse domestication going back even to what historical sources claim until very recently.

For years and with the discovery of the earliest charioteered horse remains at Sintashta site, archaeologist felt the unequivocal date for horse domestication was c. 2000 BC. However, many suspected deeper origins. But we also have to consider what all domestication entails:


Domestication (from Latin domesticus) is the process whereby a population of living organisms is changed at the genetic level, through generations of selective breeding, to accentuate traits that ultimately benefit humans. A usual by-product of domestication is the creation of a dependency in the domesticated organisms, so that they lose their ability to live in the wild.[1] It differs from taming in that a change in the phenotypical expression and genotype of the animal occurs, whereas taming is simply the process by which animals become accustomed to human presence. In the Convention on Biological Diversity, a domesticated species is defined as a "species in which the evolutionary process has been influenced by humans to meet their needs."[2] Therefore, a defining characteristic of domestication is artificial selection by humans. Humans have brought these populations under their control and care for a wide range of reasons: to produce food or valuable commodities (such as wool, cotton, or silk) and for types of work (such as transportation, protection, warfare), scientific research, or simply to enjoy as companions or ornaments.

Now here's some stuff from the genetics done on horses:


A study published in 2012 that performed genomic sampling on 300 work horses from local areas as well as a review of previous studies of archaeology, mitochondrial DNA, and Y-DNA suggested that horses were originally domesticated in the western part of the Eurasian steppe.[20] Both domesticated stallions and mares spread out from this area, and then additional wild mares were added from local herds; wild mares were easier to handle than wild stallions. Most other parts of the world were ruled out as sites for horse domestication, either due to climate unsuitable for an indigenous wild horse population or no evidence of domestication.[21]

Prisoner Of Ice
10-09-2013, 01:09 AM
I think the genetics for horses rather say that all europeans horses come from iberia, so that study is not the end all of the matter. Since that's also definitely the ultimate origin of all the best horses according to mtdna it's got to have some deeper implication.

For that matter there's speculation goats show some genetic signs of domestication going back 200k years. Would not surprise me at all, though archeologically of course we have no evidence til much more recently.

Vesuvian Sky
10-09-2013, 01:24 AM
I think the genetics for horses rather say that all europeans horses come from iberia, so that study is not the end all of the matter. Since that's also definitely the ultimate origin of all the best horses according to mtdna it's got to have some deeper implication.

Based on mtDNA? What that study said concerning horses is the male Y-DNA lineage goes back to the steppes ultimately. mtDNA of horses is more varied with multiple loci.