Horses were domesticated about 1,000 years earlier than previously believed

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Ishim River, a river fed by the tributary Iman-Burluk River where the Botai culture was located.

Olivier sent me the link to this piece of news yesterday:
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.
Not only is this important for archaeological and historical purposes, but also political ones. Kazakhstan is very interested in becoming closer with Europe as this article in Turkish from three days ago states:
Nitekim Kazakistan, Avrupa ile bütünleşmek için demokratikleşme yönünde önemli adımlar atmaya başlamıştır. Kazakistan, 2030 yılına kadar ekonomik ve sosyal rekabet gücü en gelişmiş olan ülkeler arasına girmeyi amaçlamıştır. Bu nedenle, Kazakistan Parlamentosu ‘Kazakistan-2030 Stratejisi’ni gerçekleştirmiştir.
Kazakhstan has begun to take important steps concerning democratization to integrate itself with Europe. Kazakhstan plans to be one of the most developed nations in economic and social competitive ability by 2030, for which the Kazakhstan Parliament has carried out a 'Kazakhstan-2030 Strategy'.

and:
Kazakistan, 2010 AGİT Dönem Başkanlığı’na hazırlanıyor. Avrupa Birliği, Kazakistan’ın AGİT başkanlığı adaylığını destek ederek Kazakistan ile işbirliği isteğini göstermiştir. Kazakistan, Orta Asya sorunlarına dikkat çekerek Orta Asya Bölgesi’nde güvenlik, istikrarlaşma ve demokratikleşmenin sağlanmasında önemli rol oynayabilecektir.
Kazakhstan is preparing itself for its 2010 presidency of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). The European Union has shown its desire for cooperation with Kazakhstan in its support for Kazakhstan's presidency of the OSCE. Kazakhstan will be able to play an important role in providing security, stabilization and democratization in the Central Asia region while drawing attention to the issues there.

...so Kazakhstan is probably happy about this important discovery that shows it to be a central location of original Indo-European culture.

Back to the original article: it reminds me of this post I wrote quite some time ago which contains this quote from the book The Languages of the World:
It would appear that the Indo-Europeans lived in a cold northern region; that it was not near the water, but among forests; that they raised such domestic animals as the sheep, the dog, the cow, and the horse; that among wild animals they knew the bear and the wolf; and that among metals they probably knew only copper. Many believe that it was the use of the horse and chariot that enabled them to overrun such an enormous expanse of territory.
Finally, one more quote from the article that explains the significance:

"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.

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