Friday, November 10, 2006

Horsemen of the Steppes: Ancient Corrals Found in Kazakhstan
At least 5,600 years ago the Botai people that inhabited what is modern day Kazakhstan used horses--both wild and apparently domestic--as the basis of their lifestyle. With no evidence for agriculture or other domesticated animals, these people of the ancient steppes seem to have raised, rode and ate horses to survive. "It looks like the Botai people rode horses to hunt wild horses and either used horses to drag the carcasses back on sleds, or kept some domesticated horses for food," explains David Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. But proof of their ancient use has been hard to find. Because of the impermanence of leather, little survives of the implements that would be used to ride a horse, such as a bit or bridle, and domestication induced few morphological changes in the horse. But new research in the ancient Botai village of Krasnyi Yar seems to have turned up some ancient corrals--and pushed proof of horse domestication further back in time.