Archaeologists Discover Ancient Horsemanship

  • The discovery has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
  • After determining the age of the animals, it created a big excitement within history enthusiasts.
  • "The materials suggest that armed horsemen who fought on horseback could have appeared in the Eurasian steppes no later than 1600 BC."

A new discovery by Russian and Kazakh archeologists uncovered evidence of horsemanship. The discovery is very valuable, as it is 700 years earlier that was recorded previously. Horsemanship has been a very important aspect of history, which changed the military and how wars were conducted.

Turgshes emerged as an independent power after the demise of the Western Turks and established a khaganate in 699. The Turgesh Khaganate lasted until 766 when the Karluks defeated them.

But when did people learn the art of riding? This question and analysis has always been uneasy. There is evidence of horse domestication as early as two millennia B.C., but “breeding horses” does not mean “riding.” Most likely, the most ancient horse breeders bread them as a status symbol.

The early Mesopotamian civilizations used chariots of war, but not mounted cavalry. Furthermore, at the earlier years, the advent of riding horses changed the life of the civilizations. A large number of troops could move quickly over long distances and probably contributed to the largest scale wars.

It also changed certain power balances for the myriad of the great empires. The Turkic Khaganate is a prime example, which  stretched from the Far East to the North Caucasus in the Seventh Century AD. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, the cavalry remained a powerful shock force, often deciding the outcome of the battle, if not the war.

The discovery has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science titled “Early evidence for horse utilization in the Eurasian steppes and the case of the Novoil’inovskiy 2 Cemetery in Kazakhstan.” The discovery happened during the excavations of one of the burial mounds “Novoilinovsky-2” in Kazakhstan.

About three and a half millennia ago, the carriers of the Andronovo culture of the bronze age buried their dead here. Archaeologists have found the remains of a stallion and a mare. In itself, this is not surprising. It has long been known that people of Andronovo tribes raised horses for meat (a tradition that is preserved in the Kazakh steppes to this day).

The Journal of Archaeological Science is a monthly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers “the development and application of scientific techniques and methodologies to all areas of archaeology”. The journal was established in 1974 by Academic Press and is currently published by Elsevier.

After determining the age of the animals, it created a big excitement within history enthusiasts. The stallion at the time of death was about twenty years old, and the mare about 18. Additionally, next to the horses were found parts of ancient bridles.

But this is not all. Experts found pathological changes in the animals’ skulls, which were probably caused by the constant wearing of a harness. This is also indicated by the marks on the horse’s cheekbones.

Archaeologists strongly believe that these horses were used for riding, and not just harnessed to chariots. Using the radiocarbon method, experts determined the age of the find with an accuracy of several decades.

According to one of the authors of the article, “the materials suggest that armed horsemen who fought on horseback could have appeared in the Eurasian steppes no later than 1600 BC.” He believes that the rider buried with his horses belonged to the powerful elite of ancient society. However, the role of this layer in the life of the Andronovo remains a subject of debate.

Another hypothesis is that armed horsemen were a kind of bronze age sheriffs. They kept order and settled conflicts, for which they were respected by their tribesmen, and received generous offerings from them. It is possible that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Any government is interested in maintaining order on its territory, but at the same time, the burden of its maintenance might not be so voluntary.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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