Russian Archaeologists Discover the Most Ancient Evidence of Horsemanship in the Bronze Age

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Pic : Archive of I. Chechushkov

Russian archaeologists discovered new facts about the use of horses in the Bronze Age. The international team of scientists from Kazakhstan, Russia and the USA, including a senior researcher at the Eurasian Studies Research and Education Centre of South Ural State University, PhD Igor Chechushkov, proved that the Andronovites mastered horse riding several centuries earlier than is commonly believed.

The researchers studied the age of animals and found changes in the skull, which indicate the use of horses by riders. An article on this multidisciplinary study is published in one of the most highly ranked journals of the first quartile Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The burial is located near the city of Lisakovsk in the Kostanay region of Kazakhstan. About 3.5 thousand years ago, people of the Andronovo culture lived on this territory. A distinctive feature of these ancient people was the development of horse breeding. The animals were used not only for food, but also for harnessing to chariots and riding.

Scientists paid attention to the approximate age of the buried animals: the stallion was about 20 years old, and the mare was about 18. For the “beef” cattle, their lifespan was too long. There were details of ancient bridles near the horses. Thus, scientists established a new hypothesis: animals were sacrificially buried with the person whom they accompanied during their lifetime.

A scientist from SUSU Igor Chechushkov took part in the laboratory and analytical part of the study. He analyzed radiocarbon dating of the found artifacts and horse bones.

“We received radiocarbon dates that made it possible to date the complex with an accuracy of several decades. A comparison of these dates with the known ones allowed us to conclude that horsemanship began to be practiced much earlier than many researchers had previously expected. So, the accepted date for the formation of horsemanship is about 900 BC. Our materials suggest that armed horsemen could have appeared in Eurasia no later than 1600 BC,” Igor Chechushkov says.

Work at the repository in Kazakhstan was carried out together with paleozoologist Pavel Kosintsev from the Ural branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Yekaterinburg).

Igor Chechushkov received radiocarbon dates at the University of Arizona (USA). When the age of the horses became clear, a 3D-modeling of the burial and the remains of animals was needed in order to analyze the pathologies associated with the use of animals in work. Indirect signs indicated changes in turtles associated with the use of bridles for riding. This part of the study was conducted in collaboration with an expert from the University of Minnesota (USA), and Dr. William Taylor from the University of Colorado (USA), one of the leading researchers on the use of horses in the bronze age in Mongolia.

SUSU is a participant in the 5-100 Project, intended to increase the competitiveness of Russian universities among the world’s leading research and educational centres.