Riding Horses

Mark Odegard <Odegard@means.net> Odegard at means.net
Mon Jan 25 23:50:51 UTC 1999

On 24 Jan 99 at 21:20, iffr762 at utxvms.cc.utexas.edu wrote:

> In
> any event, my impression is that in the early days there was what might be
> called "role reversal" between cattle and horses:  cattle were used for
> draft, and horses for milk, and that "getting it right" (using horses for
> draft and cattle for milk) was a major agricultural or pastoral revolution
> at the time. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Don't the Mongols still consume mare's milk? And a fermented,
buttered version at that?

I don't think you are wrong at all. Pinning down the an exact date
for this 'pastoral revolution', though, seems difficult. Sometime
before 1300 BCE for sure, at least for the bit. This seems to have
moved down from the steppe. Ramesses II's monuments to himself show
his chariot horses with bits, while not too far before, the images of
horse and chariot from King Tut's tomb has a nose ring in the horse
(this could be an archaic artistic convention though).

The book on equine archeology does not seem to have been written.
The evidence from Dereivka, though, is very difficult to dismiss.
Accepting the latest date, c. 3500 BCE for the bit, it becomes very
hard to believe horses were not being *regularly* ridden. Can you
imagine them NOT riding these creatures? And since they quite
obviously CAN be ridden, can you imagine a rider culture not
developing out there on that ocean of free grass?

By the time of the Indo-Iranian migrations, it is hard to believe
that horseback riding was not integrated into their economic system.
When I read of neolithic/early bronze burials that include horses, I
wonder just how large these animals were; I suspect they were sized
like Iceland horses or Shetland ponies  -- quite capable of pulling a
light cart or supporting a rider, but not really suitable for heavy draft
work -- or for cavalry. Compare such small horses with the apparently
full-sized specimens on Ramesses' monuments. Anyone have any

We also need the book on bovine archeology too. I've been reading
about aurochs skulls being plastered into the walls of Catal Huyuk
family shrines, along with the skulls of departed family members.
Mark Odegard   mailto:odegard at means.net

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