The Sintashta horses!

The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes:

Domestication of horses fundamentally transformed long-range mobility and warfare1. However, modern domesticated breeds do not descend from the earliest domestic horse lineage associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corralling…at Botai, Central Asia around 3500 BC3. Other longstanding candidate regions for horse domestication, such as Iberia5 and Anatolia6, have also recently been challenged. Thus, the genetic, geographic and temporal origins of modern domestic horses have remained unknown. Here we pinpoint the Western Eurasian steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don region, as the homeland of modern domestic horses. Furthermore, we map the population changes accompanying domestication from 273 ancient horse genomes. This reveals that modern domestic horses ultimately replaced almost all other local populations as they expanded rapidly across Eurasia from about 2000 BC, synchronously with equestrian material culture, including Sintashta spoke-wheeled chariots. We find that equestrianism involved strong selection for critical locomotor and behavioural adaptations at the GSDMC and ZFPM1 genes. Our results reject the commonly held association7 between horseback riding and the massive expansion of Yamnaya steppe pastoralists into Europe around 3000 BC driving the spread of Indo-European languages. This contrasts with the scenario in Asia where Indo-Iranian languages, chariots and horses spread together, following the early second millennium BC Sintashta culture.

The paper is open access. Basically the Sintashta seem to have triggered the equine revolution across Eurasia.

2 thoughts on “The Sintashta horses!”

  1. the more I read of diverse views on Ancient horses – especially those of scholars like Robert Drews – who attests quite convincingly I believe that use of horses for long distance travel / violence was not used till Sintastha and their chariots.
    Moreover mounted warfare seems extremely unlikely till the early Scythians well into the Iron Age.

    What do you think Razib ? Anthony seems to suggest either the Sredni-Stog/Suvurovo or Yamanya as horse riding ?

  2. There’s a tomb associated with migrants from the steppe dating to before 4000BC. The guy was buried with gilted javelins, and a sacrificed horse on top of him.

    I’d bet good money that they were riding and fighting from horseback since the early days of domestication, even if their methods were lacking compared to later steppe people. Does the paper have anything on European horses between 4000-2000BC? There’s probably some pulse of steppe horse ancestry during that period.

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