The study, published online March 31 in Journal of Archaeological Science, produces scientific estimates of the age of horse bones found from archaeological sites belonging to a culture known as the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Complex. This culture, named for the beautiful carved standing stones (“deer stones”) and burial mounds (khirigsuurs) it built across the Mongolian Steppe is linked with some of the oldest evidence for nomadic herding and domestic livestock use in eastern Eurasia. At both deer stones and khirigsuurs, stone mounds containing ritual burials of domestic horses - sometimes numbering in the hundreds or thousands – are found buried around the edge of each monument.
A team of researchers from several academic institutions – including the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Yale University, University of Chicago, the American Center for Mongolian Studies, and the National Museum of Mongolia – used a scientific dating technique known as radiocarbon dating to estimate the spread of domestic horse ritual at deer stones and khirigsuurs.
By using a statistical technique known as Bayesian analysis – which combines probability with archaeological information to improve precision for groups of radiocarbon dates – the study authors were able to produce a high-precision chronology model for early domestic horse use in Mongolia. Lead author William Taylor, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, says that this model “enables us for the first time to link horse use with other important cultural developments in ancient Mongolia and eastern Eurasia, and evaluate the role of climate and environmental change in the local origins of horse riding.”
According to new research, nomadic horse culture — famously associated with Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes — can trace its roots back more than 3,000 years in the eastern Eurasian Steppes, in the territory of modern Mongolia.
Photo: William Taylor
Dr. William Taylor
Citation: A Bayesian chronology for early domestic horse use in the Eastern Steppe Journal of Archaeological Science Volume 81, May 2017, Pages 49–58 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2017.03.006
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