Archaeologists recently located signs of horse riding that affected the semi-nomadic Ymnaya people who lived west of the Black Sea around four to five thousand years ago. Archaeologists discovered evidence of what are believed to be the world’s earliest-known horse riders, which included old horse harnesses, bits, and other artifacts. [i]
They also found evidence that these horse riders had a sophisticated understanding of animal behavior and could train horses to respond to specific commands. As a result, the Ymnaya people were likely among the first cultures to domesticate and train horses, which allowed them to greatly expand their range of movement and access resources and territories that would have been otherwise inaccessible. [ii]
This development likely had enormous implications for the Ymnaya people, allowing them to establish and maintain trade networks, settle new lands, and expand their influence. [ii]
The Yamnaya people, who were roaming cattle and sheep herders, left clear signs of their horsemanship in the skeletons of their people. These people migrated from the Pontic-Caspian steppes in search of more fertile lands in present-day Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia. [i]
Evidence of the Yamnaya people's horsemanship is evident in their skeletal remains, showing that they were skilled in riding and caring for horses. This mobility enabled them to travel long distances in search of resources and quickly adapt to their new surroundings. Furthermore, the ability would have been an invaluable asset to the Yamnaya people as they ventured into new and unfamiliar lands. [iii]
Bioanthropologist Dr. Martin Trautmann studied the use of horses by the Yamnayans, an ancient nomadic people from the Eurasian Steppe. The study included the analysis of 217 skeletons from 39 different sites. [iv]
Trautmann posited that the Yamnayans began riding horses for various reasons, including to herd cattle quickly, engage in raids, or even as a form of status. However, due to the lack of concrete evidence, the exact reasons why the Yamnayans began using horses remains to be determined. [v]
The survey team conducted an in-depth investigation, searching for six distinct indicators of horseriding activity that could be seen on the human body. These indicators were referred to as “horsemanship syndrome,” and were used to measure the extent of a person's involvement in horseriding activities. The survey aimed to study the frequency of injuries caused by the sport and to identify any potential health risks associated with it. [vi]
The survey team collected data on the physical characteristics of those who participated in horseriding activities, including their age, gender, body type, and the type of horse they rode. They also took into account the duration and intensity of the activity and the type of protective gear used. [vi]
The team also considered the rider's experience level and the various riding techniques. All of this information was then used to develop a comprehensive picture of the risks associated with horseriding and the potential benefits that it could bring. [v]
[i] Librado, Pablo, Naveed Khan, Antoine Fages, Mariya A. Kusliy, Tomasz Suchan, Laure Tonasso-Calvière, Stéphanie Schiavinato, et al. "The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes." Nature 598, no. 7882 (2021): 634-640.
[ii] Trautmann, Martin, Alin Frinculeasa, Binaca Preda-Balanica, marta Petruneac, Marin Focsaneanu, Stefan Alexandrov, et al. "First bioantrhopological evidence for Yamnaya horsemanship." Science Advances (2023)
[iii] Librado, Pablo, Naveed Khan, Antoine Fages, Mariya A. Kusliy, Tomasz Suchan, Laure Tonasso-Calvière, Stéphanie Schiavinato, et al. "The origins and spread of domestic horses from the Western Eurasian steppes." Nature 598, no. 7882 (2021): 634-640.
[iv] Guimaraes, Silvia, Benjamin S. Arbuckle, Joris Peters, Sarah E. Adcock, Hijlke Buitenhuis, Hannah Chazin, Ninna Manaseryan, Hans-Peter Uerpmann, Thierry Grange, and Eva-Maria Geigl. "Ancient DNA shows domestic horses were introduced in the southern Caucasus and Anatolia during the Bronze Age." Science Advances 6, no. 38 (2020): eabb0030.
[v] Anthony, David W., and Dorcas R. Brown. "The secondary products revolution, horse-riding, and mounted warfare." Journal of World Prehistory 24 (2011): 131-160.
[vi] Outram, Alan K., Andrey Polyakov, Andrei Gromov, Vyacheslav Moiseyev, Andrzej W. Weber, Vladimir I. Bazaliiskii, and O. I. Goriunova. "Archaeological supplement B to Damgaard et al. 2018: Discussion of the archaeology of Central Asian and East Asian Neolithic to Bronze Age hunter-gatherers and early pastoralists, including consideration of horse domestication." (2018).
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