The “mystery” is solved: It was found where and when the horses were domesticated – How they became more obedient to humans

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One one of the most persistent secrets of prehistory It looks like finally solved. An international scientific team, led by French scientists, concluded that modern horses were domesticated around 2200 BC. in the steppes of Western Eurasia, also known as Pontus-Caspian steppes, near the Volga and Don rivers of present-day Russia, from where they later spread to the rest of the world.

The 162 researchers from many countries and with many specialties (geneticists, archaeologists, linguists, etc.), led by the professor of paleogenetics Ludovic Orlando of the University of Toulouse III-Paul Sabatier and the National Center for Scientific Research (CNR) published in the journal Nature, analyzed DNA from the remains of 273 ancient horses from various regions (Iberian, Anatolia, Western Eurasia, Central Asia), which had lived 50,000 to 2,200 years ago.

As Orlando put it, “we finally found out where and when the horses were domesticated.” The domestication of horses was one decisive event, as he brought revolution in travel, transportation, wars and other activities.

Horses: Within 500 years of domestication, new domesticated breeds have replaced all populations in Eurasia

Until now, there was archaeological evidence for an older domestication of horses in the Botay region of Central Asia around 3500 BC, but those ancient horses are not related to modern domesticated horses. The new research places the “homeland” of the modern horse in the Mouse Steppe, which is the western part of the wider Eurasian steppe and more specifically in the basins of the Volga and Don rivers, east of the Dnieper River.

Horseback riding and the attachment of wheeled chariots to them facilitated the spread of newly domesticated horses, resulting in in about 500 years since their domestication, new domesticated horse breeds to replace all horse populations in Eurasia.

The researchers found that although Eurasia once had genetically diverse horse populations, a dramatic change occurred between 2000 and 2200 BC. Gradually, from Anatolia to Siberia, a unique genetic profile of horses prevailed, previously found only in the steppes of Pontus in the northern Caucasus. Within a few centuries all the wild horse populations from the Atlantic to Mongolia had been replaced by these domesticated horses.

Unprecedented demographic explosion

At the same time, according to Orlando, “as genetic data show, there was one demographic explosion in horses, the like of which had not existed in the last 100,000 years. “This happened when we humans took control of the horse’s reproduction and produced it in astronomical numbers.”

This rapid increase in horses is also due to the fact that, thanks to the mutations their DNA underwent, they became on the one hand more obedient to humans and on the other more skeletally resistant. According to the new study, two genes (GSDMC and ZFPM1) that once prevailed in horses in the steppes of western Eurasia, played a key role in making significant evolutionary adaptations and behavioral changes in animals, in terms of their endurance, ability to carry more weight, obedience to people etc.

However, according to researchers, the successive migrations of Indo-European populations and Indo-Iranian languages ​​from the steppes to Europe during the third millennium BC. could not have relied on horses, as their domestication and spread occurred later.

Here you will see the relevant scientific publication.

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