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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Backing up Horse Domestication (Finally)


Recent archaeological discoveries on the Arabian Peninsula have
uncovered evidence of a previously unknown civilisation based in
the now arid areas in the middle of the desert.

The artefacts unearthed are providing proof of a civilisation that
flourished thousands of years ago and have renewed scientific interest
in man and the evolution of his relationship with animals.

The 300-odd stone objects so far found in the remote Al Magar area of
Saudi Arabia include traces of stone tools, arrow heads, small scrapers
and various animal statues including sheep, goats and ostriches.

But the object that has engendered the most intense interest from
within the country and around the world is a large, stone carving of
an "equid" - an animal belonging to the horse family.

According to Ali bin Ibrahim Al Ghabban, vice-president of the Saudi
Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, DNA and carbon-14 (radiocarbon)
tests are continuing. But initial evidence suggests that the artefacts
date back 9,000 years.

"These discoveries reflect the importance of the site as a centre of
civilisation," he told BBC News.

"It could possibly be the birthplace of an advanced prehistoric
civilisation that witnessed the domestication of animals, particularly
the horse, for the first time during the Neolithic period."

The crucial find is that of a large sculptural fragment that appears to
show the head, muzzle, shoulder and withers of an animal that bears a
distinct resemblance to a horse.

The piece is unique in terms of its size, weighing more than 135kg.

Moreover, further discoveries on the same site of smaller, horse-like
sculptures, also with bands across their shoulders, have opened the
possibility that an advanced civilisation here may already have been
using the accessories of domestication - tack - in order to control
horses.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21538969
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