Horseback riding and the Secondary Products Revolution


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Horseback riding and the Secondary Products Revolution


S2-1, New Approaches to the Secondary Products Revolution, oral



Horseback riding was an important element in Andrew Sherratt’s Secondary Products Revolution. He suggested that it began in the northern Caucasus about 3500 BC when the asses in (imagined) Uruk-era copper caravans were replaced by native wild horses. This scenario is contradicted by new evidence suggesting an earlier (before 3500 BC) and independent beginning of riding in the Eurasian steppes. Research by Olsen, Outram, and Bendrey on materials from Botai-culture sites in northern Kazakhstan revealed horse manure inside settlements and horse milk residues in pots, proving the controlled management of horse herds beginning 3600-3500 BC. Riding, the application that made early horse domestication significant, is more difficult to prove. The principal evidence for riding is bit wear, a common pathology caused by a bit, affecting the lower premolars and possibly (according to Bendrey) the mandible. New research by Bendrey on bit wear and criticisms by Olsen, Outram, and Levine of Anthony and Brown’s bit wear studies have made a review of the current state of bit wear studies necessary. Bit wear as defined here is a pathology that reliably separates bitted from never-bitted horses, and it appears on horse teeth at Botai-culture sites. But the Botai discoveries also should be understood within the broader context of horse use and cultural contacts across the Eurasian steppes during the 4th millennium BC that indicate an earlier date for horse riding and management.


ANTHONY David W. and BROWN Dorcas R.


1 Hartwick College, Anthropology Dept, 13820, Oneonta, NY, USA;


Anthony, David W.
Brown, Dorcas R.


August 2010

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Anthony, David W. and Brown, Dorcas R.. " Horseback riding and the Secondary Products Revolution ," in BoneCommons, Item #932, (accessed August 7, 2020).