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The Secondary Products Revolution, Horse-Riding, and Mounted Warfare

Abstract

Andrew Sherratt included horseback riding and chariotry in his conception of the Secondary Products Revolution, but his emphasis on the role of horses in warfare and on a Near Eastern influence in the earliest episode of horse domestication is viewed here as as an important shortcoming in his understanding of the process of horse domestication. Current evidence indicates that horses were domesticated in the steppes of Kazakhstan and Russia, certainly by 3500 BC and possibly by 4500 BC. Tribal raiding on horseback could be almost that old, but organized cavalry appeared only after 1000 BC. Riding might initially have been more important for increasing the productivity and efficiency of sheep and cattle pastoralism in the western Eurasian steppes. The earliest (so far) direct evidence for riding consists of pathologies on the teeth and jaw associated with bitting, found at Botai and Kozhai 1. Recent developments and debates in the study of bit-related pathologies are reviewed and the reliability of bit wear as a diagnostic indicator of riding and driving is defended.

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Anthony, D.W., Brown, D.R. The Secondary Products Revolution, Horse-Riding, and Mounted Warfare. J World Prehist 24, 131 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-011-9051-9

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Keywords

  • Horse domestication
  • Bit wear
  • Horses in warfare