Evidence has been found that pushes back horse domestication by another 3500 years, Saudi officials report.
The head of Saudi Arabia’s antiquities agency says evidence unearthed at a site at Al-Maqar pushes horse domestication back to 9000 years ago.
Previous research, published in 2009, put the earliest evidence of horse domestication at 5500 years ago, in Kazakhstan. Researchers found evidence that the Botai culture based there bred horses not only for riding, but for food, including milk.
Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) said of the Al-Maqar findings: “These antiquities proved that the Al-Maqar site, in the heart of Saudi Arabia, was the oldest place in the world so far with people with domesticated horses.”
The discoveries also cast light on the cultural activities of people in the region during the Stone Age, he said.
“The results of the excavation show that taking care of horses has been an old tradition inherited by Muslims from their forefathers,” he said.
“There is no wonder that during the time of Prophet Mohammed and the Caliphs, special areas had been allocated for breeding and rearing horses.”
Professor Ali Al-Ghabban, vice president of SCTA for antiquities and museums, said the agency began excavations in Al-Maqar after receiving information about the area from a resident last year.
He said DNA and carbon-dating tests proved that the artifacts found during the excavation were 9000 years old. In all, the team had found 80 valuable artifacts from the area.
Al-Ghabban said both Saudi and international experts took part in the excavation.
He said the discovery of horse fossils changed what was known about the evolution of culture in the late Neolithic period, and our knowledge concerning horse domestication.
He described the civilisation in the area as very advanced.
Artifacts unearthed included arrowheads, grain grinders, scrapers, spinning and weaving tools and other items used for handicrafts.
The artifacts have been handed into the care of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah.