The Horse

The experiment presentation of this reading amidst so many readings based upon speculations and ideas were extremely refreshing for me.  I enjoy the debate that surrounds a topic that cannot honestly be answered with absolute conviction, but the constant back and forth can get repetitive.  I find myself convinced of one ideal or notion on the origin of domestication only to be persuaded by another equally convincing claim.  The way Anthony presented his experiment really left the decision to the reader.  Of course he has to be partially biased just out of a sense of accomplishment for his work but he did an excellent job talking about skeptics of his work and even admitted to a failure.  My favorite part of the reading was the competition between Levine and Anthony.  After all the charts and data and reasoning I put my faith in Anthony’s mouth bit experiment over Levine’s use of variability to as a marker for domestication.  The scope for the bit theory is much narrower but much more concrete in my mind.  If it weren’t for the difficulty in finding proper specimens and the preciseness of the measurements it seems to me that the mouth bit theory could alone identify the origin of horse riding.  Unfortunately as mentioned in the text, horses were likely domesticated first for their winter meat and it wasn’t until later that horse riding became the normal.  But if we were able to unveil to questions behind the use of horses for riding then perhaps from their more could be discovered about the original domestication of the horse.  The narrow scope for the bit theory does not question the validity of the experiment in my mind.  When comparing the number of horses ridden to those consumed there should be no surprise that only a few teeth out of a sample show the marks of bit use.  I don’t have much experience with horses but I know it must have taken a very forward thinking and brave person to suggest shoving a piece of bone into the mouth of a wild animal in order to gain control over it.  I am completely sold on the bit theory and the experiment parameters.  If domestication truly happened because humans found a weak male that they could control then there is no question in my mind that domestication has negative impacts on a species.  Imagine where horses could be right now if we hadn’t bred the weakest of their genome.


The fact that acquiring things came before using archaeology as a tool to solve problems from the past really surprised me.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much history was lost in the pursuit of simply acquiring stone, bronze and iron pieces for display.  So much could have been gathered from where and why these artifacts where found.  I found the idea of using the progression of materials to define periods of time very appealing.  It may be a little simple but the progression of technology can really shape an entire culture and time.  Innovation is a major part of culture.  The second something becomes desirable because of ease or luxury, there will be those who use it to gain and those who gain to use it.  This affects every aspect of a population.  I think it’s unfortunate that a reoccurring theme in history is the incorporation of innovation and war.  When the horse was domesticated the reading discusses transportation in the effort of making alliances, alliances against others.  And then of course the benefits of horses were used over others instead of helping others.  I was happy to see some undisputable evidence that Diamond’s geography theory contains some pit falls.  I do not wish to completely discredit his stress on the importance of geography in domestication and evolution, but as proven in this reading there are many more variables that contribute more than geography



Why are western archaeologists so against migration as an explanation for prehistoric culture change?  This came up several times in the reading.