National Geographic Awards Grant to Baylor Archeology Researcher to Study Horse Domestication

May 26, 2011
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Contact: Tonya B. Lewis, (254)710-4656

WACO, Texas (May 26, 2011)--While scientists know humans domesticated horses about 6,000 years ago, little research pinpoints the exact time period and place that humans used horses for transportation, food and work. But now, a new Baylor University study funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society will attempt to help answer when and where humans started domesticating horses in Turkey.

Scholars have long argued that the first horses were imported into the Near East about 4,000 years ago from central Asia, where they were first domesticated more than 6,000 years ago. However research findings over the last 30 years raise major doubts with this idea. Recent archaeological work has shown that central Turkey was a center of horse hunting and horse exploitation about 8,000 years ago.

Dr. Benjamin Arbuckle, assistant professor of archeology at Baylor and the lead researcher on the project, will study and take samples from three different sites in central Turkey dating back nearly 9,000 years ago. Arbuckle and his team will look for evidence that horses may have been independently domesticated from wild populations, which opposes the generally held view of their origins and diffusion that came exclusively from central Asia. To accomplish this, the Baylor researchers will collect, date and analyze samples against zooarchaeological, isotopic and DNA datasets.

"This study has the potential to provide a radically new perspective on the origins of the domestic horse, which is one of the most important innovations of the ancient world," Arbuckle said. "The combination of the data we collect, bolstered by accurate radiocarbon dates, provides the best chance to understand the emergence of horse management in this region of the world and will provide the means to identify the roles of local domestication and diffusion processes in the emergence of domestic horses."

Results from the study should be available in about a year.

About Baylor University

Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, classified as such with "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest, continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Texas, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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