The earliest horse harnessing and milking

Science. 2009 Mar 6;323(5919):1332-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1168594.


Horse domestication revolutionized transport, communications, and warfare in prehistory, yet the identification of early domestication processes has been problematic. Here, we present three independent lines of evidence demonstrating domestication in the Eneolithic Botai Culture of Kazakhstan, dating to about 3500 B.C.E. Metrical analysis of horse metacarpals shows that Botai horses resemble Bronze Age domestic horses rather than Paleolithic wild horses from the same region. Pathological characteristics indicate that some Botai horses were bridled, perhaps ridden. Organic residue analysis, using delta13C and deltaD values of fatty acids, reveals processing of mare's milk and carcass products in ceramics, indicating a developed domestic economy encompassing secondary products.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / history*
  • Animal Husbandry / history*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Female
  • History, Ancient
  • Horses* / anatomy & histology
  • Kazakhstan
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Metacarpal Bones / anatomy & histology
  • Milk*
  • Molar / anatomy & histology
  • Seasons


  • Lipids