I just heard this reported on Radio 4 this morning and thought it would be of interest to DD
"Archaeologists have discovered evidence in Kazakhstan that people were riding horses long before the Bronze Age - in around 3500 BC. One of the researchers Dr Alan Outram, of Exeter University, discusses if horses were domesticated rather earlier than once thought."
This could mean that horses were domesticated 5,500 years ago!
Yes, I've just seen the abstract of this report. For anyone who wants to read it, the full reference is Science, March 6th, 2009 no. 5919, pp. 1332-1335.
I am somewhat amused by this -- one of the inherent dangers in publishing a book in the conventional way on paper is that once the book is printed, even the author cannot change it. There is a part of one of the first chapters in my "Conquerors", which is a history of horsemanship, where I discuss a site near Kiev called Dereivka which was thought, at the time I researched "Conquerors", to represent the place where the earliest riding and some of the earliest horse domestication had occurred. The site had been radiocarbon dated to 3500 B.C. Not long after "Conquerors" was published, the news came out that the radiocarbon dates from Dereivka were bad and that the site is, in fact, much younger. So I was left with the decision of whether to even continue to sell the book (and we decided to continue to make it available because everything else it contains is correct and helpful).
Now we get this new report, which comes from an archaeological site not too far from Kiev, which gives us the earliest horse harnessing and milking, and which has been radiocarbon dated as early as Dereivka originally was; and which in fact implies that the first domesticated horses (which might have been neither harnessed nor milked, but merely penned for meat slaughter, or ridden bareback) MUST have occurred even earlier.
The whole situation is a commonplace in actuality: if you regularly read the newspaper you must have noticed that today's "new genetic discovery" is contravened in some cases the very next week. This is the way science works and the way it must work, given on the one hand human nature and human error, and on the other hand the rules which we follow, which include comparison, repeatability, and constant re-assessment of results.
But I do admit this makes me feel some relief over "Conquerors": the story is the same, the dates are the same....just the place has shifted a little bit. Cheers -- Dr. Deb