Ukrainians First Domesticated the Horse

By Myroslaw J. Dragan, M.D.



Dear Science Editor,

The detailed article by Alan K. Outram et al. in Science 323: 1332-1335, March 6, 2009, on The Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking laudably demonstrates presence of equine mare milk fat residues in five ceramic fragments from the Botai Culture in northern Kazakhstan near the Ob River about 3500 BC. However, this does not prove that Kazakhstan was the site of the earliest domestication of the horse. The single copper dagger found in the horse-hunting and horse-eating, neolithic Botai settlement, in conjunction with the five out of fifteen mandibles with dental bit damage (one of which was dated to 3521 to 3363 BC) and the sparse mare's milk residues, indicates only that non-meat utilization of the horse was starting to spread east to Kazakhstan from Ukraine about 3500 BC.

The copper dagger must have been brought there by a mounted Proto-Ukrainian from Ukraine or from the more distant Balkans via Ukraine. No ore could have been smelted in the tree-less steppe of Kazakhstan, absent the best charcoal from beech (or oak) trees abundant in the Ukrainian province of Bukovyna (literally beech country, from buk meaning beech, giving rise to the word book from the early beech-tablets used for writing).

The domestication of larger animals is not such a great feat of human intellect as it is assumed. In four months I domesticated a female deer with some patience, savvy and dry bread. Next year there were two of them, later on four, and then five. I could easily have corralled them and milked them while they ate from my assistant's hand, as was photographed. However, without a long and selective breeding program I would not be able to rent them to Santa Claus to pull his sleigh.

The domestication of the horse in Ukraine rather than in Kazakhstan is suggested by the domestication of multiple animals in Ukraine, and no others by Central Asians. Ukraine's Trypillian Culture, lasting from about 5500 to 2500 BC, indisputably invented the plow and wagon and domesticated the ox. This was a peaceful, literate (with semiotic and knot writing) and mainly agrarian civilization which built the first cities. It was at first augmented by hitching the horse to a wagon for agricultural and trade purposes. It later crumbled when the horse was hitched to a chariot and/or mounted, creating a new, rapid means of transportation and warfare.

That it was Proto-Ukrainians who invented the mechanical use of the horse and thereby spread far eastward into Asia, ending up in Western China, is obvious from their blond and red-headed (non-Oriental) appearance, as in the murals and Tarim Basin mummies of the Tocharians, as well as in the frozen kurgan burials in Kazakhstan. Through contacts with the Tocharians, the Chinese began acquiring the horse between 2000 and 1500 BC.

Notwithstanding the impressive Botai findings, the concept still stands of equine domestication in Ukraine by descendants of its Ice Age Hunters. Interestingly, Proto-Ukrainians were the first to propel man on wheels on Earth, while a modern Ukrainian, Sergei Korolov who after being drafted from the Gulag became the father of the Soviet Sputnik, was the first to propel man into Space.

Very truly yours,

Myroslaw J. Dragan, M.D.
Vice President, Polish Historical Society
Stamford, CT, USA
Telephone & fax 203-357-7530


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