Probe into the Origin of Domestic Horses

Chinese scientist studying DNA samples from bones unearthed from ancient sites. Chinese archaeologists are studying the DNA samples extracted from the bones of horses unearthed from ancient sites to probe the origin of domestic horses in ancient China.

It’s still a mystery to archaeologist when and where horses were first tamed in China, said Cai Dawei, a researcher with the centre of archaeological research for China’s border area under the Jilin University in Northwest China. The DNA research will offer valuable clues on the study of migration, spread and domestication of horses, Cai said. A large number of remains of domestic horses and carriages have been found in the relic sites dating back to the late Shang Dynasty (1600BC-1100BC) in China.

Many bones of horses sacrificed were discovered in the sites of the late Shang Dynasty, such as the Yin Ruins in Central China’s Henan Province, the Laoniupo site in Xi’an, capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province and the Qianzhangda site in East China’s Shandong province.

“However, horses earlier than the Shang Dynasty were seldom found in China. And its difficult for archaeologists to determine whether the few remains of horses earlier than the Shang Dynasty belong to domestic horses or wild ones,” Cai was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

“The lack of evidence at the early period of domestication of horses and the ‘sudden emergence’ of tamed horses in the late Shang Dynasty makes the history of horses in China very confusing,” he said. To probe the origin of China’s domestic horses, Cai and his colleagues has began the study of the DNA samples extracted from horses remains in Yin Ruins and the ancient city of Zhenghan in Henan Province, as well as the archaeological cities in Northwest China’s Ningxia and North China’s Inner Mongolia.

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