Welcome to 2014 and the “Year of the Horse”

How timely since we’re presenting a series of events during the week of Jan. 13, 2014 about the domestication of the horse in the Arabian world and the far-reaching changes that took place because of this human innovation.  These events feature an archaeologist with an unusual specialty – Dr. Carolyn Willekes who has built a fascinating career on horse and human interaction in the ancient world.

Horse

The domestication of the horse altered the future not only of equines, but of humans as well.  After all, he turned out to be a pretty useful animal.  Cultural, technological and military evolution would have been much slower without the horse. The horse enabled humans to move beyond the boundaries of their valleys and villages and into the wider world.  He allowed cultures to interact with each other and for trade to flourish.  ‘High speed’ communication systems developed and warfare began to take place on a much vaster scale.  Humans quickly came to rely upon the horse for numerous tasks; so much so that it no longer seemed possible for a society to function without them.  Once a culture was introduced to the horse, he very quickly took up an essential role in the fabric of their daily lives.

Based on an important artifact recently discovered at al-Maga in the South West part of Saudi Arabia suggests that the history of the horse in the Arabian peninsula began far earlier than previously thought.  The piece, provisionally dated to c.7000 BCE, is a large sculptural fragment of what is undoubtedly an equid.  Moreover, faint markings on the muzzle and shoulders could represent a harness of some sort, thereby indicating a domesticated equid.  The question is, of course, what species of equid does the sculpture represent?  If it is indeed a horse, our entire perception of equines in the prehistoric world and even our understanding of the cultures of the ancient Near East must change.

Horse2

Hear more about the horse and the Arabic world at a public talk at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston at 6:30 p.m., on Thursday, Jan 16, 2014

A talk for families at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 19, 2014 will explore the domestication of horses and the bond between horses and humans which is especially close among the nomadic Bedouin peoples of Arabia. Children will learn about Arabian Desert horses by looking at how a nomad lives, what life is like in the desert and how man and animal help each other every day.

These talks are free.  However, don’t forget that you need to reserve a ticket.  You can do this online at www.mfah.org/calendar, by phone at 713.639.7771 or at any MFAH admission desk.

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