News and Notes -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 06:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: News and Notes
Author: Anonymous

News and Notes

Oldest Statue of Domesticated Horse Found in Syria

The first mention of horses in the Bible finds them in the land of Egypt. But scholars have suggested this reference to their appearance is too early. A recent discovery from Syria is now helping to clarify the situation.

On the basis of textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence, it has been generally accepted that the introduction of the domesticated horse to the Near East took place during the late 3rd millennium BC. However, recent evidence has been accumulating to suggest that the horse was domesticated as early as the 4th millennium BC. The latest indication of the early date now comes from a recently excavated figure of a domesicated horse.

The small sculpture was discovered by a University of Chicago team last September at Tell Es-Sweyhat, a site on the Euphrates River in northern Syria (ancient Mesopotamia). Dated to about 2300 BC, it is the oldest known figure of a domesticated horse. “This discovery shows that the horse played a more important role in the early development of civilization than has been previously supposed,” said dig director Thomas Holland.

The figure, of a stallion, is made of clay and stands about 3 inches high, 5 inches long and 2 inches across. “We can see from the care that was obviously taken in making the horse, that the animal was well regarded,” Holland said. “Its mane is carefully modeled with fine applied strips of clay as are the short ears and sexual attributes. One clue to identifying it as a domesticated horse is that a hole is bored through the muzzle so that a ring could be placed to hold reins.”

Most references to horse-like animals in ancient literature from the Near East are to donkeys and similar animals used as pack animals for long-distance trading. Only a few other artistic renderings of horses have been found from ancient times in the region. None come close to the quality of the Sweyhat horse, Holland said.

Scholars have had difficulty dating the appearance of the horse in civilization. Domestication probably developed among nomads in what is now southern Russia some time after 4000 BC. The horse apparently entered Mesopotamia from that region.

It is understood that the arrival of the horse in the Near East coincided with the development of the chariot. “The horse was essential to the development of empires. It made possible

TELL ES-SWEYHAT, SYRIA - Early Bronze Age Model Horse figurine The Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago

Critics once said that the mention ...

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