Did Central Asian cultures use horses in the B.C. era?

I went to a Psychic Fair today and got a Past Lives reading, more as a lark than anything else. Some of the things she said were interesting, but I’m not here to bunk or debunk that (is “bunk” a word? heh.) What I want to do is see if what she said actually matches up with actual history.

In particular, one life she saw me was as a “leader of some tribe” in Central Asia, near the “Hindu Kush” mountain range in Afghanistan specifically. It was not a nomadic tribe, nor was it an agricultural one – their economy was based on trade. (I checked the map and it’s on the Silk Road, so far so good.)

Then she giggled and said, “You owned a lot of horses.” Now that gave me pause, because for some reason I thought that horses really weren’t domesticated, at least as a method of transportation, until well into the A.D. era. Which is basically my question (putting all the Past Life nonsense aside):

Would it be typical of a “leader” in the Afghanistan region of central Asia, in the year 0 B.C. or earlier, to own a whole bunch of horses? What would I…errm, I mean “he”…use them for?

From what I’ve been able to find, most sources seem to put the domestication of horses at around 3000 B.C. It was used as a pack animal for millenia before riding (supposedly, there’s evidence of carts around 2000 B.C., but I have nothing substantial to support that claim). So you’re right, in a sense; horses weren’t a method of transportation before Christ, as far as I can tell, but they were utilized as pack critters and, apparently, food.

Of course, some paleolithic records (cave paintings, etc.) infer (but far from prove) that horse domestication may have taken place much earlier.

No idea if this is a reliable source, but it’s a source, nevertheless.

The date for the building of the Terra Cotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty is around 210 BCE and there are horses among them.


And according to the International Museum of the Horse,


No, as the link in your next post notes, the use of chariots may go back to ~2000 B.C.E. and there were mounted nomads probably no later than ~1,000 B.C.E. ( if not earlier ).

  • Tamerlane

Google the “Scythians”, nomadic horsemen of central Asia, B.C.

I found that site later, Tamerlane, hence the discrepancy.

I believe the Mongols were widely regarded as the most proficient horsemen of their time… and Samarkand was founded in the 6th century BCE, several thousand miles from their ancestral homes… surely travel and military campaigns covering that kind of distance really required the use of horses…

Ah, fair enough.

As good as any of the other steppe peoples, at least. Probably no more or less, really. Even Mongol tactics weren’t particularly innovative - the Scythians used many of the same maneouvers. Superior organization and leadership made the difference in their eventual dominance.

Ah, but there were no Mongols as such in the 6th century B.C.E. :). There were assorted “Mongolic” peoples, but the term Mongol originally applied just to Genghis Khan’s small tribe ( the earliest mention of which was in the 7th century C.E. ) and only later became a generic identifier.

Some have speculated that the Hsiung-Nu ( who dominated present-day Mongolia in the 6th century B.C.E. ) were ‘Mongolic’, but probably, like the Mongolia of Genghis’ time, they were an ethno-linguistically varied confederation ( almost certainly with at least some Indo-Iranian elements. At any rate they didn’t found Samarkand and probably in fact were adopting horse-riding right around the 6th century.

Samarkand is actually built on a fairly ancient site, but its inhabitants in the 6th century B.C.E. were for the most part Indo-Iranian ( Sogdians ), not Altaic. Indeed it was part of the Achaemenid Persian Empire by the late 6th century.

  • Tamerlane

The Scythians were a very horse-oriented people and according to some maps I have, surely were in that area.

They bred many types of horses, some for eating, some for riding, and some for trade. The red ones were supposedly held in high regard. Bridles and saddles have been found in gravesites, along with the bodies of horses.

There are a lot of good books out there about them, usually based on their gorgeous artwork. There’s a Nat’l Geographic (Sept 1996?) out there that had a great article on them. There was also another one recently in the last month or so.

Whoa, there is so much information offered in this thread, about cultures I barely knew of, that I have to study more about the history of this era. Past Life or no Past Life, it sounds fascinating.

Oh…another “Life” she told me about was being an “intellectual, professor type” of German/Austrian descent, in the early 20th Century, who wore a beard and smoked a pipe. I asker her, “I was Sigmund Freud??” She laughed and said, “No…but Miss Cleo probably would have told you so!”