Native Indians used "sacred" horses much earlier than previously thought

Analysis of centuries-old horse skeletons from the southwest of North America helped scientists refute the popular

myth.It turned out that when the Spaniards colonized the region in the 17th century, they did not teach the indigenous people how to handle horses, as previously thought. Instead, horses appeared in the southwest long before the Europeans. They were traded by indigenous peoples, who, according to new data, developed a close, even "sacred" relationship with the animals.

Previous analysis of historical Spanish recordssuggests that horses spread in the southwest after the Pueblo rebellion in 1680. Then the natives drove the settlers out of what is now New Mexico. But these records, made a century after the rebellion, do not agree with Comanche and Shoshone oral histories, which have documented the use of horses much earlier.

The 3D model of the horse's skull bears an exact replica of the rawhide bridle used by riders. Image courtesy of William T. Taylor

A team of researchers from 15 countries and severalgroups of Native Americans, including the Lakota, Comanche and Pawnee peoples, conducted a new analysis of horse skeletons. They used tools such as radiocarbon dating, analysis of ancient and modern DNA, and isotopic analysis (isotopes are elements with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei). It turned out that the "sacred" animals really spread across the continent earlier and faster than previously thought.

For research, scientists used the remains of twohorses: one individual from Paaco Pueblo, New Mexico, the other from American Falls, Idaho. The skeletons date from the early 1600s. This means that they lived and died decades before the Spanish settlers arrived in the area. In the end, the researchers found that by 1650, horses already lived in the southwest and the Great Plains.

The Great Plains is a foothill plateau in the United States and Canada, east of the Rocky Mountains. Height is about 700–1800 m above sea level. The length is about 3,600 km, the width is from 500 to 800 km.

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