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 turns out that when the Spaniards colonized the region in the 17th century, they did not teach the indigenous people how to use horses, as previously thought. Instead, horses appeared in the Southwest long before the Europeans. They were traded by indigenous peoples who, according to new evidence, developed close, even “sacred” relationships with the animals.

Previous analysis of historical Spanish recordssuggests that horses spread to the southwest after the Pueblo Rebellion in 1680. The indigenous people then pushed the settlers out of what is now New Mexico. But these records, written a century after the rebellion, do not agree with the oral histories of the Comanche and Shoshone, who 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 members of the Lakota tribe, 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 isotope analysis (isotopes are elements with different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei). It turned out that the “sacred” animals actually spread across the continent earlier and faster than previously thought.

For the study, scientists used the remains of twohorses: one individual is from Paako Pueblo, New Mexico, the other is from American Falls, Idaho. The skeletons date back to the early 1600s. This means they lived and died decades before Spanish settlers arrived in the area. As a result, researchers found that by 1650 horses were already living in the southwest and the Great Plains.

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

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