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According to scientists, the Sumerians harnessed a mixture of donkeys and kulans to chariots

18.01.2022 98 просмотров

Thanks to this, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia acquired war chariots half a century before the appearance of domesticated horses in the region.


DNA decoding showed that the first Sumerian chariots were not harnessed by horses at all, but by a mixture of domestic and Syrian kulans. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Science Advances.

The first Sumerian depiction of horse-like animals was discovered by scientists on two decorative panels known as the Standard of War and Peace. Scientists believe that these panels were created 4.5 thousand years ago. In cuneiform clay tablets of that time, these animals are referred to under the name "kunga". The Sumerians valued the "kung" very much - according to the tablets, they cost about six times more than ordinary donkeys.

Domesticated horses appeared in the Middle East no earlier than the second millennium BC, that is, half a century after the creation of the "Standart". Therefore, until recently, scientists did not know for sure who the "kunga" were - horses or some other animals. In a new study, paleogenetics from the Jacques Monod Institute, led by Thierry Grange, have deciphered the genome of these animals. It turned out that these were not horses at all, but a hybrid breed of donkeys: it arose as a result of crossing domestic donkeys and extinct Syrian kulans. years ago in one of the royal burial mounds near modern Aleppo. Scientists compared these remains with the bones of other representatives of the horse family and confirmed that the "Kunga" were neither horses nor donkeys. DNA and reconstructed their genome. The analysis showed that the "Kunga" were a cross between female African donkeys and male Syrian kulans.

These representatives of the equine family are no longer found in nature: the last wild Syrian kulans died out at the beginning of the last century. Previously, scientists have never considered them to be one of the progenitors of the "kung", since the Sumerians, presumably, hunted them only for their meat and skins. The kulans themselves were too small and aggressive to be suitable mounts.

However, DNA analysis showed that Sumerian breeders successfully got rid of these negative traits by crossing them with African donkeys. The result was a hybrid that was as fast and strong as the Syrian kulans, yet still amenable to training. Thanks to this, the Sumerians were able to use war chariots 500 years before the first domesticated horses entered the region.

The absence of traces of the existence of "kung" in modern Mesopotamia is explained by the fact that these animals were sterile. Therefore, as Granger and his colleagues suggest, during the reign of the third dynasty of Ur, "kunga" were quickly replaced by horses, for the breeding of which it was not necessary to constantly catch wild kulans, which did not live in all regions of Mesopotamia.

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