Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Oldest remains of Caspian Horse discovered in Iran

A team of archaeologists working in Gohar Tappeh, situated in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran, have discovered the oldest known remains of the Caspian Horse, the oldest horse breed in the world still in existence.
Also known as the Mazandaran horse, the discovery was made in a cemetery dating back to the late Bronze and early Iron age, around 3400 BCE, Archaeology Daily reports. “Due to the form, figure and size of the discovered remains of the horse, we now have the oldest evidence for Caspian horse ancestry at hand,” said Ali Mahforuzi, director of the team in Gohar Tappeh.
Discovery of the Caspian horse, or the ‘Kings’ Horse’, was made by the team during the eighth season of archaeological research in Gohar Tappeh, a 50-hectare historical site located between the cities of Neka and Behshahr, in the eastern part of the Mazandaran province.
The Caspian horse was used in ancient Iran for chariot races as well as in battle. Much smaller than modern horses, it stands at around 11 hands high, compared to thoroughbreds which stand at around 16 hands. It is a lightly built horse with thin bones and a short, fine head with a pronounced forehead. They have large eyes, small muzzles, and short ears, are extremely fast and remarkably strong. Spirited animals, the Caspians also have good temperaments.
Once believed extinct, the Caspian horses were discovered in 1965 by Louise Firouz, the American wife of an Iranian aristocrat, while on a horseback expedition in the mountainous regions south of the Caspian Sea.
The known numbers of them still surviving in Iran is quite small. Additionally, there are around 1300 registered Persian Caspians across the globe, with most of them located in the US, UK, Germany and Australia. Iran’s last export of Caspian horses occurred in the early 1990’s when a small shipment was sent to Great Britain.
Situated near the Caspian Sea, Gohar Tappeh is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran, carrying the secret of an ancient civilization. The oldest stratum identified at the site this season dates to the chalcolithic age (3500 to 3400 BCE), with the oldest stratum identified thus far during the research dating to the Neolithic period, around 14,000 years ago.

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