Véra Eisenmann

Dereivka Introduction

Friday 18 November 2011

Since the 1960ies, the site of Dereivka in Ukraine, referred to the Sredni Stog culture, has been considered as the first center of horse domestication. The datations of 4200-4000 BC seem well founded and numerous cultural, anatomic and taphonomic arguments has been advanced in support (Bibikova, 1967, 1970). But Dereivka has also bebefited of a large interest because it was allegedly not only the craddle of the domestic horse but also of the first mounted horse. That was evidenced by the electron micropscopic studies of the bit wear patterns on the lower second premolars (Anthony, 1991).

 Skull of a stallion about 7-8 years old, intentionally buried at distance of the main site, together with a fragmentary left anterior limb;
 Numerous remains of horses in less defined burial conditions. Among the 19 preserved entire third metacarpals, 18 are of left side; they were found in groups of two or three, beside skull fragments (Bibikova, 1969). Most were referred to young males.

Only part of the material was available for study when I visited the collection: the buried bones (cranium, mandible, left anterior digit) and 19 third metacarpals. Measures of the material, in particular phalanges were published by Bibikova, 1970 and Nobis, 1971.

 It is only the lower P2 of the buried skull that evidence bit wear patterns.
 According to my observations, the buried stallion third metacarpal (n° 1171-1) is smaller (211mm) then the mean of the 19 other (221mm); it differs also by its gracility suggesting a subadult age. Bibikova (1969) expressed the same opinion. According to its length, the withers height would have been 135cm while the withers height estimated from the skull basilar length is 144cm.
 Bibikova mentions that a left digit was found next to the skull - not the bones of two limbs framing the skull, supposedly buried with the skin as suggested by Anthony (1991). In short, the anatomical association of the adult skull with the left digit (posiibly subadult, and in any case too small) is very doubtful.
 The sample of 16 adult third metacarpals I studied does not show any abnormal variability contrary to the suggestions of Anthony (Anthony, 1991, p. 269); the variation coefficients are quite close to my sample of 36 modern E. przewalskii. According to the length of the Dereivka metacarpals, the withers height can be estimated at 142cm.
 The buried third metacarpal de Dereivka differs from Wà¼rmian Western European horses by a more gracile diaphysis and larger epiphyses. The gracility, possibly related to a subadult age, is not evidenced by the adult metacarpals. Even the adult metacarpals, however, have rather large epiphyses.

Anthony D.W., 1991.- The domestication of the Horse. In : R.H. Meadow & H.P. Uerpamann, Equids in the Ancient World, volume II. Beihefte zum Tà¼binger Atlas des Vorderen Orients, Reihe A, 19/2, Wiesbaden : 250-277, 1 fig., 7 tabl.

Bibikova V.I., 1967 - K izucheniu drevnejshikh domashnikh loshadej vostochnoj Evropy. Byulleten’ moskovskova obshchestva ispytatelej prirody, otdel Biologii, 72 (3) : 1O6-118, 2 fig., 2 tabl.

Bibikova, V.I. 1969 - Do istorii domestikatsii konja na pidvennomu skhodi Evropy. Arkheologija, 22 : 55-67, 2 tabl., 1 fig.

Bibikova V.I., 1970 - K izucheniu drevnejshikh domashnikh loshadej vostochnoj Evropy. Soobshchenie 2. Byulleten’ moskovskova obshchestva ispytatelej prirody, otdel Biologii, 75 (5) : 118-126, 3 fig., 4 tabl.

Nobis G., 1971 - Vom Wildpferd zum Hauspferd. Bà¶hlan Verl. : 1-96, 6 pl., 58 diagr., 126 tabl., Kà¶ln, Wien.

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