Science & Technology

These ancient “war donkeys” were probably the first human and breeding hybrids

A new study shows that Mesopotamians used a hybrid of domesticated and wild donkeys to pull combat vehicles 4,500 years ago, at least 500 years before horses were bred for purpose. It is clear in.

Ancient analysis DNA From the bones of animals excavated in northern Syria, the long-standing question of what kind of animal “Kungus”, which is described in ancient sources as pulling a war freight car, is solved.

“The skeleton tells us they are horses. [horse-like animals], But they did not fit the readings Donkey “It didn’t fit the Syrian wild donkey measurements,” said Eva Maria Geigl, a research co-author and genomics scholar at the Jack Monod Institute in Paris. “”

However, according to new research, Kungus was a strong, fast, and sterile hybrid of female domestic donkeys and male Syrian wild donkeys, or hemions, which are native horse species in the region.

Related: A horned figure from the Mesopotamian moon god cult found in a biblical fort

Ancient records mention that Kungus is a very valuable and very expensive beast. This can be explained by the rather difficult process of breeding Kungus, Geigle said.

Like many hybrid animals such as mules, each Kunga is sterile, so it was necessary to mate and produce domesticated female donkeys and wild male donkeys, and she had to capture them. Stated.

It was a particularly difficult task, she said, as wild donkeys could run faster than donkeys and kungas and were impossible to tame.

“They really bioengineered these hybrids,” Geigle told Live Science. “As far as we know, there were the earliest hybrids ever and we had to do it every time we produced Kunga. This explains why they were so valuable. . “

War donkey

(Thierry Grange / IJM / CNRS-University of Paris)

Moreover: Details of the “War Panel” of the “Standard of Ur” exhibited at the British Museum in London. Kunga’s team pulls the tank.

Kungus is mentioned in some ancient texts written in cuneiform on clay tablets. Mesopotamia, And they are depicted in the famous “Standard of Ur” depicting a four-wheeled fighting vehicle. This is a smeria mosaic about 4,500 years ago and is currently on display at the British Museum in London.

Archaeologists suspected they were some kind of hybrid donkey, but they didn’t know the horse it was mated with, Geigle said.

Some experts thought that Syrian wild donkeys were too small to be bred to produce Kungus, she said.

Related: Mustang: Facts about American “wild” horses

This species is now extinct, and the last Syrian wild butt (less than 1 meter (3 feet) tall) was the oldest zoo in the world in 1927. Tiergarten Schönbrunn In Vienna, Austria. The ruins are now preserved in the city’s Natural History Museum.

In a new study, researchers found a genome from the bones of the last Syrian wild donkey in Vienna, a genome from 11,000-year-old bones of a wild donkey excavated at the site of Gyobek Ritepe, now southeast. Compared with the turkey.

The comparison showed that both animals were of the same species, but the ancient wild butt was much larger, Geigle said.

She said it suggests that wild donkey species in Syria have become much smaller than in ancient times, probably due to environmental pressures such as hunting.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Historians believe that the Sumerians first bred Kungas before 2500 BC – at least the first 500 years ago. Domesticated horse Introduced from the northern grasslands of the Caucasus Mountains, according to a 2020 study in the Journal Science Advances By many of the same researchers.

Ancient records show the successor to the Sumerians. Assyrians – Kungus has been breeding and selling for centuries — and a carved stone panel from Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, now at the British Museum, is the two leading wild ass they captured. Shows a man.

Kunga’s bones for the latest research Tell Umm El Mara In northern Syria, it dates back to the early Bronze Age from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. This place is believed to be the ruins of the ancient city of Tuba. Egyptian inscription..

(Glen Schwartz / Johns Hopkins University)

Archaeologist Jill Weber of the University of Pennsylvania, co-author of the study, excavated the bone about 10 years ago. Weber says Kungus because there are bit harness marks and wear patterns on his teeth that indicate that the Tell Umm el-Marra animals were intentionally fed rather than grazing like regular donkeys. I suggested that.

She said that Kungus was able to run faster than horses, so even after the introduction of domesticated horses in Mesopotamia, the habit of using them to pull fighting vehicles continued.

Eventually, however, the last Kungus died and no longer breeds from donkeys or wild donkeys. Geigle said this was probably due to the ease of breeding domesticated horses.

The new study was published in the journal on Friday (January 14th) Science Advances..

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This article was originally published by Live Click here for the original article..

These ancient “war donkeys” were probably the first human and breeding hybrids These ancient “war donkeys” were probably the first human and breeding hybrids

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