Ass Hybrids Were Bred For Warfare Before Horses
The 4,500-year-old iconography and texts from Mesopotamia show that the elite used equids for travel and warfare. However, the nature of these animals remained mysterious, Science Daily reported.
Photo Insert: Equids have played a key role in the evolution of warfare throughout history.
In the Jan. 15, 2022 issue of Science Advances, a team from the Institut Jacques Monod (CNRS/Université de Paris) used ancient DNA to show that these animals were the result of crossing domestic donkeys with wild asses.
This makes them the oldest known example of animal hybrids, which were produced by Syro-Mesopotamian societies 500 years before the arrival of domestic horses in the region.
Equids have played a key role in the evolution of warfare throughout history.
Although domesticated horses did not appear in the Fertile Crescent until about 4,000 years ago, the Sumerians had already been using equid-drawn four-wheeled war wagons on the battlefield for centuries, as evidenced by the famous "Standard of Ur," a 4,500-year-old Sumerian mosaic.
Cuneiform clay tablets from this period also mention prestigious equids with a high market value called "kunga"; however, the precise nature of this animal has been the subject of controversy for decades.
A team of palaeogeneticists from the Institut Jacques Monod (CNRS/Université de Paris) has addressed this question by studying the equid genomes from the 4,500-year-old princely burial complex of Umm el-Marra (northern Syria).
On the basis of morphological and archaeological criteria, these animals, buried in separate installations, have been proposed to be the prestigious "kungas" by an archaeozoologist from the United States.