Oldest remains of Caspian Horse discovered in North of Iran
An impression from the seal of Darius the Great, showing Caspian horses are pulling his chariot
Caspian Horse, depicted on the walls of Persepolis
(Click to enlarge)
LONDON, (CAIS) -- During the eighth season of archaeological research in Gohar Tappeh, in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a horse identified as the Caspian also known as the Māzandarān Horse, the oldest breed of horse in the world still in existence.
The remains were discovered in a cemetery dating back to the late Bronze and early Iron age, around 3400 BCE.
“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, the director of the archaeological team in Gohar Tappeh.
He added: “We have to continue our research until we reach the virgin soil in order to establish the oldest human occupation of the site.”
“It seems the excavation is gradually moving past the cemetery, and into an industrial level since we found a clay-kiln in 2006. We are hoping that we will have more information about the industrial section of the site too by next year”, said Mahforuzi.
Mahforuzi concluded: “obtaining information from Gohar Tappeh helps us to understand the site’s cultural settings and its link to other cultures in the region during pre-historic times.”
The Gohar Tappeh historical site with a 50 hectare area is located in the eastern part of Mazandaran province between the cities of Neka and Behshahr, north of Iran. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Iran located near the Caspian Sea, which carries the secret of an ancient civilisation. It is also believed that Gohar Tappeh once enjoyed a complicated urbanisation some 6,500 to 7,000 years ago.
Discovery of architectural structures as well as a large number of graves with different burial methods observed in this region all point to the existence of continual life in this region during different periods of history till 1st millennium BCE.
The oldest stratum identified in this season is of the chalcolithic age (3500 to 3400 BCE) and the oldest so far dates to the Neolithic age, circa 14,000 years ago.
The Caspian Horse
The Caspian horse or the ‘Kings’ Horse’, was celebrated in ancient Iran as a chariot horse for racing and in battle, and presented to kings and queens as a valuable gift and is known to be favoured by Darius the Great.
The Caspian horse was thought to have disappeared into antiquity, until 1965 when the American wife of an Iranian aristocrat called Louise Firouz went on an expedition on horseback and discovered small horses in the Iranian mountainous regions south of the Caspian Sea.
The number of surviving Caspian horses in Iran is still quite small. In addition, there are only 1300 registered Persian Caspians world-wide, mainly in the US, UK, Germany and Australia. The last export of Caspian horses out of Iran occurred in the early '90s, with a small shipment arriving in Great Britain.
The Caspians are smaller than modern horses at around 11.3 hands compared with a modern racehorse at 16. They have light frames, thin bones, short, fine head with a pronounced forehead, large eyes, short ears and small muzzles. They are very fast, and incredibly strong and spirited, but also have good temperaments, and described by Louise Firouz as “kind, intelligent and willing.”