WHAT WE THEORIZE - WHEN AND WHERE DOMESTICATION OCCURRED
While the date of 2,000 BCE represents the earliest definitive date for domestication, most experts now feel that horses were domesticated around 4,000 BCE. Extensive studies of the Botai culture in northern Kazakhstan suggest that the horse was domesticated here by around 3600-3100 BCE. Dr. Sandra Olsen, who has worked extensively in this region states:
The multidisciplinary, holistic investigation performed on the Botai culture settlements in northern Kazakhstan provides substantial support for early horse domestication in this region during the Copper Age (3600-3100 BCE). It is not claimed that the Botai were the first to develop horse domestication. In fact, early indications are that either people from the Urals moved into this region in the Copper Age with domestic horses or that the indigenous Neolithic people adopted horse domestication from neighbors to the west.
One of the reasons that the date of horse domestication is so much more difficult to establish than that of other domesticated animals is that little physical change occurred in early domesticated horses as opposed to their wild counterparts. This is not the case with other early domesticates such as dogs and cattle.
The resultant lack of definitive physical evidence, forces scholars to look for indirect evidence in a comprehensive study of the culture. In studying the possibility of early horse domestication at Botai, this includes the fact that this was a horse centered economy, there were horse-dog associations expected of a herding culture, horse manure was discovered in house fill, there was a death pattern of adult male horses indicative of culling the herd, horse sacrifices were common, there is evidence of enclosures used to secure the herd and skeletons found at Botai were relatively complete indicating that horses killed in a hunt were transported back to the village intact on horseback. Hunters on foot would have butchered their kill in the field and only brought back the most useful parts. In addition, Botai was a relatively large and stable community of up to 400 inhabitants indicating a stable economy. Evidence seems to point to a social and economic system based on the raising and herding of horses as the source of this stability. While future research at Botai may eventually lead to more conclusive proof of domestication, most would agree that data already collected strongly suggests that Copper Age horses at Botai were not only domesticated, but also being ridden.
Recent DNA studies now seem to indicate that domestication probably occurred in multiple locations simultaneously. Assuming that the Tarpan was the progenitor of the domesticated horse, this would have geographically occurred within its range. This is thought to have stretched from northern Germany, through Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and western Russia.