Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Development of Horses in America – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding horses in the Americas.
    The Book of Mormon references to horses are somewhat infrequent and not a crucial part of the narrative. According to Ether 9:19, the Jaredites had horses. They apparently were still around when Lehi’s party landed because Nephi briefly mentions them along with other large animals in 1 Nephi 18:25. Interestingly, the elephants, cureloms, and cumoms mentioned in the Jaredite history are nowhere to be found in Nephite records. A generation or more later, Enos 1:21 relates that the Nephites had many horses among their flocks. The Lamanite king Lamoni is described as having horses and chariots in Alma 18:9–10. In 3 Nephi 6:1, the Nephites still had horses among their animals when they returned to their lands after dealing with the Gadianton robbers. The last mention of horses is roughly AD 26, well before most known surviving writing or artifacts in Mesoamerica.
    One possibly pre-Columbian artifact is an obvious depiction of a rider mounted on some indeterminate animal. Originally from Oaxaca, it now resides in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Described as a rattle, the wheeled effigy was obtained by Marshall H. Saville on one of his expeditions to Oaxaca between the years 1898 and 1902 (Gordon F. Ekholm, “Wheeled Toys in Mexico,” American Antiquity vol.11, no. 4, 1946, p224. See also Paul R. Cheesman, “The Wheel in Ancient America,” BYU Studies, vol.9, no. 2, 1969, pp185–197).
A human figure seated on the animal’s back with legs clasping the sides of the animal in a manner exactly like that of a horseback rider; A man standing next to a horse

The extraordinary feature is the human figure, unfortunately incomplete, seated on the animal’s back with legs clasping the sides of the animal in a manner exactly like that of a horseback rider. Clay fillets are also found behind and in front of the rider, obviously representing some form of saddle. Another intriguing example often cited is found at Chichén Itzá, located on the side of a building called the Temple of the Wall Panels. On its north and south sides, it has blocks carved with scenes of various animals. One of the blocks on the south panel shows an image that has been interpreted by some scholars to be a man standing next to a horse. It should be kept in mind that the carving is definitely pre-Columbian, with most of the construction at Chichén Itzá dates to the ninth and tenth centuries AD.
    On such basis alone, the artifact has been classified as post-Conquest because common knowledge would deny the understanding of such a concept (or the animal necessary for it) before accepted European contact. However, some experts claim that no such artifacts were made after the arrival of the Spanish (Richard A. Diehl and Margaret D. Mandeville, “Tula and Wheeled Animal Effigies in Mesoamerica,” Antiquity, vol.61, no. 232, July 1987, p243). In fact, the museum’s own listing for the artifact describes it as coming from the Late Classic/Postclassic Periods, AD 900–1521).
    In answer to the often asked question, scientist, author, and publisher Tim McGuinness, PhD, who is not a member of the Latter-day Saint faith, says: “Wheels might have been in limited use, but the technology was lost, and no artifacts remain. It is known that warfare was widespread throughout ancient America, in Mesoamerica and in the Andean region of South America especially. It is probable that numerous advances in technology were lost, as the artisans that developed them were overrun and killed or made captive. This may be one of the reasons we see sophisticated crafts devolve into more primitive, as occurred in many regions. If there were limited wheel makers, they may have expired before being able to spread the knowledge needed” (Tim McGinnis, Pre-Columbian Wheels, McGuinness Publishing, December 2007).
    Although incomplete, the geological and archaeological record does provide support for horses and even wheeled vehicles in ancient America. Evidence of horses in pre-Columbia America include:
1. Archeological evidence for large animals used for draft and transportation;
Dog standing on wheeled vehicle from Veracruz, Mexico

2. Wheeled artifacts showing a person or animal riding on an obviously artificial wheeled platform (About 100 such figurines are known, largely dated between AD 600–1250);
3. Early accounts suggesting that Native Americans had horses too early for them to come from strays that escaped the Spanish conquistadors, especially since the Spanish kept very careful records of their horses;
4. The prevalence of the pinto or piebald horse among Native Americans and its relative absence among Spanish expeditions;
5. Images in art that might depict horses;
6. Evidence that horses survived far longer after the last ice age than previously thought;
7. The question of the Bashkir Curly (Daniel Johnson, "Hard" Evidence of Ancient American Horses,” BYU Studies Quarterly, Vol.54,no.3, BYU Studies, Provo, 2015, pp149-179).
    As McGuinness points out, “the extinction of the ancient horse and the origins of the modern horse in the Americas have become clouded and unsure in light of the latest research. Much of this evidence is not questionable or even that new, but still, sadly, both critics and faithful members of the Church are unaware of it” (Frank Gilbert Roe, The Indian and the Horse, The Civilization of the American Indian Series, University of Oklahoma Press, 1976, p128).
Discovery by Europeans of horses found among Native American tribes by date of discovery and location

The Pawnee are thought to have had horses by 1650 or even as early as 1630.26 Although the Apache had been trading for horses in the latter half of the seventeenth century, they had been using them since much earlier times. The first use was as food. Historians do not know when the Apache made the transition to using them as mounts and beasts of burden, but it was likely between 1620 and 1630 and possibly earlier.27 Anthropologist Clark Wissler suggests that tribes like the Pawnee and the Kiowa had begun “horse raiding in the early years of 1600” (Clark Wissler, “Influence of the Horse in the Development of Plains Cul­ture,” American Anthropologit, vol.16, 1914, p10).
    In fact, official accounts of native horse use and possession extend into the sixteenth century as well. Francisco de Ibarra traveled in the Sonora Valley of Mexico in 1567. His record states that some tribes in that region were not only acquainted with the horse but also were practiced horsemen by that time (Robert Moorman Denhardt, The Horse of the Americas, Norman, Oklahoma, 1947, pp87-92).
    Historians do not know when the Apache made the transition to using horses as mounts and beasts of burden, but it was likely between 1620 and 1630 and possibly earlier (E. Worcester, “The Spread of Spanish Horses in the Southwest,” New Mexico Historical Review, Vol.19, 1944, p226;  Francis D. Haines, “Where Did the Plains Indians Get Their Horses?” American Anthropologist, vol.40, no. 1, 1938, p116).
(See the next post, “The Long History of Horses in America – Part III,” for more on the evidence that horses were known in the Americas before Columbus)

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