". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, April 28, 2017

Scythians, Vikings and Their Horses

     . . . . Guess what boys and girls? Those Scythians, you know those nomadic horse-riding, horse centered culture people,   

who hunted and battled from horseback, ate their meat, drank their milk (and sometimes their blood) for thousands of years, from China and Siberia to the Black Sea and beyond? 

Scythian horse and trainer.

Guess what -- they had breeding programs for their herds! Who would ever have guessed that people who lived for thousands of years by, for and around the horse would ever think of that.

Scythian saddle.

Do we all think it, well, just happened, that these rode, hunted, fought, ate, herded, conquered, with the horse, and created war chariots to be pulled by horses, and invented stirrups? Because we know people who weren't able to spend their lives playing computer games and taking selfies of themselves eating cookie dough to post on FB, where also people post real time murders, rapes and tortures, and have all their personal information sold to anyone who wants to pay -- the ancient people couldn't possibly be so self-aware, intelligent, creative and inventive as to constantly, consciously improve the ways the horse could serve them, century-after-century.

Read about it here in the NY Times Science section (pay wall!).

Actually it is nice that this history of the nomadic herding horse peoples can be confirmed by DNA investigative tools.

It must have been the tone of the article that set me off? That breathless, hoo boy!, hey nobody ever thought about this before and look what these guys found!

This older NY Times article is also interesting if one is interested in horses (which I am).  Then there were the Vikings and horses. We tend not to associate the Vikings much with horses, but they knew their way around equines just fine, breeding and raising horses that suited their needs. Hey -- these are my people (along with the Poles, who know a whole lot about breeding and training horses too).

This NY Times article suggests that it was a mutation in Icelandic horses during the Viking age that ultimately allowed for the 'amble' gait in horses. Not all horses can do this. What particularly interests me is that the Vikings traded these horses all over Europe -- and, into the Middle East. I keep thinking of horses with coats that allow for survival in a nordic, Icelandic climate, who can amble, finding homes in Damascus and Jerusalem.

Icelander horse performing the tolt - Tolt is "Even 4-beat rhythm with long strides in front and behind, elegant lift and action of the front legs, movements extremely flexible and supple, excellent speed."
Then there's this even older NY Times article. As well as a mutation gene allows for horses that can amble, there is a mutation gene for pacing.  As with the amble gait gene, not all horses have the pacing gene. Both qualities have become embedded in certain varieties of horses by deliberate breeding. What particularly interests me is that many horses in possession this gene that allows for an amble or for pacing, find it difficult to transition from that to a trot or gallop, or at least to do so smoothly. Smooth transition of gaits is a big part on what horses and their riders on show are scored on. That this information has been discovered now allows breeders, owners and trainers to do testing on potential candidates for various events and racing.  If that gene is missing there is no point in spending time and money training this horse, so it can be sent off for another career.*

A video of Icelandic horse round-up:


*  Hopefully another career, and not to the dog and catfood factory . . . .

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