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William Taylor of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has recently carried out research on the impressive horse burial sites of the Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Culture (ca. 1300-700 BC).  Examination of skeletal remains from horse burials showed the oldest known examples of veterinary dental practice.

This study forms part of wider examination into a people from eastern Eurasia that are the first known communities to rely on horses for livestock and food products.  They are also thought to be the first to mount ride horses.  It was the mounting of horses that led to nomadic lifestyle and the development of a horse-based pastoral economy.  These advancements led to the horses becoming a valuable commodity resulting in increased equine veterinary care. 

The dental care identified is shown to be temporally linked to the development of horse control.  Herders and riders used, as they do today, metal and bronze mouthpieces for bridles.  These allowed for nuanced control but with this came regular contact with the vestigial tooth known as a “wolf tooth”.  This interaction would have caused pain and even prevented young horses from feeding, leading to other health complications.  This potentially serious issue led to the removal of these teeth and Taylor has drawn a contemporary parallel stating “herders in Mongolia today practice relatively sophisticated procedures using very simple equipment”.  In fact the methods of extraction used are considered to be very similar to modern Western forms of veterinary dental extraction.

These findings come centuries before the sedentary civilizations of China and the Mediterranean and riding aided the movements of these people of the 1st millennium BCE, which shaped the cultural and biological landscapes of Eurasia.

Veterinary Medicine applicants can research the current methods of dental care and the development on pain management at the point of care.  Human Sciences applicants may wish to consider the ways in which the evidence of burial sites can be interpreted and what importance these findings have in our understanding of ancient civilisations.         

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