How would civilization develop without horses?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Whiteshore, Dec 1, 2018.

  1. pjmidd Well-Known Member

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    First chariots/war carts were pulled by onagers not horses. So Chariots still appear in the same places as OTL ( Mesopotamia and central Asia ) they just stay more as missile platforms. Onagers are if anything faster than horses, they are just a lot more trouble which is why they were supplanted by them.
    South America is a bit of a Red Herring as the llama has issues as anything other than a pack animal due to its weak back. The non use of the wheel is probably linked to this as it has been found on toys of the right age.
     
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  2. wtw Well-Known Member

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    Also Onagers are not that domesticatable
     
  3. wtw Well-Known Member

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    Donkeys are highly intelligent animals that just would not charge at each other or armored troops. That stubbornness that they are known for is a very healthy survivor instinct. Now for draft animals and transportation they could easily replace the horse, see the Mammoth Jack Stock. They only thing that would be lost would be cavalry use.
     
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  4. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    With David Anthony, I'd doubt that. For two reasons:
    a) Without horses, steppe people are probably not buying into the entire herding lifestyle at all. Cattle are dying like flies on snow-covered steppes. Horses are about the only available animal which is suitable as a draft animal and which can eat grass from under an icy snow cover, so they can survive steppe winters. Before (roughly) 5000 BCE, there was almost no group around living in the steppe and doing either herding or agriculture (the Bug-Dniester being the exception to the rule and heavily influenced by Starcevo-Cris). Even afterwards, some steppe dwellers did not switch to herding (Kelteminar, for example).
    b) Without the increased complexity and mobility which had built up in the Yamnaya culture at the moment in time when the wheel is ready to be transmitted from Mesopotamia into the steppe, there would probably be so much less contact between the steppe and Mesopotamia in the first place, so the wheel might not become known for a long, long time yet.

    The wheel was important, but Yamnaya emerged before its adaptation on the steppe. Yes, herding in general was an important factor, but, as I said above, I doubt that the steppe is going to take to herding without horses.

    Yes, but the Botai were also the first in their region to herd an animal (horses). The Yamnaya built on way more than a thousand years of herding, from Khvalynsk / Sredni Stog onwards. They had grown numerous much earlier, and the steppe regions where the culture formed had developed greater complexity in contact with Cucuteni-Tripolye and Northern Caucasians. The wheel was certainly important for the vastness of the Yamnaya expansion, but there's more that needs to be taken into account when comparing Yamnaya and Botai cultures.

    Khvalynsk are "ancestors" of the Yamnaya. They paved the ground, metaphorically.

    Without horses, I bet the wheel gets transmitted to the fisher-gatherer cultures then persisting along the Dnieper, Don, and Volga later than 2500 BCE, probably even after 2000 BCE. The later it is, the better the chance that donkey chariotry has already become a thing in the civilized South. Then, it would still take time to genetically adapt donkeys to the cold steppes. After that, the steppe can catch up - but the civilized South has taken quite a few steps by then.

    What do you mean? Europeans before the waves of PIE newcomers from the East certainly had developed agricultural packages, in the South-East from 7000 BCE onwards, on the Middle Danube by 6000 BCE, even in "Germany" by around 5000 BCE, and by 4000 BCE it had reached the Baltic. Being agriculturalists didn't prevent the "Old Europeans" from being Indo-Europeanised.

    While the first two statements I agree with, the last one is not true. PIE speakers were riding their horses, and they had them pull their wagons; war chariots really only became suitable with the Sintashta, which is at a point where the IE languages had already diversified.
     
  5. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

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    Ah, I did not know that...

    However, without horses, the IE still get slowed down. The pre-IE European culture may yet survive.
     
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  6. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Fully agreed. By 2000 BCE, large towns could have appeared even in Central and Western Europe. Imagine a megalith-builder-descended culture building cities ;)
     
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  7. Optical_Illusion Well-Known Member

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    Anthony makes a good case for why horses can survive well over winter - able to clear snow to get to pasture underneath - and so are a desirable herding animal, but I don't think he makes the case that they are an essential herding animal because of this. Herders like the Yamnaya maintained large herds of cattle and of sheep, and I don't think early herders were using horses as a kind of early snow plough to clear pasture for their animals, so I suspect they would have a way of dealing with this problem that I don't know about.

    It may be just mostly by moving about - https://www.penn.museum/sites/expedition/early-herders-of-the-eurasian-steppe/ - "Today, snow-covered pastures characterize the northern steppe zone in winter, and fragile arid-adapted grasses characterize the southern steppe in the summer. Traditionally, the availability of natural resources in this region is best taken advantage of by north-south seasonal movement—a pattern that our new research in Kalmykia allows us to date as early as the 3rd millennium BC (Natalia Shishlina 2000)." seasonal migration being what herders do today (also using sheltered valleys away from the open steppe and the like).

    I do think it would be harder and more marginal for them, but I would still guess a herding expansion across the steppe would happen in some form without the horse, once the wheel is invented and allows much more portability of the toolkit and resources that they need. (It occurs to me as well the Yamnaya had some knowledge of agriculture, so an alt-herd culture might incorporate a bit more grain while remaining a stockraising focused, relatively mobile economy that can expand across the whole region - there are degrees of these things).

    Another point I'd make is that we see other developments post 5000BCE as well as the horse - wool sheep, dairying. These and spreads of other innovations and simple, slow experimentation over time might have something to do with why herding does not spring up fully formed pre-5000BCE.

    Re; wheel, we still don't know where the wheel originated, I don't think, but I expect it would be hard to make the case that it can get all the way to/from Northern-Central Europe (which we know it did by at least 3500 BCE from carts on the Funnelbeaker Bronice Pot* and from track evidence) and not to cultures bordering SE Europe or the Caucasus.

    Re; donkeys, I believe Anthony does actually stress the presence of other equids in the steppes other than the horse - wild ass and onager - from bones in hunters camps and the like ("The dominant mammal of the interior steppes at the time our account begins was the wild horse, Equus caballus. In the moister, lusher western steppes of Ukraine, north of the Black Sea (the North Pontic steppes), there was another, smaller equid that ranged into the lower Danube valley and down to central Anatolia, Equus hydruntinus, the last one hunted to extinction between 4000 and 3000 BCE. In the drier, more arid steppes of the Caspian Depression was a third asslike, long-eared equid, the onager, Equus hemionus, now endangered in the wild. Onagers then lived in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Iran, and in the Caspian Depression. Pontic-Caspian foragers hunted all three."), so they're reasonably well adapted to life there and it's possible that in a horseless world they might even be domesticated there. You might even have multiple domestications, as we know from the Botai ancient dna that horses were domesticated at least twice by separate groups without much geneflow between these subpopulations. (But it seemed a bit against the premises of the thread to leap immediately into that possibility).

    *On discussing the impact of the wheel on North and Central Europe, and on megalithism, Anthony gave:

    "It would be difficult to exaggerate the social and economic importance of the first wheeled transport. Before wheeled vehicles were invented, really heavy things could be moved efficiently only on water, using barges or rafts, or by organizing a large hauling group on land. Some of the heavier items that prehistoric, temperate European farmers had to haul across land all the time included harvested grain crops, hay crops, manure for fertilizer, firewood, building lumber, clay for pottery making, hides and leather, and people. In northern and western Europe, some Neolithic communities celebrated their hauling capacities by moving gigantic stones to make megalithic community tombs and stone henges; other communities hauled earth, making massive earthworks. These constructions demonstrated in a visible, permanent way the solidity and strength of the communities that made them, which depended in many ways on human hauling capacities. The importance and significance of the village community as a group transport device changed profoundly with the introduction of wagons, which passed on the burden of hauling to animals and machines, where it has remained ever since.

    Although the earliest wagons were slow and clumsy, and probably required teams of specially trained oxen, they permitted single families to carry manure out to the fields and to bring firewood, supplies, crops, and people back home. This reduced the need for cooperative communal labor and made single-family farms viable. Perhaps wagons contributed to the disappearance of large nucleated villages and the dispersal of many farming populations across the European landscape after about 3500 BCE.

    Wagons were useful in a different way in the open grasslands of the steppes, where the economy depended more on herding than on agriculture. Here wagons made portable things that had never been portable in bulk— shelter, water, and food. Herders who had always lived in the forested river valleys and grazed their herds timidly on the edges of the steppes now could take their tents, water, and food supplies to distant pastures far from the river valleys. The wagon was a mobile home that permitted herders to follow their animals deep into the grasslands and live in the open. Again, this permitted the dispersal of communities, in this case across interior steppes that earlier had been almost useless economically. Significant wealth and power could be extracted from larger herds spread over larger pastures."

    (e.g. not just within the steppes are wagons and the wheel linked to a more dispersed population over wider ranges; though there's probably some degree to which I suspect megalithic phenomena was more complementary with use of wheel more than he describes).
     
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  8. bernardz Well-Known Member

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  9. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    True, but among the earliest herders on the steppe, 1500 years earlier, horse bones were a much greater percentage in waste finds than in later times. Those earliest steppe herders also didn't have wheels yet, so wholesale transhumance was a challenging option. Given this enormous importance of the horse in the conversion of hunter-fisher-gatherers of Dnieper-Donets I into succeeding herding cultures, I'll continue to question whether it would come about (at least at that moment in time) if horses were already extinct.

    When the wheel arrives, things may look different, but when would it arrive?

    Indeed, these are massive changes. If the conversion to herding hasn't come about in the steppe around 5000 BCE at all, though, the steppe's contributions in these domains would also be lacking.

    Do we not? I thought it was clear that the wheel originated in Mesopotamia... Funnelbeaker people had copied, if I'm not mistaken, wheeled vehicles from pre-Yamnaya newcomers from the East. The enormously fast transmission of this innovation owes in great part to the mobility of the Yamnaya, and the other way round. No Yamnaya expansion also means no wheels for the Funnelbeaker people, so no wheels on the steppe is likely enough, too. The contact zone here was, at least from what I remember, the Caucasus / the Maykop culture.

    If the wheel takes longer to be acquired in Europe, then megalithism could thrive longer and grow more complex. Full agreement on the dispersal argument.
     
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  10. Optical_Illusion Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm... Those - milking and woolly sheep - actually aren't domains where as I understand it steppe societies did contribute; they seem like things that happened outside it, but may have been important to making herding more viable later on it. Though I'd actually have to revise this that I'm not so sure about the milking aspect as there's fairly good evidence for lipid residues early in the neolithic and independently, so that was actually not quite right for me to mention as weight.

    Re; wheel Brononic probably dates 3400 BCE while, Yamnaya dating from 3300 BCE - 2600 BCE, so it could be but early. Though more viable if we're talking about Yamnaya horizon in a looser sense? But there's nothing that particularly goes for a route of innovation from Mesopotamia->Steppe->Central Europe, and you easily could go Balkans->Central Europe+Balkans->Anatolia->Mesopotamia, or Caucasus-> Mesopotamia+Steppes or Mesopotamia->Anatolia->Balkans->Steppes any kind of direction as far as I know, on the current evidence.

    E.g. as wiki says: "The first evidence of wheeled vehicles appears in the second half of the 4th millennium BCE, near-simultaneously in Mesopotamia(Sumerian civilization), the Northern (Maykop culture) and South Steppe (Early Kurgan culture), and Eastern Europe (Cucuteni-Trypillian culture), so the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle is still unresolved." which is still right as far as I know. I guess if the invention point was steppe, then delayed or lesser scale herding there would've had an effect, but no idea if there's any evidence for that one in particular.

    (Another example of very early wheel in Central Europe dated more of lesser simultaneously with earliest conventional dates of Yamnaya horizon - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ljubljana_Marshes_Wheel. Wherever originated, the technology spread very rapidly).
     
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  11. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the latter, in the sense that an increase in mobility and interaction from the steppe into Central-Eastern Europe occurred from at least about 4200 BCE on. The Cernavoda culture definitely and maybe also the Boleraz culture upriver show signs of steppe influence to say the least, if they're not outright settlements by (at least in part) newcomers from the East.

    The invention spread rapidly, that's sure, so if we're only looking at where traces of wheels (e.g. depictions) are found and from when we can date them, the time differences are well within normal error margins of dating. On the other hand, Mesopotamia and bits of the adjacent fertile crescent are quite certainly the places where, long before wagon wheels, wheels have been used for the first time and to a massive degree: vertically fixed as pottery wheels. Now that doesn't PROVE anything. But if you add to this that Ubaid / Uruk had the most extensive networks along which such an innovation could spread... and the fact that the Balkan-Danubian space was experiencing a time of decline and upheaval... Maybe my statement about the wheel originating in Mesopotamia was a bit sweeping, but I still think it's by far the most probable origin.
     
  12. bernardz Well-Known Member

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    I did a search and found a few animals that can be ridden beside bison, elephants and camels that we talked about

    Apparently, there were used elk, moose, giraffe and cows.

    Looking through them, I thought that the moose was very interesting

    https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-to-ride-a-moose
     
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  13. Optical_Illusion Well-Known Member

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    To make the argument on the other side though, consider that the potter's wheel used in Mesopotamia (and beyond that region by the time frame) was slow wheel without an axle and then the fast wheel with an axles only come about from about mid 3rd millennium BCE (all info per wiki - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potter's_wheel). The timing actually might allow that axled pottery wheels follow the evolution of wagon wheel influencing potter's wheels (in regions where slow wheel was used significantly).

    At the same time, most peoples would be familiar with the concept using rotation to move heavy objects, in the form of using logs as rollers, and using animals (and people) as traction for sledges and to drag on rollers.

    None of this argues against Mesopotamia as an origin (after all, they also had all the above), but I think to me tempers the idea that we can be sure the slow wheel was a necessary precursor, and from that be sure of a center of origin.
     
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  14. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Hm, true, rotation was used long before actual wheels. You are making very valid points, and I don't want to appear stubborn. I believe there are more "soft" factors which, to me, all make a Mesopotamian origin look like the most plausible option, but then again, none of them are conclusive: the comparative surface nature of the terrain in Mesopotamia is a more perfect "testing ground" for experimenting with wheels than, say, the Caucasus; the period of invention of the wheel coincides with another massive wave of expanding influence and network building centered on Mesopotamia (not centered on the Caucasus or Anatolia, while the Danube is collapsing) building atop an already much more extensive overland trading network which creates a great demand for the wheel; and last but not least, the sheer number of specialised craftsmen who might come up with such an idea was a lot higher in Mesopotamia than that of the Caucasus, Anatolia and the steppe combined (not necessarily higher than in the Danubian space, but that one was undergoing a serious collapse of large settlements and a deterioration of artisan skills, so it's not exactly the most likely place for a technological breakthrough, although one could of course turn this around and say that in times of turmoil and the need to flee fast with as much of your belongings as you can, people with skills they can no longer put to productive use could be prompted to think outside the box).

    Mesopotamia is also where so many other innovations of that time took place. Now of course new IT solutions are not all developed in Silicon Valley, so again no certainty, just more hints.

    Long story short, I concede that there is no real certainty about the origin of the wheel, but I still remain convinced Mesopotamia is by far the most plausible candidate.
     
  15. Albert.Nik Well-Known Member

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    An easy answer: An another animal similar is domesticated like Llama,Alpaca,etc or in the Old World,a bigger version of Deers or any other animal. Without Animals,very difficult for Civilization to develop like this.
     
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  16. pjmidd Well-Known Member

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    As I stated earlier Llama's and Alpaca's can only be used as pack animals, not all things that look horsey can be ridden/pull carts. For some its physical, Llama/Alpaca are in this category, for others its domesticatability , Zebra's are in this group ( too aggressive for it to be safe ).
    Onsager's are just about capable of being domesticated, Lapps eventually domesticated the reindeer ( its arguably the last large animal to be domesticated by man).
    Obviously Oxen, Cows and Buffalo are usable if speed is not an issue but require a lot more time grazing/resting than horses. Donkeys, Camels and Elephants also spring to mind but the latter could have issues with using too much food to be worthwhile in many areas.
     
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  17. Dave Howery laughs at your pain

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    if they won't charge pell-mell into enemy troops, then the people domesticating them could use them in other ways in war.... they would still be good for scouting, dragoon-type infantry, and mounted missile troops... in fact, I'd think that mounted archers/javelin throwers would be pretty common...
     
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  18. wtw Well-Known Member

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    Not really, donkeys are known as canaries for a reason, they are loud, boisterous animals that will vocalize their displeasure and fear for everyone to hear. So Scouting is not the best idea, I can see them being transport and yeah the Dragoon-type can work, but the missile troops almost promises that they will buck you off. They don't do it often and unlike horses they are fast enough to hit you while you are falling. So getting people to the field of battle is probably the best bet. Look I know chariots were pulled by donkeys initially, but they were quickly replaced by horses for a reason. They never allowed charioteers to be that close.
     
  19. Kyro92 ...

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    On this tangent, how long did the division between Indo-European and non Indo-European cultures remain significant(outside of language) IOTL? By which I mean, by 200 BC(to pick a random date) were there any meaningful ways in which distant Indo-European cultures had common cultural features that distinguished them from nearby non Indo-European cultures? Phoenicians, Jews, Egyptians were all Afro-Asiatic- was there any meaningful way in which the Indo-European Greeks and Indians had less in common with them then they had with Persian or North Indian cultures?

    Certainly I don't think there's any sense of shared cultural heritage between distant cultures of Indo-European heritage in the present era. But presumably that was a gradual process of divergence, the question being how gradual.
     
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  20. Salvador79 Well-Known Member

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    Hard to say. Do you mean when did (at least some) people actually have a concept of belonging to the overarching group we call Indo-European but they will have conceptualised and labelled in some way we don't know of? Or do you mean, until when would people, in a hypothetical encounter, consider any other Indo-European more culturally similar to them than any non-Indo-European? If the latter, then that time window is really small and has likely shut by 3000 BCE already because of the possibly multilingual character of steppe groups under the wider Yamnaya umbrella. If the former, then I'd say the fragmentation of the Yamnaya horizon by the end of the first third of the 3rd millennium BCE is a good early candidate. Later estimates are conceivable, too, but we must not forget how much of what is needed to observe such abstract similarities was likely not present in early bronze age societies.
     
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