In writing my new novel, I need to confirm that Mongolian horses that thrived eating Stipa grasses¹ in the Eurasian Steppes would thrive on Mesopotamian grasses. We’re considering the impact of taking Mongolian Horses from a 100% pasture food source in the Steppes to a mixed diet of cultivated grains and less time grazing in Mesopotamia. Based upon the preceding, the Mongolian horse will do fine in Mesopotamia knowing what we know now. But, of course, they didn’t yet know how powerful an impact cultivated grains would have on horsepower. And horsepower drawing plows would be a huge increase in agricultural productivity, accelerating the energy input and therefor pace of the Mesopotamian agricultural revolution into the level it then took for the next six millennia–up to the Industrial Revolution and introduction of steam and later power tools (check John Deere farming product line for today’s options). This application of horsepower to plowing and wagon hauling (by horses, oxen, onagers, anything but humans) was the breakout factor which appeared in the Fertile Crescent, but which did not happen in Mesoamerica.
Remember, I write Alternative History novels, aka Fantasy, because there are no historical records from this period to support my alternative—no horse bones—but then again, there are precious few bones of any kind in the artifactual record from 3800 BC in Southern Mesopotamia. My research is dedicated to giving me confidence that my developing story and plot could have happened, which is all I want.
If they ever did try horses to pull plows in Mesopotamia in 3800 BC, something bad soon happened to the horses, or the horses grew scarce (and thus too expensive) and the culture adapted to less expensive options, perhaps oxen imported from the Indus Valley or cheaper but putatively “untamable” domestic onagers used by the elites, where such were economical compared to the price of equivalent slave and peasant labor producing the same amount of work. In fact we have proof that they did use local onagers (see black stripe down some spines) during the end of the Sumer epoch, as demonstrated in the Royal Standard of Ur preserved in the British Museum.
I know horses were ridden and pulling carts (2-wheels might be a “dog cart” to some but it’s a chariot in my world) south from the Steppes into India, Anatolia, and the Jazirah, and west into Europe, and now know were being ridden a couple thousand years earlier than “they” were telling me a few years ago.
So there certainly was no reason horsemen couldn’t come south from the Steppes to Mesopotamia after the 5.9Kya Event.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke
¹ Source citing Stipa as dominant grass in Kazakhstan is this slow URL link.