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What can you learn from horse bones you find?
cut marks on horse bone

Sandra examines a horse bone found at Krasnyi Yar. It displays cut marks from butchery.
Sandra Said
We found over 300,000 horse bones at the Botai sites. That's a lot of bones! All this evidence tells us many things.

First, the horse bones help us estimate the number of horses that were there. To do this, we look for the most common bones in the collection, like a right leg bone. We count these bones and consider that to be the minimum number of horses at that site. (Of course, there may have been more bones that were not preserved.)

We've also noticed that up to 98 percent of the animal remains found at the site are identified as horse. This tells us that the diet of the Botai people was almost completely horsemeat.

And we've found cut marks on the bones. These marks were made by stone tools. This evidence suggests that the Botai people butchered the horses. Marks on the bones and bone fragments also tell us which parts of the horse's body they used. For example, it appears they cracked open the bones to remove marrow, or fat. This would have been an important source of calories to help people survive the harsh winters of the Siberian plain.

To separate cut marks from natural marks on the bones, I study the bones carefully. I first look at them just with my eyes and then I'll use a hand lens. And, if I still have questions, I'll use either a stereomicroscope or, in some cases, a scanning electron microscope.