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Volume 598 Issue 7882, 28 October 2021

Horse code

The cover shows one of the three Duruthy horses, sculptures found in Sorde-l’Abbaye, France, that date back to the Middle Magdalenian around 17,000 years ago. The genetic lineage for domesticated horses is unclear, and the equine ancestors of modern domestic horses are unknown. In this week’s issue, Ludovic Orlando and his colleagues present DNA analysis of 273 ancient horses from across Eurasia. Using this information, the researchers have identified a centre of domestication in the lower Don-Volga region, now in Russia, after around 2700 BC. Their data suggest that horseback riding and the use of war chariots supported the spread of these newly domesticated horses so that within some 500 years, this horse breed had replaced all previous local horse populations across Eurasia.

Cover image: Ludovic Orlando/Abbaye d’Arthous, Collection du Département des Landes (France)

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