My Favourite Artefacts of Horses (NSFW)

Maija Karala, 2011: Horses of Arctic Eden

image credit: Maija Karala, Humming Dinosaurs blog

Most human civilisations have domesticated animals to some extent; horses are pretty popular because they’re fast, and they eat grass, which we probably weren’t going to eat anyway. Personally I’m intimidated by horses because they’re much larger than me and have huge teeth and if they kick you, you can die. For many people however, horses are awesome. Here’s some historical awesome horses, in no particular order.

NSFW: weird ancient Norse bestiality stuff (not images, not graphic, but still pretty weird)

Cheonmachong, South Korea: Painting of an eight-legged flying horse, circa 5th-6th century CE

Cheonma_old207_real_L2

image credit

gnarlyhorse1

image is from wikipedia 

This glowing white-gold horse not only goes twice as fast on its diploid legs, but its legs have wings on them, which I believe is the old-timey equivalent of having a nitrous oxide input into your engine to make you go faster (yeah, I saw The Fast and the Furious, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works). The gold crown buried here indicates this tomb probably held a king, the only person cool enough to associate with such an awesome horse, and that king kept this painting in a treasure-chest, presumably because it’s just so excellent.

Contemporary tombs of comparable wealth contained horse gear (tack? Is it called tack?) among the grave goods, and horses are widely depicted in art from this area and time period, as they were an important aspect of life back then. Korean tradition tells of flying horses called “cheonma”, which hang out in the sky, occasionally acting as transport for heroes.

NSFW: Sleipnir

yuleride sleipnir

image credit        image credit

FYI: Norse mythology is just as crap about consent, animals, and kids as Greek mythology is. You can tell because this wicked equine, Sleipnir, is the offspring of Loki, who turned into a lady horse and had sex with a gentleman horse that one time. (Possibly more times. I wasn’t there. Also I know he did it to win a bet or whatever, but it was still weird.) Loki’s shenanigans resulted in another kind of heavenly eight-legged horse being born, who was said to be so fast he could jump over the gates of Hell like they weren’t even there. In poems, Odin makes it known that Sleipnir is literally the best horse ever, you know, in case you were getting cocky about your horse being pretty good.

The most iconic image of Sleipnir (whose name loosely translates as “Slippery”) is based on the Tjängvide runestone (wikipedia), which is believed to represent Valhalla, the Viking version of Heaven for people who like fighting and drinking – which was most people back then, because it gets cold and depressing in Scandinavian winters and they didn’t have the internet. The stone is a memorial or tombstone for someone named SWORD WOLF, which is pretty metal.

Luristan bronze bridle accessory,  circa 1000-800 BCE

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All right, this isn’t a depiction of a horse, this is a Sphinx that you put on your horse, as a decorative but useful cheek piece. This piece of gear (tack???) is part of the bit. It goes on the horse’s cheek (its FACE cheek), another similar thing goes on the other cheek, and a rigid chomping-bar goes in the middle. Apparently the horse is OK with this. People clearly took a lot of pride in the appearance of their horses in Luristan, which is fair enough, because they are very pretty animals.

This is a bronze artefact less than 20cm tall, which makes the details all the more impressive. It is probably about 2800-3000 years old and was found in modern-day Lorestan, Iran, in someone’s grave goods. This area is renowned for the many beautiful and skillfully made bronze artifacts uncovered here, dating from the first millennium BCE, during the Iron Age. They’re distinct from general Mesopotamian bronze work and often feature sophisticated decoration on functional pieces.

Horse and Rider Figurine, 13th-15th century CE, Mali 

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You probably already knew that Mali used to be a huge empire, with serious riches from trade in all kinds of things like gold, salt, people etc. and that the city of Timbuktu drew tens of thousands of people to work, study and seek their fortune there. And you might also be familiar with this guy who protected some of Mali’s ancient literary works from destruction by terrorists, because he’s the kind of librarian the world needs.

Anyway, what I love about this statuette is the rich decoration on both horse and rider, because horses were super expensive in that time and place and if you wanted to own one you had to be pretty serious about it. Mali also probably used horse cavalry in warfare.

Siberian Ice Maiden’s Horse Tattoos, c. 500 BCE

 

image credit 1    image credit 2

This 2500 year old lady from the Iron-Age Pazyryk culture in Siberia was found, frozen and mummified, in the Altai mountains in 1993. She was buried with no less than six horses of her very own and zero weapons, presumably because six horses are more dangerous than one sword. Other Pazyryk mummies with intricate tattoos of various animals and geometric or spiral designs have been found, but the local Altai people don’t want any preserved remains to be disturbed.

The Pazyryk people seem to have loved both art and horses, being nomadic and dependent on horses to get around. There are heaps of other artefacts from that period that you should check out.

More about the Altai Lady here and here

What are your favourite horses from history?

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  1. Dreadlocks, Tattoos, Celts and Vikings | historyfantasyfiction - April 27, 2016

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