Horses in the Ancient Near East

According to an article published in Horsetalk, archaeologists have found the earliest known metal equestrian bit in Israel.  According to the article, the bit was discovered at Tel-Haror in an equid burial site.  Archaeologists believe that the bit was probably used on a donkey.

Archaeologist Eliezer Oren, from Ben Gurion University, discovered the burial site.  The site dates from 1750 BC to 1650 BC, the Middle Bronze IIB Period.

The article also details the presence of horses and donkeys in the Ancient Near East.  Below is an excerpt from the article:

Other discoveries in recent years in the Near East have painted a picture revealing the extensive use of donkeys and horses in ancient cultures.

The Vulture Stele, in Mesopotamia, dating to 2600BC to 2350BC, known as the Early Dynastic III period, portrays an equid pulling a chariot-like vehicle.

Various Mesopotamian manuscripts dating to this period mention the horse, donkey, hemione and hybrids such as the mule.

From Sumeria, terracotta reliefs from the early second millennium BC show equids pulling a chariot and a human riding horseback.

Hittite art from the 13th century BC, in modern Turkey, show a larger species of equid, perhaps a horse, pulling a chariot with three soldiers, in contrast to smaller equids in Egyptian murals  – presumably donkeys – pulling chariots with only two men.

Horse bones were found at Tell el-‘Ajjul, in Israel, in contexts dated to around 3400BC and, in Turkey, at Bogazkoy, from the 17th century BC.

Archaeologists excavated donkey remains at Tell Brak in Mesopotamia dating between 2580BC and 2455BC.

Egyptian donkey burials dating to 2000 BC to 1550 BC, known as the Middle Bronze II periods, include those found at Inshas, Tell el-Farasha, Tell el-Maskhuta, and Tell el-Dab’a.

From similar time periods in the Levant – the area including most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories – archaeologists have excavated donkeys at Tell el-‘Ajjul and Jericho.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary


This entry was posted in Archaeology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Horses in the Ancient Near East

  1. James says:


    I just finished reading Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe
    by Robert Drews, Routledge, 2004. ISBN: 978-0-415-32624-7. You might find it interesting if you haven’t already read it.



    • Claude Mariottini says:


      Thank you for the reference. I had not heard about this book, but I will check it out.

      Claude Mariottini


      • James says:


        Another book that is very interesting about horsemanship (it’s actually the book that got me interested in reading Early Riders) is The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry in Monarchic Israel
        by Deborah Cantrell
        History, Archaeology, and Culture of the Levant – HACL 1
        Eisenbrauns, 2011
        ISBN 978-1-57506-204-4

        Ziony Zevitt just reviewed it for BAR and called it a “page turner”—and I have to agree.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.