The Origin and History of the Domesticated Horse in China: An Ancient-DNA Based Study


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Grants to Individuals in East and Southeast Asian Archaeology and Early History Study and Research Fellowships (East and Southeast Asia)


The Center for Scientific Archaeology




This project applies ancient DNA analysis techniques to horse remains from several Neolithic and historic sites in China to elucidate the origin and history of domesticated horse in China. The first step involves the retrieval and characterization of indigenous Chinese wild horse DNA from Neolithic sites dating to 5,000BP or earlier. Next, these early wild horse DNA sequences are compared to DNA retrieved from domesticated horse remains recovered from later archaeological sites such as Yinxu; both sets are then compaired to DNA from modern horse breeds in China. This comparison tests several different scenarios: independent domestication of horse in China, interbreeding of imported and local horse in China, and complete importation of horse into China. Clarifying the history of horse domestication in ancient China provides important insights for archaeologists and historians exploring the impact of horse use in Chinese history and the interactions between China and other regions. Research is conducted in a well-established and dedicated ancient DNA laboratory at Simon Fraser University, Canada.