Patrick Berners is captivated by a chronicle of man's long and inconsistent relationship with a noble animal
One of the first talking horses in literature, in fragments of Babylonian cuneiform, says proudly: “My flesh is not eaten.” Instead, he is a warhorse, “glorious in battle”. In contrast, the economy of the Copper Age Botai villages, on the banks of the Urals, was based almost entirely on horsemeat, horse milk and horse bones. “Over 90 per cent of the bones found at their scattered sites were equine,” writes Susanna Forrest. Their roofs were thatched with horse dung, and horse grease is to be found in their cooking pots. One man’s warhorse is another man’s general store.
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