Sept. 17 (UPI) -- New genetic analysis suggests the domestic horses didn't originate in Anatolia, the peninsula that today forms most of Turkey. Instead, researchers argue domestic horses were likely introduced to the region from the Eurasian Steppe around 2000 BC.
Humans first started domesticating animals in the Fertile Crescent and Southeast Asia around 10,000 years ago, but horses weren't domesticated until much later.
The origins of the domestic horse remain a topic of debate, but several studies have pointed to Anatolia as a likely birthplace.
For the latest study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, scientists extracted and analyzed DNA from ancient horse bones recovered from dig sites in Anatolia and the neighboring Caucasus region. All of the remains were dated between 9000 and 500 BC, from the Early Neolithic to the Iron Age.
The team of scientists analyzed the horse genomes' mitochondrial DNA, Y chromosome DNA and DNA markers linked with coat color. Their analysis showed nonlocal genetic lineages -- DNA patterns still present in modern domestic horses -- appeared suddenly in the genomes of Anatolian horses around 2000 BC.
If domestication had occurred in Anatolia, researchers would expect to find a gradual accumulation of these genetic signatures.
According to lead researcher Silvia Guimaraes, of the University of Paris, and his colleagues, the genetic lineages are a closer match to patterns found in wild horses from northern Eurasia.
"Although the ultimate geographic origins of this allochthonous population cannot be defined with the data at hand, the Eurasian steppes north of the Black Sea seems a most plausible candidate," researchers wrote in their paper.