Activity Markers and Horse Riding in Mongolia: Entheseal Changes among Bronze and Iron Age Human Skeletal Remains

Matthew R Fuka, Purdue University


The emergence of horse riding in Mongolia has recently gained attention in archaeological research (e.g. Houle 2016; Makarewicz et al 2018; Taylor and Tuvshinjargel 2018). Most of this research consists of zooarchaeological studies examining evidence of riding through osteological analyses of horse skeletal remains. This thesis represents an exploratory study on entheseal changes in human skeletal remains from the Bronze and Iron Age of Mongolia (c. 2500 BCE – c. 200 CE) to investigate patterns of repetitive physical activity that may be suggestive of horse riding. Entheseal changes refer to morphological alterations to bone caused by repetitive physical activity that are identifiable through bioarchaeological analysis (e.g. Hawkey and Merbs 1995; Villotte et al 2010). The study sample consists of 52 individuals from the National University of Mongolia and Züünkhangai, Mongolia. The “New Coimbra” method serves as the scoring procedure of entheseal changes in this study (Henderson et al 2016). Statistical analyses indicate patterns of entheseal changes that may be suggestive of repetitive and long-term horse riding are observed in individuals from the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age (LBA/EIA). These patterns are supported by recent ethnoarchaeological research on contemporary Mongolian riding techniques as well as zooarchaeological observations of osteological remodeling on prehistoric horse crania (Taylor and Tuvshinjargel 2018). Therefore, this study offers evidence for horse riding emerging in the LBA/EIA, which may have influenced the economic and sociopolitical transitions that occur during the Bronze and Iron Age.




Lindsay, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Archaeology|Physical anthropology|Asian Studies

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server