In The News: Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Horse ‘Cult’ Pyramid

Archaeologists from the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University (ENU) recently uncovered a step pyramid dating to the early 2nd millennium BCE.

Photo courtesy of Eurasian National University.

As part of a bigger excavation of the Kyrykungir complex monument near Toktamys village in Kazakhstan’s Abai region, which has been a subject of study since 2014, researchers made a startling discovery when they uncovered a unique step pyramid.

A step pyramid, or stepped pyramid, is an architectural structure that uses flat platforms, or steps, receding from the ground up. Similar sites can be found around the world in Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza (Mexico), Iraq, Egypt, and Europe, but this is the first large scale structure discovered in the Eurasian steppes.

Ulan Umitkaliyev, a historian, Head of ENU’s Archeology and Ethnology Department said in a press release:

“The steppe pyramid is built with great precision, it is hexagonal. There are thirteen meters and eight rows of stones between each face. It is a very sophisticated complex structure with several circles in the middle. The exterior walls of the structure of this complex are dominated by images of various animals, especially horses.

Findings in excavations, ceramics, female gold earrings and other jewelry indicate that this Bronze Age was the center of culture in ancient times. This means that even at that time the cult of the horse was extremely high, as evidenced by the discovery of horse bones around the stone building.”

Photo courtesy of Eurasian National University.

It’s a widely accepted theory that horses were first domesticated on the Eurasian steppes, with the Botai in Kazakhstan being a leading candidate for taking that first great canter stride for mankind. The steppe region, which runs from Eastern Europe to Asia, served as a route for trade, migration, and cultural interchange during this time, and horses made it possible for people to travel farther and faster than ever before, spreading languages, foods, ideas, and cultural expression.

Go riding.

Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instgram @uechironan.