Há 4700 anos, uma caravana de pastores egípcios e seus jumentos seguiu uma rota de comércio através dos contrafortes do centro de Israel, destinada à antiga cidade-estado de Tell es-Safi / Gath. Lá, um construtor da Idade do Bronze matou e enterrou um dos animais jovens e construiu uma casa de barro no topo - uma oferta de sacrifício para garantir a estabilidade do edifício.
When a team of archaeologists uncovered the donkey’s skeleton (pictured) in 2008, they noted curious indentations in its lower premolars. The beveling strongly resembled that seen in the teeth of horses and other equids when they wear a bit, a piece of material secured in an animal’s mouth to control its head movements when riding.
Now, new radiocarbon dating from elsewhere in the site suggests the animal lived around 2700 B.C.E., providing the earliest evidence yet of donkey ridership in the Near East, the authors report today in PLOS ONE.
That’s about 1000 years before horses are thought to have arrived in the region. As a result, these ancient herdspeople likely learned to ride donkeys long before horses outpaced them as the preferred mode of transportation—and largely relegated donkeys to being beasts of burden.