While conducting research in several former Soviet republics last year, David W. Anthony and Dorcas R. Brown of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., met a Russian archaeologist who told them about some remarkable finds. His research team and several others had uncovered the remains of chariots placed in graves from a culture that flourished in the steppes along the Russia-Kazakhstan border about 4,000 years ago.
New radiocarbon dates for bone samples taken from horse skulls in one of these graves -at an excavation directed by that same scientist, Nikolai B. Vinogradov of the Chelyabinsk State Pedagogical Institute - range between 2200 B.C. and 1800 B.C., making the associated chariots the oldest such vehicles preserved anywhere, Anthony reports.
This evidence does not, however, resolve a long-standing scholarly dispute about whether chariots first emerged in the Eurasian steppes or in the Near East, Anthony notes. Clay impressions of chariots found at a Turkish site date to as early as 1950 B. …