'Horse' Power New Field Museum Exhibit Traces Animals' Special Role on Human Civilization

By Nelson, Samantha | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 20, 2011 | Go to article overview

'Horse' Power New Field Museum Exhibit Traces Animals' Special Role on Human Civilization


Nelson, Samantha, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Samantha Nelson Daily Herald Correspondent

Most Americans today no longer have a real horse sense.

In the high-tech digital world, there is limited exposure to horses, such as seen in movies or other entertainment like horse races. The Field Museum's temporary exhibit, "The Horse," serves as a reminder of how important these animals have been to human history.

"Humans and horses have had a very profound relationship for thousands of years," said Tom Skwerski, project manager for exhibitions. "We wouldn't be where we are today without the horse."

Outside of the exhibit, a high-definition projection shows a horse in motion shot at 1,000 frames per second. The video is accompanied by sounds of thundering hoofs and whinnying.

"You really get a sense of the majesty and power of these animals," Skwerski said. "They're beautiful."

The first part of the exhibit is devoted to the evolution of the horse. Dating back 55 million years, the horse family started with animals the size of a small dog and species that had multiple toes rather than a single hoof. Visitors can view the ancient horse species in a diorama containing life-size models. You can also touch casts of teeth to see the differences between horses that fed on tree leaves and berries and the modern ones that graze on grass.

Artifacts show how horses and prehistoric humans interacted. More than 17,500 years ago humans hunted horses for food. The animals appeared in 33,000-year-old cave art that likely had religious or ritual significance.

The second part of the exhibit is devoted to domestication. A timeline shows when humans domesticated other animals: taming dogs 15,000 years ago, sheep 10,000 years ago, cattle 8,000 years ago and horses around 6,000 years ago.

"Horses were domesticated very late," Skwerski said. "None of the other domestic

animals have had the impact of civilization that horses have. "

A section on the qualities of horses shows how humans managed to tame such a larger and stronger animal. The key is using horses' natural social tendencies. …

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'Horse' Power New Field Museum Exhibit Traces Animals' Special Role on Human Civilization
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