Opens May 17, 2008
Entering the new exhibition The Horse, visitors come upon a striking diorama in which models of three extinct horse species, based on fossils from the Museum's vast collection, graze against a glorious painted backdrop of North America 10 million years ago in what is now Nebraska. The evocative scene-a melding of science and art for which the American Museum of Natural History is renowned-begins a sweeping narrative of the unique bond between horses and humans that was many millennia in the making and which, in many ways, shaped the world.
Curated by Ross MacPhee, Curator of Mammalogy, AMNH Division of Vertebrate Zoology, and guest co-curated by Sandra Olsen, Curator of Anthropology, Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, The Horse uses spectacular fossils and cultural objects from around the world, compelling videos, and engaging interactives to convey 55 million years of development and present leading research in paleontology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, equestrianism, biomechanics, and more.
Visitors travel through the evolution of the modern horse, Equus caballus, to the earliest-known human-horse encounters (when horses were solely a food source) to the eventual domestication of horses and all that that presaged for hunting, agriculture, transportation, trade, sports, warfare, and other aspects of human life and civilization.
Interestingly, certain behavioral characteristics-a herding instinct, deference to dominance, even a taste for affectionate grooming-made the horse an ideal candidate for domestication. In fact, the horse has changed little since its domestication, unlike animals such as the pig and the dog, which appear very different from their wild ancestors.
Interactive stations throughout the exhibition invite visitors to measure their own strength in horsepower (surprisingly low!); see different gaits of a horse by looking through a zoetrope (a precursor to the modern movie projector); examine an archaeological dig site in Kazakhstan that reveals signs of early horse domestication; identify different breeds; and more. …