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No. 72: Nov-Dec 1990

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Birds Of Burden

Prehistory sketch showing an ostrich carrying a human rider? Anthropologists long ago decided that the ostrich was domesticated only in historical times. They pooh-poohed a prehistory sketch showing an ostrich carrying a human rider and pictographs of ostriches apparently fitted with pack saddles. The latest discovery may change their minds. It is a Neolithic figure (5000-7000 years old), deeply engraved on rocks along the River Blaka, in Niger, Africa. Here, the ostrich definitely appears to be loaded with cargo that is strapped on. The bird's legs are folded in a resting position.

The Egyptians occasionally captured young ostriches and broke them to harness, but this engraving seems to prove that this practice had been going on long before. (Bahn, Paul; "A Head in the Sands of Time," Nature, 346:794, 1990.)

Comment. One wonders what Neolithic goods the ostrich caravans carried and where they were bound.

From Science Frontiers #72, NOV-DEC 1990. 1990-2000 William R. Corliss