“Horses sacrificed by fierce nomads living in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago have provided new insights into how people tamed the wild animals and bred them to their needs. The Scythians roamed over a vast swath of this region, from Siberia to the Black Sea, for about 800 years…They were known for their equestrian battle skills, including the ability to shoot arrows while riding, and for the brutal treatment of those they defeated…the Scythians blinded their slaves, and the warriors drank the blood of the first enemy they killed in battle.” K. Chang, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Ancient Horse DNA Shows Scythian Warriors Were Adept Domesticators, By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times
“In a study published Thursday by the journal Science, an international team of researchers deployed the latest genetic tools with 13 stallions that were buried in a mound in what is now Kazakhstan, well-preserved in the permafrost. (The Scythians appear to have only sacrificed male horses.) The decoded DNA not only provides insights into the ancient horses, but also suggests the Scythians were more than warriors.
‘Here we see them as breeders,’ said Ludovic Orlando, a professor of molecular archaeology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who led the research. ‘We reveal part of their management strategy and part of their knowledge 2,300 years ago.’
The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals as they become intertwined with humans.
‘It’s great stuff,’ commented Greger Larson, director of the paleogenomics and bioarchaeology research network at the University of Oxford in England, who was not involved in the research. ‘It demonstrates the power of ancient whole genomes to understand the pattern and the process of domestication.’ Among the farm animals whose lives have become entwined with people, horses were a late addition.
Dogs were the first animal friends of humans — wolves that scavenged for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were domesticated by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.
It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started catching and keeping wild horses for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.”
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Nomads living in Central Asia were fierce warriors.
- Researchers deployed the latest genetic tools.
- The decoded DNA provides insights into the ancient horses.
- They found 13 stallions buried in a mound well-preserved in the permafrost.
- The genetic changes may slightly reduce the number of neural crest cells.
- The Scythian horses’ DNA showed no signs of inbreeding.
- Researchers found two stallions from a royal Scythian tomb and one mare.
- Evidence shows earlier people, figured out how to use horses to pull two-wheeled chariots.
- The findings also fit an emerging theory of how domestication in general changes animals.
- Here we see them as breeders.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Among the___ animals whose lives have become___with people, horses were a late addition.
Dogs were the first___ friends of humans — wolves that ___for food among garbage piles and turned docile about 15,000 years ago, or possibly much earlier. Cattle, chickens and pigs were___by people in different parts of the world between 8,000 and 11,000 years ago.
It was only about 5,500 years ago that people in Central Asia started ____and keeping wild ____for meat and milk. Riding horses came later.
WORD LIST: horses, domesticated, animal, scavenged, entwined, catching, farm,
Grammar: Identifying Articles
Directions: Have students choose the correct English articles (THE, A, AN) from those provided to fill in the blanks.
___genetic changes may slightly reduce___number of neural crest cells. This begins to support___sort of grand theory. In modern horses,___Y chromosomes in stallions are almost identical. ___Y chromosome tells ___ genetic story of males of ___ species.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3 questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class.
Extra: Web Search
Directions: In groups/partners have students search the web for additional information about the topic. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.