Lehi Horse Misdated By Over 13,000 Years

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The remains of a horse were uncovered in September, 2017 by landscapers in Utah. Initially, they were dated to around 14-16,000 years ago (which is 12-14,000 BCE) due to the geological deposits in which they were found. New results based on C-14 dating were released early last month and give a date over 13,000 years younger than the previous one. These new results indicate that the horse died sometime between cal CE 1681-1939. This is a 258 year window with the youngest possible date of death being 82 years ago and the oldest being 340 years ago.

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It’s being called “the Lehi horse”, named after Lehi, Utah, where it was discovered. The horse was unearthed from under appx. seven feet of clay in the backyard of Laura and Bridger Hill, wife and husband respectively. They were making way for a retaining wall and stumbled upon the bones, accidentally crushing the skull of the horse in the process. Thinking they might be cow bones, Laura had a geology professor at Brigham Young University look at the remains. This professor suggested that the horse was from the Pleistocene Era, which ended around 9,700 BCE.

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From there, Rick Hunter and his team assessed the remains and gave an estimated age of 12-14,000 years old, which is 10-12,000 BCE. Narratives about possible causes of death were proposed and plans for the reassembly of the skeletal remains were underway. Hunter expressed his desire to see the remains turned into a permanent Museum of Ancient Life exhibit. An expression which the American Museum of Natural History’s Mr. MacPhee supported. For now, given the newer dating, it looks like the exhibit project will have to be put on hold.

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“Taylor, for his part, suspects that the Lehi horse may not be the only set of remains mistakenly shelved with Ice Age animals in museum collections around the country.
ā€œI think there are a lot more out there like this,ā€ he said.”
Daniel Strain (2021)[2]

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On the topic of misdating, it appears that there is a bit of confusion about when exactly the remains were discovered. The New York Times[3] reported that it was discovered in 2017 but many other sites, including the University of Colorado Boulder[2] are saying that it was 2018 when the horse skeleton was found. From what I can tell, 2017 is the correct year.

There is also some variations among how old they were prior to the new dating, ranging from 10,000-16,000 years old.

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References:

[1] – Taylor, et al. “Interdisciplinary Analysis of the Lehi Horse: Implications for Early Historic Horse Cultures of the North American West” (4 Feb. 2021). https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-antiquity/article/abs/interdisciplinary-analysis-of-the-lehi-horse-implications-for-early-historic-horse-cultures-of-the-north-american-west/1359793C6DF51AD9C1D7968F94B55D1C. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

[2] – Daniel Strain. “Horse remains reveal new insights into how Native peoples raised horses” (4 Feb. 2021). https://www.colorado.edu/today/2021/02/04/horse-remains-reveal-new-insights-how-native-peoples-raised-horses. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

[3] – Laura M. Holson. The New York Times: “An Ancient Horse Is Unearthed in a Utah Backyard” (3 May 2018). https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/science/horse-skeleton-utah.html. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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