History rode the horse to victory in new exhibit

Fri Jun 18, 2010 6:02am EDT
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By Verna Gates

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (Reuters Life!) - While the camel may have carried civilization, the horse conquered it.

On the back of this noble beast, wars were lost and won, brides were delivered to royal weddings and the words of the Prophet Mohammed were spread. On its swift feet, the strong pushed past the village and created the nation.

The role of the horse in history is the focus of "A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse," an exhibit at The Kentucky Horse Park's International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, which runs through October 15.

"The horse had more impact than any other animal in the story of culture, politics and religion. It affected the cradle of civilization," said Sandra Olsen, co-curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and a curator of the exhibit.

Many of the 408 works in the exhibit have never been displayed outside of Saudi Arabia, or the 19 countries which contributed to the landmark study of a single animal on human history.

Treasures include the 4,500 year-old Standard of Ur, with only its second visit outside of the British Museum in London since its discovery in the 1920s. The ancient piece is remarkably vivid with bright blue and red colors.

A gold headband, also from Ur, which bears the earliest depictions of horseback riding from 2600 BCE is also on display, along with bas-reliefs dating from the time of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, husband of Nefertiti and father of King Tutankhamen.

A gold chariot horse from the Oxus Treasure, a hoard of 180 gold and silver items from Tajikistan, dates to the 5th century BCE. Paintings encompass Orientalist pieces from Delacroix, and Adolph Schreyer to modern sports artist Andre Pater. Jeweled bridles and daggers, ancient embroidered saddle blankets, pottery, glassware and ancient texts paint a complete picture of cultural influence.   Continued...