Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Central and Southwest Asia Studies

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Riley C. Augé

Commitee Members

Bret Tobalske, Kelly Dixon


Synchrony, Horse Archers, Steppe, Nomads, Mongols


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Asian History | Medieval History | Military History


Animals moving in unison as a group are quite intriguing to observe. Horses can run across terrain and change directions without jostling each other. They appear to move as if they know how to avoid crashing into others and run fluidly through their environment. This ability to maneuver without hindering herd is called synchrony and also extends to other animals including fish in schools and birds in flocks. Humans, on the other hand, need to create orderly formations in battle to move without interfering with adjacent warriors. For example, the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Chinese, and Byzantines trained their infantry and cavalry formations in order to march them over great distances and to maneuver on the battlefield in an orderly fashion. Arabic sources depict elaborate formations that the mamlūk slave soldiers utilized in their training. These armies were urbanized or centralized. They did not fight or maneuver like the nomadic horsemen of the Eurasian Steppe. The nomads did not have drilled formations. Instead, they utilized an aspect of the horse, synchrony, to maneuver on the battlefield. Scholars have attempted to explain how the horse archers were able to act in unison, yet none have examined the cultural aspect of the horse as a herd animal. The significance of synchrony has been largely ignored due to anthropocentrism: the view that the domesticated horse, Equus ferus caballus, lacks agency and that only humans possess intrinsic knowledge of how to maneuver within a mass while mounted, especially on the battlefield. This thesis addresses this gap by examining the human-animal mutualism enacted by Eurasian Steppe horse archers. It is important to understand how the riders trained, controlled and interacted with the horses, but it is equally important to understand how the horses influenced the action of the riders through synchrony. Understanding the interactions of the nomads and Equus ferus caballus will help to move beyond the anthropocentric view and further our understanding of the Eurasian Steppe horse archers and the horse which will contribute to a greater knowledge of the past.



© Copyright 2020 Chris Hanson