Horses and the Human Story: How Mongolian Horses Changed the World

Application for 2024 Horses and the Human Story is now CLOSED

8 Days ◦ 2 Instructor and Support Staff

July 20 - July 28, 2024 

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Questions about application or fellowships? Email:

Embark on an exhilarating weeklong field course led by esteemed archaeologist Dr. William Taylor and ACMS Resident Director Dr. Isaac Hart, unraveling the fascinating early tales of humanity intertwined with the extraordinary history of horses. Join us on an immersive journey through Mongolia's vibrant contemporary horse culture and delve into the heart of ancient equestrian empires that reshaped continents, from the far-reaching Mongol Empire to distant lands in Europe, Africa, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

For priority consideration for fellowship awards apply by March 30, 2024.

Final deadline is May 30, 2024.

Course Overview

Explore ancient ritual landscapes intertwined with Mongolia's earliest horse cultures, wander through the remnants of the legendary capital of the ancient Mongol Empire—Karakorum—and discover the ingenious postal relay system that connected ancient Eurasia, long before the advent of modern transportation.

Through immersive site visits and engaging discussions with field experts, participants will delve into cutting-edge archaeological research, unveiling pivotal innovations such as horse chariots, riding techniques, and equine equipment. Gain a deeper understanding of how Mongolia's rich horse cultures not only shaped the ancient world but also continue to influence our contemporary society.

This unparalleled course offers an intensive week delving into the depths of Mongolia's horse culture, set amidst the captivating landscapes of Ulaanbaatar and Kharkhorin. Join us from July 20-28, 2024, for an extraordinary expedition through time and history.

This course can be taken together with a second ACMS Field School course such as the course on Hustai National Park: Managing Biodiversity in the Home of Mongolia’s Native Horses (July 29-Aug 11) or Steppe Ethnographies: Mobile Pastoralism, Cosmology and Development in Rural Mongolia (July 29-Aug 9).

Anticipated Course Activities

Day 1 - Jul 20


Course orientation in Ulaanbaatar

Participants will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with both the course faculty and fellow participants. They will acquire essential insights into Mongolian culture, history, and language.

Students will stay in hotel lodging near the museum district of Ulaanbaatar, joining experts on an object-based tour through Mongolia’s deep relationship with the horse over the centuries and millennia, and visiting important cultural and historical sites near the city’s capital such as the Chinggis Khan Museum and the National Museum of Mongolia.

Day 2-3 Jul 21-22

Road to Erdene zuu

Travel to Karakorum

The team will journey westward to the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, once the beating heart of the ancient world. On the way, we’ll learn about the special pastoral lifeways of the Mongolian Steppe and the roles that horses play in them. We will spend 2 nights in a tourist-oriented ger camp here.

Day 4 - July 23

Buddhist site in Mongolia

Lectures and site visits in Orkhon “Valley of the Kings”

Journeying through the wide Orkhon Valley, students will explore the remnants of centuries of ancient empires that held court in this important central place in the ancient steppe, visiting a UNESCO world heritage landscape whose usage stretches across three millennia.

Day 5 - Jul 24

a carved stone pillar

Visit ancient Deer Stone monuments

Today we will explore one of the largest and most impressive deer stone sites in all of Eurasia. This site has incredible  deer stone and “khirigsuur” mounds of the second millennium BCE. Here, we will learn about Mongolia’s very first horse culture, and the ways that the domestication and introduction of the horse transformed life in East Asia. We will also visit an elite cemetery from the Xiongnu Empire.

Day 6 Jul 25

IMG_7481 (1)

Travel to site of 20th century postal relay

Today we will travel north to Khuvsgul Province to visit another amazing deer stone site, and stay in a ger camp near the town of Murun. Here we will learn about Horse infrastructure and the original Mongolian "pony express" postal relay system.

Day 7 Jul 26


Horse ride to the Postal Relay site

Today will most likely be the highlight of your experience in Mongolia. We will be joined today by a descendant of the last operators of a postal relay site near Murun. With him we will ride horses out to one of the postal relay sites, experiencing first hand the original pony express system. Our evening lecture tonight will cover Horse transport and equipment across Mongolian history.

Day 8 Jul 27


Horse Milk Production - Bulgan

On our way back to Ulaanbaatar we will stop near the town of Bulgan and visit a family involved in horse-milk production. Here we will have a chance to see production of Airag - the famous Mongolian fermented mare's milk.

Day 9 Jul 28

a building with a statue out front

Wrap up seminar in Ulaanbaatar

We will arrive on the afternoon of July 28 back in Ulaanbaatar. Here we will have a group dinner and reflect on the amazing shared experience we just went through together. 


will taylor

Dr. William Taylor

University of Colorado – Boulder
Dr. Taylor is an Assistant Professor and Curator of Archaeology at the University of Colorado-Boulder. His research uses archaeological science to explore the domestication of animals such as horses and reindeer and understand their impact on societies across the ancient world. He is the author of Hoof Beats: How Horses Shaped Human History (University of California Press, 2024).

Dr. Isaac Hart

American Center for Mongolian Studies
Dr. Hart has served as Resident Director of the ACMS office in Ulaanbaatar since fall 2023. He has a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Utah in 2017. His research involves using methods from paleobiogeography and paleoecology to understand human decision making in the past. His work combines analysis of past plant communities (pollen-based paleoenvironmental reconstruction) and animal communities (analysis of animal bones from archaeological sites) with archaeological research regarding human subsistence practices. He has conducted field research and study programs in central Utah, Baja California, and western Mongolia.



"Attending the renewable energy field school was the best decision I made in 2019! I was already attending a fulltime graduate program in Canada, but the field school added rich value to my learning. As the world is becoming more globalized, looking at how Mongolia is responding to the challenges of supplying cleaner energy was a valuable experience. Our instructors came with a vast amount of knowledge and a passion to teach.’’

Liz B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Batkhuu SQ600

"As a sociology major student, this program was very helpful to explore urban issues and migration processes in contemporary Mongolia. Through this program, I sharpened my academic capabilities while refining soft skills essential for my future studies.’’

Batkhuu B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019

"The ACMS field school is a unique experience that has changed my life and teaching. In most programs, international participants are isolated from the country in which we are studying except for controlled visits to local people and sites. Not so with ACMS! Half of the participants in each field school are from Mongolia, ensuring that local and international participants have a chance to understand each other’s perspectives.’’

Janis M

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
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