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Chariots in Warfare (Part 3/3)


Chariot Structure

Egyptian chariots were the focus of my research, the Ancient Egyptians used the chariot to great effect in battle. An important reason behind this success is that the lands the Egyptians were fighting for had terrain that was perfectly suited for the chariot to travel on: flat and even. They redesigned the existing chariots and developed unique features that lead to their great success with the vehicle.

chariot 5

One of the chariots found in Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter

The Egyptians shaped the pieces of their chariots by using steam (Harvey). A piece of the proper size would been saturated with water until it was flexible, it would then be bent into the needed shape by several workers using a jig that would hold the wood in place until it dried. Pieces would be further shaped to fit properly with other pieces. The different pieces would be tied together using soaked strips of rawhide that would tighten when they dried. The body of the chariot was narrow back to front and wide enough to hold a driver and an archer. The front of the chariot would be covered in leather. The leather covering would have cutouts in it to reduce the overall weight of the chariot.

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Horse in collection, indicated by the hind legs being bent

The harnesses were designed to put the horses in collection, which shifts the balance of the horse backwards, putting more weight on the hind legs. This position allows the horses to turn more quickly and easily when pulling the chariot (Hansen). This enhanced the maneuverability of the chariot, which was crucial in a battle.

Egyptian chariot wheels were built to be strong, flexible and light. This contrasted the existing style of Sumerian chariots which usually had heavy, solid and rigid wheels (Rovetta). We can see from Egyptian art that there was some experimentation in regards to the need of spokes on the wheel. There are depictions of wheels with only four spokes, this was likely an effort to lighten the weight of the chariot. They likely found that four spokes was not supportive enough for the wheels and so increased it to eight, which while supportive greatly increased the weight. The number of spokes was reduced to six, supportive but more lightweight than with eight spokes, this seems to have been the golden number as six spokes remained to be shown in artwork for the duration of the chariot’s use in Egypt (Harvey).

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We know from surviving chariots that the wheels were spaced far away from the bottom of the chariot, this would have added much needed stability. In addition to the widely spaced wheels the hubs of the wheels were wide, this would stabilize the wheels themselves. The inside of the hub would be coated in animal grease so the wheels were able to move smoothly (Rovetta). The construction of the wheels made for sturdy and stable wheels that we’re flexible enough to take some the the impact from uneven ground.

chariot 6

Axle positioned at the back of the platform

Another redesign the Egyptians made was to move the axle to the back of the main platform. Previous chariots had the axle positioned in the middle of the platform. This move made the base of the chariot move less and made for a more stable platform for the archer.

The the curved shaft also contributed toward the ‘suspension’ of the Egyptian chariot. The shaft was made of a single piece of wood bent into a flattened s-shaped curve. This piece was attached to the crossbar that connected the horses’ harnesses to the chariot. It was securely attached only at the back of the main platform and the front of the platform rested on this piece, which was also made of flexible wood. The flex of the wood took a lot of the impact from the uneven ground and the movement of the horses rather than it going straight to the platform (Harvey).  

The Ancient Egyptian chariots, such as those found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, could certainly be considered high performance vehicles for the time period. They were light, sturdy and quick. The many developments made to these chariots is what allowed the Egyptians to use them to such great effect.



Carter, Howard, and Jaromir Malek. Howard Carter’s Diary and Journal 1922.,

Hansen, Kathy. “Collection in Ancient Egyptian Chariot Horses.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 29, 1992, pp. 173–179. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Harvey, Steven, et al. “Building Pharaoh’s Chariot.” Nova, season 40, episode 5, PBS, 6 Feb. 2013.

Rovetta, Alberto, et al. “Erratum to ‘The Chariots of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tut Ankh Amun in 1337 B.c: Kinematics and Dynamics.’” Mechanism and Machine Theory, vol. 35, no. 11, 2000, pp. 1651–1653., doi:10.1016/s0094-114x(00)00027-6.


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Chariots in Warfare (Part 1/3)

Somebodycallixii and beholdaman:

Even though we completed a project we have elected to split our blog post into three for ease of reading. This first section is about the process we used to build our model chariot.


Supplies for building the model chariot

We wanted to imitate the actual methods the Egyptians used to build their chariots as closely as we could.  We referenced several of the chariots discovered in the tomb of King Tut to build our replica. These chariots are some of the best examples we have of an Egyptian chariots, they would have been built around 1350 BC, and detailed drawings were made when the tomb was discovered that we used for further reference beyond the photos. The chariot we chose to build our model of would have been more of a parade chariot than a war chariot, the only major difference is the covering on the front of the chariot. A war chariot would have had a leather covering to reduce weight rather that the metal plated wood we replicated on our model.


Wood bending


Difficulty with the wheels

They used steam to bend their wood, we actually submerged our wood in hot water because it was faster, but it produced the same result. We did not have the means to build several miniature jigs to hold our pieces at the proper angles, so we settled for using binder clips to clamp the pieces to whatever we could find that looked like the correct angle. This worked for most of the bend pieces, but the bend required for the wheel spokes proved too much for the low quality wood we had to work with, most of the pieces broke enough that they would not have been stable. Eventually we had to give up on making the spokes authentically and used single pieces to represent the six spokes.  

The Egyptians bound their wood with strips of rawhide or leather, which we represented at some points with white string. We decided to use hot glue for our model because we did not have the patience to wrap and tie that much string, though we did imitate the appearance of rawhide on some joints of our model. The pharaoh’s chariot would have been finely carved and decorated with metal leaf, we are poor college students, so we opted for metallic sharpie on paper instead.

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The Bayeux Tapestry (Panel 65)

The Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered work what follows William the Conqueror’s conquest of England in 1066 AD. William used the Norman army to invade England in order to regain the English throne from Harold. Harold had taken the throne after the former king of England, Edward the Confessor, had died without an heir.


Movement of the English (blue) and Norman (red) armies during the conquest.

The piece is nearly 70 meters long and consists of nine conjoined strips of linen that have been embroidered with only 10 colors of thread. It may have been longer, but it is speculated that the final scenes have been lost. It was likely commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother. The tapestry has a more Anglo-Saxon style of stitching than French, and was probably not made in Bayeux at all. This is supported by Old English characters in the writing on the tapestry (Lewis). The validity of the tapestry as a source for the events of William’s conquest is questionable. Embroidery is not the clearest art form and can be easily misconstrued, the text that appears on the tapestry is limited and often abbreviated. The tapestry also focuses mainly on events in England, leaving out many details of events that took place elsewhere (Lewis).

Bayeux Tapestry Scene 65, Wilson

Panel 65 depicts an intense battle where men were lost from both sides

Panel 65

This panel depicts a violent battle including many dead and broken weapons. It was uncommon to depict the dead in a piece like this. The latin text over this scene reads, “Regis: hic ceciderunt simul Angli et Franci in prelio”, which translates to “Here fell the English and French simultaneously in battle”. This battle scene likely represents what is known as the Malfosse incident (Wilson). The Malfosse incident was a disastrous charge by the Normans through English lines into a trap where many soldiers and horses were killed.  The English were positioned on a hill and faked retreat, tricking the Norman cavalry into charging their horses into concealed spikes (Wilson).

There is debate as to whether the animals depicted in the borders of the tapestry are directly related to the scenes that occur above or below them. Figures in the top border of panel 65 include lions and griffins, these may just be there to take up space or they could represent something symbolic about the scene. The bird that appears in the top border of section 65 is a dove carrying an olive branch, this is often used as an expression of peace (Owen-Crocker), this seems to be quite unrelated to the bloody battle that occurs below it.



Lewis, Michael J. “Questioning the Archaeological Authority of the Bayeux Tapestry.” Cultural and Social History, vol. 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 467–484.

Owen-Crocker, Gale R. “Squawk Talk: Commentary by Birds in the Bayeux Tapestry?” Anglo-Saxon England, vol. 34, no. -1, 2005, p. 237.

Wilson, David M. The Bayeux Tapestry. Christian Ejlers Publishers, 2003.

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Username Post

Hello all,

The name I chose is Somebodycallixii, which is a gag line in Disney’s Hercules. IX-I-I is  911 in roman numerals. I just have always found it to be a very funny line and so I made it my username.  That is basically the whole story.

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