Tutankhamun Chariot

A chariot consisted of a light wooden semi-circular, open backed frame provided with an axle and a pair of wheels (sometimes more). A long pole or shaft attached to the axle enabled the chariot to be drawn by a pair of horses by means of a yoke. Only 11 examples have survived from the ancient Egyptian history. We found 6 chariots in the tomb of Tutankhamun
At the time of their discovery, they were all dismantled (broken down) into small compartments for compactness of storage and heaped in different locations inside the tomb. 4 of them were found in the southeastern corner of the Antechamber and 2 others were found placed along the north wall of the Treasury. They proved very difficult to reconstruct but after much delicate preservation work five of them were reassembled.

Tutankhamun Chariot

When did chariots first appear in ancient Egypt? The first appearance of chariots in Egypt was from the HYKSOS period (2nd Intermediate Period). There is a theory which suggests that one of the reasons that the HYKSOS managed to invade Egypt was their use of this new equipment which took the Egyptians by surprise. Chariots seem to have originated in Mesopotamia in the third millennium BCE but The Egyptians improved the design of the chariot by making it lighter.
Changing the position of the chariot's axle so that the driver would stand closer to it and covering parts of the axle with metal in order to reduce the friction between it and the wooden wheel hub. The importance of chariots is that they provide a mobile platform for the archers, allowing the enemy to be bombarded by arrows from many different directions.

Throughout the New Kingdom chariots were closely associated with the king, who is constantly shown driving his chariot by himself and dominating the field of battle. He would control the horses by means of a leather belt tied around his waist and connected to the saddles of the horses. However, non-royal chariots carried two soldiers: the driver and a fighter.

Tutankhamun Chariot

The first scene showing an Egyptian chariot appeared in the early 18th dynasty depicting Ahmose I, from then on it started to be traditional scene depicting the power and the strength of the king and we can compare it to earlier representations of the king with the mace head striking the enemies. Chariots were also mentioned as diplomatic gifts in the correspondence from El-Amarna.

Its name in ancient Egyptian was wrrt or mrkbt.

After the reconstruction of the chariots, it was possible to distinguish between two different kinds of chariots. These two kinds are:

  • The state or ceremonial chariots
  • The hunting chariots.

The ceremonial chariot was used by the king during ceremonies or when visiting different parts of the country to check on his people. We have scenes from the reign of Akhenaton representing the king riding his chariot followed by other chariots carrying his wife and daughters, and the rest of his officials.

These chariots were heavier than the war chariots and were inlaid with semi-precious stones, gold, silver and bronze and decorated with highly ornate designs. These chariots were not built for speed; they were built for effect. They were also built for comfort and large umbrellas were attached to offer shade to those who rode in them.

The state or ceremonial chariots consisted of a bent wooden frame (partly filled with a thin wooden sheet) which is covered in gold leaf and inlaid with coloured glass and semi-precious stones. The frame is resting upon a platform on which the king would stand (unfortunately this is missing). This platform was normally made of bands of wood covered with animal skin and linen matting. 

The Chariot of Tutankhamun

The Chariot of Tutankhamun

The Chariot of Tutankhamun

The Chariot of Tutankhamun

These are attached to the axle which connects the two wheels together. The rims of the wheels were originally lined with leather. In the middle there is a sloping rod or shaft ending with a yoke (horizontal rod of wood) at which the end will be tied the two horses. There is also a top rail which provided support for the king when he is riding the chariot. These chariots had four-spoke wheels.

The Ancient Egyptians used the Chariot for hunting purposes. The hunting chariot offered speed and allowed an archer to concentrate on the prey rather than the horse. The Pharaohs favored this form of hunting and were accompanied on such expeditions by large number of their armies. They are decorated with remains of leather panels. The hunting and war chariots had six-spoke wheels.

We are going to study two ceremonial chariots:

The first chariot is decorated from the outer and inner sides with Rishi decoration which was common in the coffins from the 17th dynasty. The significance of the rishi decoration on the coffins that it may represent the feathers of the Ba bird or the wings of ISIS when she was protecting her husband OSIRIS. [Note that rishi means feathers in Arabic].

The frame is strengthened at the front with an additional top rail, the space between it and the body of the chariot is decorated in openwork with the Sematawy sign symbolizing the unification of the two lands flanked by captives, some of whom are represented with their hands tied behind their backs but unfortunately the left side is destroyed.

The central inner panel is decorated in raised relief with a representation of a falcon with a solar disk at the top of his head with 2 cobras attached. This is probably REHORAKHTY or maybe Horus of Behdet as the inscriptions next to it read: bHdt on one side and nTr aA nb pt: the great god, lord of the sky, on the other side. So maybe this was a mistake and the depiction is of Horus of Behdet?. The falcon is holding the shen sign of eternity and two feathers. Underneath there are the cartouches of TUTANKHAMUN and his wife. The 1st cartouche is the Sa Re: twt ankh imn hqa iwn rsyt: THE LIVING IMAGE OF AMUN, THE RULER OF THEBES. Then the Niswtbity: nb xprw re: LORD OF EXISTENCE IS RE. Then the cartouche of his wife: anx.s.n.imn: SHE WHO LIVES FOR AMUN.

Under the cartouches there is the RKHYT bird (with uptied wings) representing the people of Egypt resting upon the nb sign (meaning all) and in front of it a sign of a star (dwa meaning to adore) and also two ankh signs flanking the DJED pillar. The whole scene means that all the people of Egypt adore the OSIRIS king 'TUTANKHAMUN'.

At the bottom there is a representation of the SEMATAWY sign which refers to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, there are also two captives entangled within the Sematawy sign.

There is a circle on each side internally and externally enclosing the UDJET eye or the eye of HORUS sign of protection. On both sides of the frame of the chariot there is a representation of a notched palm rib sign of god HEH, ending in the frog (Hfn) and the Sn sign of eternity.

The second chariot is decorated with spiral patterns and this is the main difference in decorating the frame of these two chariots. Otherwise, it is similar to the first one the entire body is covered with gold leaf and inlaid with semi-precious stones.

There are also some more differences: The yoke was decorated with representations of two prisoners (one on either side), also there is a representation of a Lotus and papyrus flowers (or maybe two papyri) decorating the end of the shaft towards the body of the chariot itself.

In the front there are two serpents each one surmounted by a solar disk. The panel in the middle of the outer side contains the cartouches of the king, each surmounted by 2 feathers and the solar disk. These are flanked on both sides with the HORUS name of TUTANKHAMUN: kA nxt twt mswt which means ‘the strong bull Tut is born’ or ‘the strong bull fitting of created forms’.

Decorating the inner side, there are the names and the titles of TUTANKHAMUN and his wife followed by the SEMATAWAY sign of the unification of the two lands. Asiatic and Nubians captives were shown under the SEMATAWAY sign flanked on both sides by the figure of the king represented as a standing sphinx wearing the NEMES headdress with the cobra on his forehead and the false royal beard attached to his chin. There is also a rosette on either side.

At the bottom there is a depiction of GOD BES on both sides at the end of the frame to provide protection for the king.

With both chariots some related materials or accessories were discovered. These included yokes, saddles of gilded wood, spurs for the horses, two blinders to be put on either side of the horses eyes and figures of HORUS surmounting a captive as a kind of decoration to be put on the heads of the horses, it is a symbol of the king as it was well known that Horus represented the living king on earth.

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