Re: earliest chariots
- Dean Anderson wrote:
> Here's an interesting example of what looks to be an early chariotIn this connection, I've often been wondering which category of
> in the transition from cart to chariot -- it has solid wheels
> instead of spokes and is pulled by onagers. While it might be
> unwieldy by the standards of later light chariots, I'm sure it was
> quite intimidating during its time...:
wheeled vehicles does the following model (labeled as "Mitanni
chariot" on certain Internet sites) belong in:
Where does this piece come from, and what is its date? Does the
model represent two Mitanni (= Mittani) _maryannu_ mounted on a
horse-drawn chariot (though a pair of horses isn't apparently part
of the model)? Are the wheels solid or spoked ones?
Thanks for a clarification (Trudy?).
- [Mod. Note: please make your own tinyurls [<www.tinyurl.com>] for
long links that will likely get broken in transmission -- this means
anything longer than about 70 characters -- it is too time consuming
for the moderators to have to do this ourselves! - BF]
Dear Trudy and list,
Thanks for the replies. This thread has caused me to re-examine my
thinking on the role of chariots and 'rathas'.
Trudy, I agree with you that one of the main roles of that vehicle
was quite likely ceremonial. In fact, I think that was one of the
most important functions of all early wheeled vehicles. On the other
hand, it's also quite conceivable that at least some of them had a
role in warfare as well.
You mention that "These make pretty poor assault vehicles as all you
need to disrupt one is a pole between one of the onagers forelegs.
When one stumbles, the rest are pulled awry & the driver flips out
(no helmet either!)."
Wouldn't this be true of all chariots, regardless of design,
including the well-attested light war chariot? And in doing so,
wouldn't you be in danger of being trampled, as these pictures show?
Another issue is that the onagers may have been more controllable
than is generally thought. Littauer (2002a:498) identifies what she
seems to think are cavessons (like muzzles or bitless bridles) on
the equids on both the Standard of Ur and the Standard of Mari.
These would have given more directional control than nose rings. Of
course, you're still left with stubborn onagers pulling your cart!
Can anyone get access to the pictures of the Standard of Mari at
Penn? You need a PennKey. I can't find any other pictures of it.
Although there is no doubt that the invention of the light two-
wheeled chariot revolutionized ancient warfare (Piggot 1992), its
success often overshadows the fact that the earlier four-wheeled
vehicle was apparently used in combat as well. (Renfrew 1998:282)
There is pictorial evidence of a four-wheeled "battle car" as seen
on the "Royal Standard of Ur" (c. 2600-2400 BCE) from the Early
Dynastic Period of Ur.
Littauer and Crouwel (2002b:27) observe: -"The 4-wheeled "battle
car" would be primarily a mobile firing platform from which
javelins, carried in a sheath attached to a corner of the high front
breastwork, could be cast. Recent experiments with a reconstruction
of such a wagon show that an expert javelin thrower can cast 30
javelins per min. at a distance of up to 60 m. from it while it
moves at 16-19.3 km. per hour."
They presumably were also used by archers as later chariots were. As
is always the case with new military inventions, they are usually
most effective during their initial introduction before the enemy
has a chance to develop countermeasures like those Trudy mentioned.
During their initial introduction, they must have been fearsome
indeed to a lightly armored Bronze Age warrior who had never seen
them before. It required proper terrain, however, and this was
always one of the major limitations of chariots, which gave rise to
their eventual eclipse by the more-flexible cavalry. But if
conditions were right, maneuverability wasn't an issue since they
may have been used as later chariots were, described by Littauer
and Crouwel (2002b:32): "as mobile firing platforms to run along the
face of the enemy to soften it up" or to harry the flanks of an army
or in the pursuit of a retreating one, rather than in a frontal
assault or other situations that required more flexibility.
In a wartime parallel to the ceremonial role of chariots and battle
cars this frontal strafing attack just prior to the battle would
have a significant psychological effect. Since it would have been
carried out by the elite troops and even royalty it would also
demonstrate their superiority.
Littauer, M. A. 2002a. Bits and Pieces. In Selected writings on
chariots and other early vehicles, riding and harness, ed. Peter
Raulwing, 487-504. Culture and history of the ancient Near East v.
6. Leiden: Brill.
Littauer, M. A, and J. H Crouwel. 2002b. Kampfwagen (Streitwage) B.
Archaeolgisch. In Selected writings on chariots and other early
vehicles, riding and harness, ed. Peter Raulwing, 26-37 (609 total).
Culture and history of the ancient Near East v. 6. Leiden: Brill.
Piggott, Stuart. 1992. Wagon, Chariot, and Carriage: Symbol and
Status in the History of Transport. London: Thames and Hudson.
Renfrew, Colin. 1998. All the King's horses: assessing cognitive
maps in later prehistoric Europe. In Creativity in Human Evolution
and Prehistory, ed. Stephen Mithen, 260-284. London and New York:
Trudy Kawami wrote:
> In Western Asia we call this type of vehicle a straddle-car.
>The driver literally straddles the yoke pole balancing on
>the axel (or directly above it). It is pretty spectacular,
>if not very stable; but that may be the point. It's a very
>high-status object. These early status
> vehicles were not very easily directed, nor were onagers
>very biddable. The basic movements are forward & stop,
>with a rough left & right also possible. Agile & versatile, they >
> These make pretty poor assault vehicles as all you need to
>disrupt one is a pole between one of the onagers forelegs.
>When one stumbles, the rest are pulled awry & the driver flips
>out (no helmet either!). But speed and maneuverability were
>not the goals. I think we should remove these vehicles from the
>"warfare" category & put them in "parade" instead. They must have
>provided quite a show.
> Trudy Kawami
- Dear list,
Dean's letter helps with an important methodological problem.
When one finds a striking similarlity between (say) India and Ireland,
an Indo-European comparativist is tempted to think of common origin as the
explanation. But in a case like epic stories involving light horse-drawn
war chariots, the archaeology seems to rule this out: the language family
must have started splitting up well before the invention of this military
technology, and the similarity apparently has to be ascribed to horizontal
transmission, not to common origin.
However, if the war chariots were preceded by heavier battle cars or
wagons, we could still be dealing with two narrative traditions having a
common origin: once the new technology arrived, the stories would have
undergone independent but parallel updating in the two areas.
In his Indo-European Poetry and Myth (OUP 2007), p. 23-24, Martin West
sees the implications of the dating of war chariots (to not before 2100 BC)
as a 'devastating result' for himself and other seekers of Indo-European
mythology, i.e. for those focusing on common origin (say a millennium
earlier). The battle wagon plus independent updating suggests a way round
his rather depressing verdict. Perhaps such parallel updating is more
likely to affect technology than most other sorts of narrative matter.
Happy New Year to all, Nick
N.J. Allen, ISCA (=Social & Cultural Anthropology)
- I received this from another List, and thought it might be of interest to some.
Valerie J Roebuck
>*Call for papers: _Commerce and Religion in Medieval and Early Modern
>*European Social Science History Conference (Ghent, Belgium, 13-16 April
>How did merchants belonging to different religious groups conduct trade
>with one another during the Medieval and Early Modern period? How did
>different societies accommodate "infidels" in the interest of promoting
>profitable commercial activity? We seek papers that focus on specific
>instances of inter-faith commerce from around the world in the period
>from 1000 to 1800. Papers from a variety of perspectives (e.g.
>economic history, legal history, cultural history) are welcome. They
>should be based on original research.
>We are particularly eager to receive contributions that approach two
>a) the emergence of institutions, technologies, and forms of social
>organization that may have reduced the uncertainty of commercial
>exchanges, which was particularly acute in the absence of family and
>religious ties. For example, papers might explore the mechanics of
>medium- to long-term credit between individuals and groups who shared no
>religious affiliation and traded over significant distances. Analyses
>of failed or coerced inter-faith commercial exchanges are also welcome
>if they reveal larger patterns of cross-cultural interaction.
>b) the tension between economic pragmatism, legal prescriptions, and
>religious prejudice. We are eager to link the mechanics of commercial
>exchange to their broader cultural implications in a wide variety of
>contexts and historical moments. In particular, we want to understand
>how and whether the quest for profit either encouraged more tolerant
>attitudes or merely enabled different groups to coexist in the context
>of religious biases and patterns of segregation. The ultimate goal of
>this session is to develop a comparative approach to these questions and
>to trace changes over time, while respecting the historical
>particularity of diverse cases.
>Please send a paper title and an abstract of no more than 800 words via
>email to both session organizers no later than 1 April 2009. Proposals
>should be written in English. We are especially keen to review papers
>that combine empirical research and theoretical reflections.
>Professor of History
>Assistant Professor of History
- [Mod. note. Edited and expanded a bit for clarity, and long
URL replaced with tinyurl - SF.]
I recently updated my notes summarizing political and
archaeological issues involving attempts
to preserve the Huluga Open Site, Cagayan de Oro,
Philippines -- which has been threatened by a
major road-and-bridge project:
I would welcome comments on the supposed distinctions between
"habitation sites", "settlements", and "campsites", which have
been used by local officials to justify destruction of the site.
- [Mod. note. Sebastian is commenting on the following post from
the other day from Elson Elizaga, who described his struggles with
government officials in the Philippines to preserve the Huluga site:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/message/12079 - SF]
"Huluga was a Habitation, But Unlikely a Settlement".
As an archaeologist, I fully agree with your evaluation of this statement:
> I guess the profound mystery of this concept will continue to baffle theI know next to nothing about archaeology in the Philippines but I suspect that,
> international settlement of archaeologists. But not to worry. In the
> archaeological camp of the University of the Philippines, this
> koan-like riddle should make perfect sense."
like in many other countries, a section of the archaeological community continue
to evaluate the relevance of ancient remains in function of so-called �major
civilisations� (i.e. large walls, many artefacts = important ; scattered
occupation = unimportant)�. HISCCOM seem to be suggesting that all hunter
gatherer and nomadic evidence might as well be bulldozed. So goodbye to the
Paleolithic, the Eurasian Steppes and let�s open a bottle of champagne for the
advanced civilisations which colonised the backward isles now known as the
(In certain cases, archaeologists have been known to lend support to the
destruction of archaeological sites for non ethical reasons� I guess / hope
this is not the case ;-)
PS. If you think that a more official statement from the archaeological community would be useful, I am sure that many scholars would give you support.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Dear Sebastian,
Thank you for your comment (quoted at the end). Your suspicion
about HISCCOM is correct.
Related to Huluga, but involving a separate area, a private group of
archaeologists educated at the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) has
also made an Archaeological Impact Assessment that says that a section
of Mount Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte, considered sacred by the Subanen
tribe, "has no archaeological artifacts" -- of course, because the
mountain is revered in the first place. This area is being mined by
Toronto Ventures, Inc., the same company that asked the archaeologists
to do the AIA. TVI is using the AIA to justify the exploitation of the
site: *See http://tinyurl.com/5ax2fu*
A leader of this tribe spoke during an anthropological conference and
claimed that the archaeologists also said the mountain is not sacred
because "it has no religious monuments and icons." I have no written nor
first-hand document of this statement, however, though Dr. Erlinda
Burton shared this information to me. For detailed report of the
struggle of the Subanen people to defend their sacred mountain, see
Our group, the Heritage Conservation Advocates (HCA), would certainly
welcome an official statement from the archaeological community on the
activities of ASP. As I am not an archaeologist, I do not know what kind
of action is required to stop what is referred to by anthropologist and
historian Dr. Antonio J. Montalvan II as "mercenary archaeology".
In the case of foreign companies hiring such archaeologists for
commercial purposes, it might help to identify the foreign investors. A
Canadian politician, or someone linked to a politician, for instance,
who is investing in questionable activities in the Philippines, should
TVI is listed in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center:
P.S. With your permission, I would like to forward your email below to
the egroup of the HCA.
sebastian stride wrote:
> [Mod. note. Sebastian is commenting on the following post from
> the other day from Elson Elizaga, who described his struggles with
> government officials in the Philippines to preserve the Huluga site:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/message/12079 - SF]
> "Huluga was a Habitation, But Unlikely a Settlement".
> As an archaeologist, I fully agree with your evaluation of this statement:
>> I guess the profound mystery of this concept will continue to baffle the
>> international settlement of archaeologists. But not to worry. In the
>> archaeological camp of the University of the Philippines, this
>> koan-like riddle should make perfect sense."
> I know next to nothing about archaeology in the Philippines but I suspect
> that, like in many other countries, a section of the archaeological
> community continue to evaluate the relevance of ancient remains in
> function of so-called "major civilisations" (i.e. large walls, many
> artefacts = important ; scattered occupation = unimportant)....
> HISCCOM seem to be suggesting that all hunter
> gatherer and nomadic evidence might as well be bulldozed. So goodbye to the
> Paleolithic, the Eurasian Steppes and let's open a bottle of champagne for the
> advanced civilisations which colonised the backward isles now known as the
> (In certain cases, archaeologists have been known to lend support to the
> destruction of archaeological sites for non ethical reasons-- I guess / hope
> this is not the case ;-)
> PS. If you think that a more official statement from the archaeological community would be useful, I am sure that many scholars would give you support.