Treasures of Egypt Day 17: Tutankhamun’s chariot ‘The Ferrari of antiquity’

By the time of Tutankhamun, chariots were being widely used in hunting and warfare. For an archer shooting arrows at an enemy army, a chariot provided a much more stable platform than a horse. Chariot riders could shoot arrows accurately even when their horse was at full gallop, 25 miles per hour. They were the heroes of the time, like Premier League footballers today.

There were parts at least four different chariots in Tutankhamun’s tomb. One of them is particularly small and speedy, and this is most likely the one the king used himself in ostrich hunts and battles.

Scientists who study Tutankhamun’s chariot always end up being incredibly impressed. The wheels, the tyres, the axle, the bearings, the lubrication made of animal grease, all of these things show a very high level of engineering sophistication. One professor declared that the construction of Tutankhamun’s chariot was more impressive than the construction of the pyramids! Another called it ‘the Ferrari of antiquity.’

We know from studying Tutankhamun’s mummy that he broke his leg not long before he died. Was this the result of a chariot fall? Was he out ostrich hunting at the time?

If he did fall from his chariot, it was not because of any fault in the chariot’s design. It was more likely Tutankhamun’s own weakness, brought on by malaria, or perhaps instability caused by his club foot.

The above picture is a replica of the chariot. Below is a (colorized) photo of what it looked like when Carter first set eyes on it. Not quite as shiny!

photo from Harry Burton’s archive, coloured by Dynachrome

Published by

Stephen Davies

Children's author: picture books, chapter books and YA novels

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