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date: 18 October 2019


  • J. H. Crouwel
  •  and Mary A. Littauer


Term applied properly to a light, fast, horse-drawn vehicle with two spoked wheels, which was used in ancient warfare, hunting, for parade and cult purposes and, in some cultures, for racing. Some four-wheelers have, incorrectly, been called chariots.

The earliest wheeled vehicles are attested by representations and models from Mesopotamia (late 4th–early 3rd millennium bc). These have two or four disc wheels and are drawn by asses or ass hybrids. Examples include a four-wheeled vehicle shown on a mosaic panel known as the ‘Royal Standard of Ur’ (London, BM), a fragmentary depiction on the ‘Stele of the Vultures’ from Telloh and a copper model of a two-wheeled vehicle with a four-horse team from Tell Asmar in the Diyala region (Baghdad, Iraq Mus.). Four-wheelers appear in military and cult contexts, two-wheelers were used for hunting, in rituals and probably for travel. Models and representations on cylinder seals (e.g. London, BM; Oxford, Ashmolean) show that the true chariot emerged in ...

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