Republication from Archaeology.org

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Horses Bayeux Tapestry

(Bridgeman-Giraudon/Art Resource, New York)

Bayeux Tapestry, France, 11th c. A.D.

By the mid-second millennium B.C., the use of horses in warfare had become common throughout the Near East and Egypt. This development was made possible by advances both in the design of chariots, in particular the invention of the spoked wheel, which replaced the solid wooden wheel and reduced a chariot’s weight, and the introduction of all-metal bits, which gave chariot drivers more control over their horses. Though chariot warfare was expensive, and its effectiveness was determined by the durability of the chariots and suitability of the terrain, the vehicles became essential battlefield equipment.

According to archaeologist Brian Fagan of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Bronze Age chariots acted largely as mobile archery platforms, with the bulkier four-wheeled ones also being used to carry kings into battle or to allow generals to observe the fighting. Lighter two-wheeled versions, such as those found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, were better suited to carrying a single archer and a driver.

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