Ancient Egyptian chariot trappings rediscovered
|A painted box from Tutankhamun's tomb depicts the Pharaoh on a chariot chasing Nubians [Credit: Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic/Getty Images]|
But researchers knew little about the leather trappings and harnesses used with such chariots, as leather decomposes quickly if any moisture is present. Barely any leather survives on the chariots from Tutankhamun’s tomb, though some fragments are known from chariots found in other tombs, such as that of Yuya and Thuya, Tutankhamun’s great-grandparents.
Then in 2008, André Veldmeijer of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo, who specializes in the study of ancient leather, saw a black-and-white photograph of some intact chariot trappings in a 1950s book on ancient technology.
|Bottom of a bowcase, with the worn and reinforced attachment area clearly visible [Credit: André J. Veldmeijer/SCA/Egyptian Museum Authorities]|
|Bottom of the quiver. Quivers were attached to the chariot at either side [Credit: André J. Veldmeijer/SCA/Egyptian Museum Authorities]|
Veldmeijer is now working with Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, to conserve, catalogue and study the trappings as part of the Egyptian Museum Chariot Project. That includes attempting to open out the fragile pieces — which had been folded to fit into the museum drawers — and protecting them with acid-free packing material. They will report their first results at a dedicated conference to be held in Cairo next year.
|Part of the leather casing that would have covered the wooden box of the chariot, secured by nails. This piece measures around 1 metre by 1.5 metres [Credit: André J. Veldmeijer/SCA/Egyptian Museum Authorities]|
|Detail of the decorative finishing touch of the drawstrings, which helped to secure the leather casing to the wooden frame of the chariot [Credit: André J. Veldmeijer/SCA/Egyptian Museum Authorities]|
|Part of the horses’ harness, decorated green and white [Credit: André J. Veldmeijer/SCA/Egyptian Museum Authorities]|
One mystery yet to be solved is where the chariot trappings come from originally. Museum records state that they were bought from a Greek antiquities dealer called Georges Tano in 1932, but it isn’t known where he found them. To have survived in such good condition they were presumably discovered in a tomb, and the style suggest a time around that of Tutankhamun.
El Gawad thinks that they belonged to Tutankhamun's father, the rebel pharaoh Akhenaten, but Veldmeijer believes them to date from slightly later, possibly belonging to one of Tutankhamun’s successors.
Author: Jo Marchant | Source: Nature Magazine [November 23, 2011]