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Chariots


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Wo-ka

Chariot

The Mycenaeans were a chariot-using people, and chariots and chariot parts are lovingly inventoried in the Linear B records.  The Mycenaean chariot was small, swift, and typically only carried two passengers; the Iliad speaks of the Greek heroes and their charioteers.

Homer does not mention the chariot actively being used in warfare, merely as a kind of taxi ferrying heroes to and from the battlefield.  By Homer’s time, chariot warfare had gone out of fashion, but in the thirteenth century B.C., the time of the Trojan War, chariots were mobile fighting platforms from which warriors could hack, impale, shoot, or simply run down their enemies.  The Bettany Hughes documentary Helen of Troy includes a wonderful demonstration by warfare expert Mike Loades on how chariots would have been used at Troy.

The Mycenaean chariot was made from lightweight wood or wicker, with a flexible platform of plaited leather or perhaps more wicker.  The front was usually covered with hide or painted leather.  The wheels were also lightweight, and spoked.

Here is a painted clay model of a chariot.  Perhaps it was a child’s toy.  I can imagine a prince like the young Orestes playing with such an object.

Bronze Weapons


Typically, Mycenaean swords and daggers were cast using clay molds and an alloy of one part tin to eight parts copper; the hilts were nailed onto the tang with studs.  You can see in the image below how the blade slots into the hilt and is nailed together.  Unfortunately, bronze weapons had a tendency to dull and bend, which meant they had to be whetted and repaired quite often, and they were no use against the iron weapons starting to appear among the Dorian newcomers migrating into northern Greece.

Bent swords have been found in some Mycenaean tombs.  Bending a blade was a symbolic way of putting the weapon out of commission, or perhaps ritually killing it to accompany its master into the afterlife, although this wasn't a uniform custom.  Ceremonial swords and daggers have also been found.  These have gilded hilts, silver studs, and fantastic scenes worked along the blade in niello, which is a black mixture of copper, silver, and lead sulfides used in etching or engraving.


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