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Chariots

When we consider that, according to Plato, Atlantis existed in 9600 BCE, and it possessed 10,000 chariots, we are faced with a dilemma: according to all known archaeology, chariots did not exist in 9600 BCE.

Evidence of wheeled vehicles arises near-simultaneously in Sumeria, the Indus Valley, the Maykop Culture of the Northern Caucuses and Central Europe around the 4th Millennium BCE.

The world’s oldest wheel is the Ljubljana Marshes Wooden Wheel, discovered by Slovenian archaeologists in 2002. It dates to approximately 3250 BCE as part of the Globular Amphora Culture. While the earliest well-dated depiction of a wheeled vehicle (a wagon—four wheels, two axles) is on the Bronocice pot dated to about 3500 BCE as part of Funnelbeaker Culture of southern Poland.

Further afield, the first Chinese wheeled vehicles appear around 2000 BCE. And although they did not develop the wheel proper, the Olmec culture of South America did have wheel-like worked stones identified as children's toys dating to about 1500 BCE.

But what of actual chariots? These are refined designs based on pre-existing wheeled vehicles, and unlike wagons that could be pulled by either humans or domesticated animals, chariots relied solely on domesticated animals since their primary feature was speed and power.

The original chariot was a fast, light, open, two-wheeled vehicle drawn by two or more domesticated horses that were hitched side by side. The car was little more than a floor with a waist-high semicircular guard in front. The chariot, driven by a charioteer, was used for ancient warfare during the bronze and the iron ages and armor was limited to a shield. The key here, aside from the wheel, is the domestication of animals.

This immediately puts the Americas at a disadvantage since the Bison was never domesticated, the American horse became extinct in around 10,000 BCE, and the Llama, though domesticated, was never used outside of the Andes.

The earliest fully developed true chariots ever discovered come from chariot burials of the Andronovo (Timber-Grave) sites of the Sintashta-Petrovka Eurasian culture in modern Russia and Kazakhstan from around 2000 BCE.

In 2014, two four wheeled chariots were discovered in a burial in the country of Georgia.

The oldest record of chariot warfare in the ancient Near East dates from Hittite texts from the 18th century BCE, which mentions 40 teams of horses at the siege of Salatiwara. The chariot and horse were introduced to Egypt by the Hyksos invaders in the 16th century BCE and undoubtedly contributed to the military success of the Egyptians. In the remains of Egyptian and Assyrian art, there are numerous representations of chariots, which display rich ornamentation. Chariots are also mentioned in the Rigveda, evidencing their presence in India in the 2nd millennium BCE.

With no archaeological evidence for chariots prior to 2000 BCE, and no evidence of the wheel prior to 4000 BCE, we are left then with a 5-7000 year gap.

This leads us to some problematic conclusions:

  • Plato was wrong about Atlantis having chariots. If that is the case, what else was he wrong about?
  • Plato was right about chariots, but wrong about the timeframe that Atlantis existed.
  • Plato was right about everything. Atlantis did have chariots, but evidence has yet to be discovered anywhere on Earth that the wheel had been invented and was in use so far back in prehistory.

Until physical evidence can be found to support the latter, the former proposition will continue to be a major area of contention in Atlantis studies.

References

Anthony, David W. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007.

Cotterell, Arthur (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilizations. London: The Rainbird Publishing Group, 1980.

Gernet, Jaques. Le Monde Chinois. Paris: Librairie Armand Colin, 1987.

Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. London: Hutchinson, 1995.

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chariots.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/17 18:15 (external edit)