Wagons & Carts
In addition to using the Nile and its distributaries for transportation over water, the Egyptians created packed earth roads leading along and to and from the river as well. So using the vehicles would not have been a problem. Even after leaving the main boundaries of Egypt, and heading into its territories, there were roads because they led to the turquoise and copper mines.
Ancient Egypt had both wheeled wagons and carts (in addition to chariots, which are not something the Hebrews had or made). Wheels could be disc (heavier but stronger) or spoked (lighter and easier to pull). They also had sledges, which slid along runners, but we’re not going to focus on them.
The oldest Egyptian carts belong to the New Kingdom; there is no evidence for earlier ones, which is particularly striking since the earliest two-wheeled vehicle in Europe dates to the 4th millennium BCE. In the tomb of Duauneheh from the Eighteenth Dynasty, more precisely the reign of Hatshepsut, a cart with spoked wheels drawn by two oxen is shown as a mode of transport in a harvest scene. The wheels have four spokes. The depiction of the body of the cart strongly suggests that it is constructed out of thin slats of wood…In the reliefs of the Ramesseum, more carts are depicted, appearing in the scenes of the battle of Kadesh. In contrast to the cart in the tomb of Duauneheh, their wheels have six spokes. The superstructures of the carts are box shaped, and the cargo is covered so that the transported material is unclear.Wagons and Carts and Their Significance in Ancient Egypt. Heidi Köpp-Junk. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 9, June 2016.
The oldest known wagon with four spoked wheels dates to the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Found in the tomb of Queen Ahhotep, this wagon model is made of wood and bronze and measures 20 cm in total length; the wheels have a diameter of 9.5 cm. The transport platform is a solid plank, 14.5 cm long and 5 cm wide…The axles of Ahhotep’s wagon are connected by struts 12.3 cm long and 0.4 cm thick. The bottom of the transport platform, made of sycomore wood, is positioned on the struts and the axles and is fixed by wooden pins and copper nails. Its fourspoked wheels are attached to the axles by linchpins.
How were these vehicles built?
One of the oldest carts (that depicted in the Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Duauneheh) is built of narrow wooden boards. This construction technique is attested only in this case and does not occur in wagons or even chariots. The box-shaped chassis of the carts depicted in the battle of Kadesh do not show an inner structure, so that their construction is unclear beyond that they were of a rectangular shape and had high side panels…The wagons from the time of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten, as well as those in the temple of Sanam, have rectangular wagon boxes with high side panels…Conclusions regarding these various modes of construction cannot be made due to the great gap in time between Amenyseneb’s wagon of the Thirteenth Dynasty and those from Greco-Roman times; one style of construction might apply to one individual vehicle and another to the next. Rectangular beams are observable on the wagons depicted on the sarcophagus of the priestess Djedmut in the Vatican Museum and that of Amenemope in the British Museum. These could be interpreted as stabilizing planks to strengthen the construction of the transport platform.Wagons and Carts and Their Significance in Ancient Egypt. Heidi Köpp-Junk. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 9, June 2016.
Would these vehicles be practical? Well yes and no. Torah states that the Hebrews brought large numbers of livestock, so they had the hauling capacity, and that they carried with them a fair amount of luxury goods from the people they left behind. There were roads for much of the journey, and we can assume the magic that split the Red Sea smoothed out the path that ran at its bottom. For that matter, we can just handwave in some magic for the other paths as well. My goal is to be as realistic as possible, but when you’re recounting mythology, sometimes you just have to wing it.
Furthermore, carts and wagons have a high wheel load; that is, the load that weighs upon the wheel is high and the frictional resistance, especially in soft sand, is high as well. In the case of a wagon, the mass of the vehicle together with the transport load is transmitted by the four wheels to the subsoil; i.e., every wheel has to carry one quarter of the total weight. Based on a hypothetical total weight of 600 kg for an entire vehicle, this would mean 150 kg for every wheel. Thus a lot of power is necessary to move carts and wagons, especially on sandy or wet ground. Use of heavy carts and wagons is therefore problematic on soft desert soil or across country with very uneven and rugged ground….
While wagons and carts served as mode of transportation and were, therefore, solidly constructed, the Egyptian chariot was used for high-speed locomotion and was, thus, very light. The weight of the Florence chariot is 24 kg; for wagons on spoked wheels, weight data is hard to find and not available for an Egyptian example at all, since wagons on spoked wheels are only attested by the Ahhotep model or two-dimensional iconographic sources. However, for least a vague idea of the difference in weight between an Egyptian chariot and a transport vehicle, the replica of a European Neolithic wagon on four disk wheels can be mentioned: It weighs 259 kg, half of which is its wheels.Wagons and Carts and Their Significance in Ancient Egypt. Heidi Köpp-Junk. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 9, June 2016.
For more on the carrying capacity of wagons and carts, see: Water Everywhere, Except Right Here.
Tables & Chairs
New Kingdom householders had a variety of tables and chairs and stools to choose from, made from wooden frames. Some had solid tops, others woven. Although some were the height we use in the Western World in modern times, most were low and were designed for people to use while squatting or seated, or to be at a similar level.
People sat on low seats to make low seats as well.
I haven’t found many examples of tables. This one from the early New Kingdom was only a foot and a half high. Note that it’s made from acacia wood, a wood mentioned in Exodus.
New Kingdom Egypt had many examples of fine carpentry work as well. Cabinets, jars, jewelry boxes, and more.
New Kingdom workers and craftspeople had a large variety of metal tools to choose from, including small tools for creating models, tweezers, sewing needles, swords, and hand tools.
Ancient Egyptians were rather conservative in their recourse to technological solutions. They used V-shaped wooden hafts and used leather thongs to attach metal blades to tools even though they knew about the more practical technological solution of the socket eye for tool and weapon blades.Martin Odler, “Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy,” In History of Applied Science & Technology: An Open Access Textbook, eds. Danielle Skjelver, David Arnold, Hans Peter Broedel, Sharon Bailey Glasco, and Bonnie Kim (Grand Forks, ND: The Digital Press @ UND, 2021).
An Adze was used to trim wood.
Axes had similar fastenings.
Iron tools didn’t come about until later than the New Kingdom, but copper alloys could make strong tools. Even saws.
And chisels, used for both stone and wood, along with a wooden mallet (sometimes stone). As best I can tell, there were few metal hammers in Ancient Egypt until after the development of iron tools (which begin in the very late New Kingdom). There were also tools to bore holes and to make grooves.
- Wagons and Carts and Their Significance in Ancient Egypt. Heidi Köpp-Junk. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections, Vol. 9, June 2016.
- Martin Odler, “Ancient Egyptian Metallurgy,” In History of Applied Science & Technology: An Open Access Textbook, eds. Danielle Skjelver, David Arnold, Hans Peter Broedel, Sharon Bailey Glasco, and Bonnie Kim (Grand Forks, ND: The Digital Press @ UND, 2021).
- Saws. University College London. 2002.
- Wood: Technology. University College London. 2002.
Ancient Metalwork Tidbits – The Boat Children (Out of Egypt)January 7, 2023 at 10:29 am
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