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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Chariots

Chariots are lightweight two-wheeled vehicles usually pulled by horses or sometimes other draught animals like mules or donkeys.

They can move slowly in a stately and graceful procession. Or they can speed along in a furious race.

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Oxus Treasure (Iran, 500–300 BC)
  • 1

    Oxus Treasure (Iran, 500–300 BC) 

    Ceremonial chariots

    These four horses or ponies are pulling two people in Median dress. It is one of the finest pieces of decorative metal work to come from the once mighty Persian Empire, and underlines the owner’s importance, status and wealth.

  • 2

    Lion hunt relief (Iraq, 875–860 BC) 

    Hunting chariot

    King Ashurnasirpal II, or his son, is shown on this wall relief, galloping in a three-horse chariot and shooting an arrow in a royal lion hunt. It was a convention in Ancient Near Eastern art to show a fallen enemy or victim beneath the horses pulling the chariot of the victor – here the lion on the ground has already been shot with three arrows.

  • 3

    Standard of Ur (Southern Iraq, 2600–2400 BC) 

    Battle cars

    The war panel from the Standard of Ur is one of the best representations of a Sumerian army. The lower register shows so-called battlecars, an early type of chariot, each drawn by four donkeys, charging over a battlefield strewn with corpses; infantry with protective cloaks carry spears; enemy soldiers are killed with axes, others are paraded naked and presented to the king, shown larger than the others, who holds a spear.

    This etching imagines a Greek scene where a horse-drawn chariot crashes into the confused mayhem of a battle. The chariot rider looks terrified as the chariot collapses beneath him.

  • 4

    Print showing Greek soldiers engaged in Battle (Italy, AD 1540s) 

    Battle cars

    The war panel from the Standard of Ur is one of the best representations of a Sumerian army. The lower register shows so-called battlecars, an early type of chariot, each drawn by four donkeys, charging over a battlefield strewn with corpses; infantry with protective cloaks carry spears; enemy soldiers are killed with axes, others are paraded naked and presented to the king, shown larger than the others, who holds a spear.

    An etching imagines a Greek scene where a horse-drawn chariot crashes into the confused mayhem of a battle. The chariot rider looks terrified as the chariot collapses beneath him.

  • 5

    Chariot group from the south frieze of the Parthenon (Greece, 438–432 BC) 

    Racing chariots

    The Panathenaic Games at Athens featured races in which chariots were driven at high speed. At the end of the race, a soldier would leap out of the vehicle and finish the contest on foot. Here we can see part of a charioteer (on the far left) while a foot soldier rides beside him, wearing a helmet and holding a large round shield on his left arm.

    The Romans also loved watching chariot-racing competitions in the circus. A jar from Colchester shows the most popular type of race in which chariots pulled by four horses (quadrigae) competed against each other. The jar was found in the 19th century, long before Colchester’s circus, the first and only one so far found in Britain (excavated in 2004).

  • 6

    Pottery jar (Roman Britain, AD 100–200) 

    Racing chariots

    The Panathenaic Games at Athens featured races in which chariots were driven at high speed. At the end of the race, a soldier would leap out of the vehicle and finish the contest on foot. Here we can see part of a charioteer (on the far left) while a foot soldier rides beside him, wearing a helmet and holding a large round shield on his left arm.

    The Romans also loved watching chariot-racing competitions in the circus. A jar from Colchester shows the most popular type of race in which chariots pulled by four horses (quadrigae) competed against each other. The jar was found in the 19th century, long before Colchester’s circus, the first and only one so far found in Britain (excavated in 2004).

  • 7

    Wetwang chariot burial (England, about 300 BC) 

    Chariots in the afterlife

    In 2001 a grave was discovered in Yorkshire of a woman who had died over 2,300 years ago. She had been buried with a chariot – although the wood has rotted away, we still have the metal chariot fittings and horse harness. We know that this kind of burial was unusual for the time, but we still don’t know who she was, or why she was buried in this way.