New discovery solves ancient Egyptian chariot mystery
During routine archaeological research as part of the Ancient Egypt Leatherwork Project (AELP) carried out by Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Andre Veldmeijer, head of the Egyptology section at the Netherlands Flemish Institute in Cairo, a collection of 300 leather fragments of an Old Kingdom chariot were uncovered at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Ikram describes the discovery as very important and the collection as “extremely rare.” Only a handful of complete chariots are known from ancient Egypt, and of these, only one heavily restored in Florence and one in the Egyptian Museum have any significant amount of leather. “Even then, they are largely unembellished and not as well-preserved as the fragments we found,” asserted Ikram. Although horse-drawn chariots are often illustrated in ancient Egyptian artwork, she said, archaeological evidence that goes beyond wooden frames is rare due to their organic nature, as leather fragments seldom survive. “The fragments are in a much better shape than we originally anticipated, and we were able to achieve a sense of how the leather unfolds,” Ikram pointed out, adding that the fine condition that the leather was in suggests that it may have been preserved in a tomb.
The archaeological team is now studying the technology and resources used to make the leather chariots in order to reconstruct a complete exact replica of an ancient Egyptian royal leather chariot in 2014.
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