Researchers have confirmed that a chariot discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt was originally equipped with a sunshade, making it the oldest existing horse-drawn carriage with a canopy.
The two-wheel chariot, which dates from the 14th century B.C., was unearthed at the tomb often referred to as “the greatest archaeological achievement in the 20th century,” where the king’s golden mask was found in 1922.
“The chariot, not designed for warfare, likely carried King Tutankhamun and Queen Ankhesenamun during ceremonies and parades,” said Nozomu Kawai, an Egyptology professor at Kanazawa University.
The discovery was made jointly by Kawai’s team and the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), which will open in suburban Cairo next year.
The team is responsible for the repair and preservation of Tutankhamun’s collection in the run-up to their display at the GEM, with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency
“The canopy to block sunlight played a key part in further enhancing the authority of the king who represented the sun god,” Kawai said.
According to Kawai, a temple mural dating to the era of Ramesses II, who was active 100 years after Tutankhamun, shows a canopy-covered carriage, but the latest discovery means such a type of vehicle existed much earlier.
The chariot and canopy, both made of wood, were long thought to have no connection to one another because they were unearthed separately.
But Canadian archaeologist Edwin C. Brock pointed out in a paper published in 2012 the possibility of the covering being a fitting for the vehicle.
The gold-covered vehicle, one of six unearthed chariots, is believed to have been pulled by two horses.
It has a passenger’s section measuring 1.02 meters wide and 44 centimeters long. If the long bar at the front is included, the vehicle is 2.03 meters long.
The canopy measures 98 cm wide, 44 cm long and 2.01 meters tall. The 28 ribs radiating from the trapezoid frame can be folded, and the frame is believed to have been covered by linen.
A survey by the research team revealed four holes on the outer side of the bottom of the chariot are arranged in the same way as the four pillars supporting the canopy. The team concluded that the covering was originally put on the carriage.