Chariots

Oct. 6th, 2011 07:00 pm
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Wo-ka

Chariot

The Mycenaeans were a chariot-using people, and chariots and chariot parts are lovingly inventoried in the Linear B records.  The Mycenaean chariot was small, swift, and typically only carried two passengers; the Iliad speaks of the Greek heroes and their charioteers.

Homer does not mention the chariot actively being used in warfare, merely as a kind of taxi ferrying heroes to and from the battlefield.  By Homer’s time, chariot warfare had gone out of fashion, but in the thirteenth century B.C., the time of the Trojan War, chariots were mobile fighting platforms from which warriors could hack, impale, shoot, or simply run down their enemies.  The Bettany Hughes documentary Helen of Troy includes a wonderful demonstration by warfare expert Mike Loades on how chariots would have been used at Troy.

The Mycenaean chariot was made from lightweight wood or wicker, with a flexible platform of plaited leather or perhaps more wicker.  The front was usually covered with hide or painted leather.  The wheels were also lightweight, and spoked.

Here is a painted clay model of a chariot.  Perhaps it was a child’s toy.  I can imagine a prince like the young Orestes playing with such an object.

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Back in June, I mentioned kourotrophoi. These ceramic mother-child figures have turned up at Mycenaean sites all over the Aegean, particularly in children’s graves. Kourotrophoi were not exclusive to the Bronze Age; the practice continued into later times.

The kourotrophos might have represented a divine Mother Goddess and Child, like the Christian Madonna and Child, or it could simply have been a form of sympathetic magic. Mycenaean and Minoan Goddess and Divine Child representations have been found elsewhere, and my next post will be devoted to a very special such artifact.

I mention kourotrophoi in my books. Here is a passage from Helen’s Daughter in which Hermione reflects on childbearing and the talismans that accompany it.
 

As high priestess in Sparta, I had seen women die in childbirth. Sometimes, they asked for me, to give them my blessings, and perhaps avert disaster by it, but though I held their hands, wiped the sweat from their brows, and said the prayers, they died, anyway.

Opening my eyes, I gazed at the kourotrophos standing on the table nearest the bed. She was very old, crafted in an outmoded Cretan style. Her scarlet and black paint was fading, but she had faithfully watched over the confinements of my foremothers for eleven generations, and had not lost a single woman in childbirth.

Purchase Helen's Daughter on Amazon Kindle or at Smashwords.
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This clay Minoan house was found in Archanes, just south of Knossos.  It might have been an architectural model for builders, or, as I prefer to think, it could have been a child’s plaything.

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Mycenaean children's artifacts are rare, but they have been found, as attested by these miniature feeding bottles.

In one excavation, a doll's head was found buried with a girl.  At first, the archaeologists assumed the head belonged to a cult figure placed there to protect the child in the grave, but then someone pointed out the little holes where the head would have been attached to a cloth body.  No religious artifact this, but simply a child's doll, accompanying her mistress into eternity.


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