A Syrian Clay Wagon Model, ca. early 2nd millennium BC

hand modelled from buff clay, the surface roughly smoothed, the U-shaped tilt is closed at the back and has low breastwork at the front, where there are two small projections pierced vertically on either side providing the only evidence for a system of draught. The inside is left roughly modelled and no fittings are indicated, whereas a carefully executed geometric pattern is deeply incised over the exterior of the entire tilt.  In order to accommodate the original wooden or metal axles (now restored in acrylic); tubular shafts were drilled within the front and rear edges of the rectangular floor.  The wheels, which are not original, have been added to the model in recent times to make it more intelligible.

Considered as one of the major breakthroughs in man's technological evolution, these simple ceramic vehicles reflect the distinctive moment when men first used domesticated animals to draw wheeled vehicles, thus beginning powered transport on land.  Probably drawn by a pair of bovids, these wagon models may have been intended for cult use, or as grave gifts, to be left in shrines, sacred caches, or tombs. Although drawings of wheeled vehicles occur all over Eurasia, this seminal development in human culture probably originated in Mesopotamia or the Russian Steppes in the late third millennium B. C. Models similar to this one occur in Syria and in the eastern part of Anatolia. The new technology of wheeled transport represent the leading edge of civilization in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. The models show both farm carts for carrying produce and war chariots.  Like a tracery in space, the clean-cut cart moves forward, a paradigm of intelligent craftsmanship.

For a related examples see:  M. A. Littauer, J. H. Crouwel, Peter Raulwing, "Selected writings on chariots and other early vehicles, riding and harness" pages 403 - 407 and in bronze see: 'Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,' page 22.

Published:  Deutsch, Rabbi Shaul Shimon "The Living Torah Museum, Parashah Series"  Israel 2012, p. 124

Dimensions:  overall height 10.16 cm ( 4 inches) Length:  8.89 cm ( 3.5 inches)

Condition:   The wagon is intact and in excellent condition overall.  

Provenance: Deaccessioned from the Living Torah Museum, Brooklyn, acquired in Israel in the late 1990's and previously in a private Israeli collection.


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