War: A Constant in Human History
Ancient war had high stakes. People fought for many reasons: to settle boundary disputes, protect trade routes, gain irrigation rights, or acquire plunder. Whatever the motivation, people have been waging war since at least 35,000 BCE, well before the time period covered in this exhibit. People in the ancient Near East were no different, especially in times of stress such as droughts or political upheaval.
Toy or Weapon?
This battle wagon from 2000-1000 BCE was probably a child’s toy. However, it is also a small-scale model of a real and deadly development in military technology: the chariot. Sumerians, who were among the first inventors of the wheel, first developed the chariot, but it was used more effectively by the Hittites. A cart like this one would have been drawn by two horses and carried two people: a driver and a warrior who was probably a king or other member of the ruling class.
Ordinary Weapons, Ordinary Soldiers
Unlike the battle wagon, daggers like these were the weapons of typical soldiers. They were originally made of flint, but as metalworking developed, bronze daggers like these became more common. Ordinary soldiers also used weapons such as the hatchet or bow and arrow – objects that many people used in their everyday lives and had close at hand during war. These weapons emphasize that war in the ancient world was up close and personal. With one exception, siege warfare, ancient wars were face-to-face affairs.
Similar to the dagger, the axe was used by ordinary soldiers and developed from older technology. Over time, the simple war club gained a metal blade and became the battle axe. Like daggers, axes had uses in peacetime, so even ordinary soldiers owned and could afford them.