Reconstructing the Wagon – Phase 2

Hello everybody,

In the previous post I showed you how we defined the form of the load bed of the Etruscan wagon found in the Monte Michele number 5 tomb. Today I focus on how we came up to the final structure of the vehicle by studying its archaeological remains. In this process the help of Adriana Emiliozzi, an expert in Etruscan carriages, had been extremely important.

Analysis of the fragments of the wheels (top-left corner)

Analysis of the fragments of the wheels (top-left corner)

Analysis of the fragments of the wheels (bottom-left corner)

Analysis of the fragments of the wheels (bottom-left corner)

We analysed the iron fragments of the wheels showed on the excavation drawing and we tried to reconstruct them by using Photoshop: we came up to the conclusion that they were at least four, around a meter in diameter.

In Etruscan wheels the number of spokes could be either even or odd, but is always higher than four, up to a maximum of ten or eleven. In the remains of the wheels we counted twenty-eight nails, this number suggested us that the spokes could have been seven, one every four nails.

Fragments of wheels of the Monte Michele wagon (photo: Villa Giulia Museum)

Fragments of wheels of the Monte Michele wagon (photo: Villa Giulia Museum)

On wheeled vehicles, the axle may be fixed to the wheels, rotating with them, or fixed to its surroundings, with the wheels rotating around the axle. The metal structure of the hubs found in the tomb, with a rectangular hole, suggested that wheels of the Monte Michele wagon were fixed to the axle and rotated together (an interesting example of this kind is the vehicle in the Principe Sabino tomb) .

The wheels-axle system. Hubs are fixed to the square axle arms: they rotate inside the cross-beam, which is fixed to the wagon.

The wheels-axle system. Hubs are fixed to the square axle arms: they rotate inside the cross-beam, which is fixed to the wagon.

The revolving axle system was used for slow vehicles, while fast vehicles like war chariots had a fixed axle and each of the wheels rotates around it independently. These kinds of vehicles were faster and easier to drive, especially in curving.

Example of Etruscan two-wheeled war chariot (Drawing: Dalia Lamura under thedirection of Adriana Emiliozzi)

Example of Etruscan two-wheeled war chariot (Drawing: Dalia Lamura under the
direction of Adriana Emiliozzi)

At this stage of the reconstruction, we had to deal with two different hypothesis made by archaeologists concerning the number of wheels. Since its discovery, the Monte Michele wagon was thought to be a four-wheeled vehicle, but recently the hypothesis of the presence in the tomb of two two-wheeled carts has been proposed. This theory originates from the observation that no attested example of a four-wheeled wagon had been found South of the Alps. For this reason it is suggested that the remains in the tomb belong to two two-wheeled carts. Unfortunately, we did not have enough evidence to support this view; we therefore chose to reconstruct a four-wheeled wagon (1).

The essential element for a functioning four-wheeled wagon is a ball joint that allows it to curve. According to the size of the wheels and of the load bed we decided that the optimal example to follow was the Celtic wagon reconstructed Nuremberg, in which the front wheels are free to rotate (for more information on wagons in Hallstat period see this page). We focused on the creation of an operational vehicle and for this reason we chose not to visualize in the final model any of the uncertainties shown in these posts.

This is the final result of our work of digital restoration of the wagon in the Monte Michele number 5 tomb.

The Monte Michele wagon digitally restored (front)

The Monte Michele wagon digitally restored (front)

The Monte Michele wagon digitally restored (back)

The Monte Michele wagon digitally restored (back)

(1) Emiliozzi does not agree on the final decision, as she explain in her comment on the founds (Emiliozzi 1997, p. 325 n. 152-152).

Bibliography:

  1. Emiliozzi 1997, Carri da Guerra e Principi Etruschi, catalogue of the exhibition, Viterbo 1997.
  2. Emiliozzi 2010, I veicoli della tomba dei Flabelli di Trevignano Romano, appendix of the catalogue of the Etrusco Romano museum,  Trevignano Romano 2010.
  3. Emiliozzi 2011, The Etruscan Chariot from Monteleone di Spoleto, in Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 46/2011.
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One thought on “Reconstructing the Wagon – Phase 2

  1. […] An important uncertainty about the structure of the wagon concerned the number of wheels. On this point, archaeologists are divided. Since its discovery, it was thought to be a four-wheeled wagon, but recently the hypothesis of two two-wheeled carts has been proposed. This theory originates from the observation that no attested example of a four-wheeled wagon had been found south of the Alps. For this reason it was suggested that the remains in the tomb belong to two two-wheeled carts. Because there is potential evidence that the front part was rotating, we chose to reconstruct a four-wheeled wagon. […]

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