The chariot was an important instrument of war, particularly during the earlier phases of ancient Near Eastern history. Already for the Early Dynastic period (c. 2500 B.C.), the military use of chariots is widely documented. According to visual evidence from the “Standard of Ur” and the “Stele of Vultures” (see EANNATUM), those early chariots were heavy vehicles with two or four solid wheels, drawn by teams of four donkeys. Their personnel consisted of two men, a driver and a warrior.
   In the second millennium B.C., when horses were introduced by peoples coming from the Central Asian steppes, chariots were adapted to higher speed by reducing their weight and increasing their maneuverability. This was only possible after the invention of the spoked wheel. The military successes of the Hittites, Kassites, and Mitanni are mainly due to the use of quantities of light horse-drawn chariots for attacks. In Egypt, the two-wheeled chariot was introduced by the Hyksos. During the first millennium B.C., the military importance of chariots decreased. As an attack force they were replaced by the cavalry, but they remained an important vehicle for the military elite and for the king. Babylonian and Assyrian monarchs used them on campaigns, during festivals, and on hunting expeditions.
   See also ARMY; WARFARE.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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