wheeled vehicles

David Salmon dsalmon at SALMON.ORG
Wed Apr 11 17:25:23 UTC 2001

Lars Martin Fosse wrote:
> This does not make sense. A "war chariot" is a vehicle developed for a
> specific purpose . . . .  Chariot technology, like tank technology, makes
> if you fight your battles under certain conditions, such as plains or
> deserts. . . .  I find it difficult to understand why Vedic chariots
> be so unthinkable.
Since this is partly a question of logic, I venture an opinion, aided a
little experience.

In Sindh, solid-wheeled oxcarts were still not uncommon when I was last
there.  Each wheel was built, as I recall, out of three or four large, thick
boards (4") laid side-by-side and cross-braced at right angles by two more
boards (2") which flanked the hub.  The axle itself was a wooden shaft.  The
wheel was held onto the axle by some sort of pin arrangement, I think.  At
any rate, with wear, the wheel came to fit only loosely around the axle,
making it wobble greatly from side to side as it traveled.  Pulled by the
somewhat smaller, less "modern" breed of oxen in the Sindh, these oxcarts
were small, slow and awkward, poor vehicles for warfare except as a
painfully slow and uncomfortable carrier for troops, armaments, or supplies.

On the other hand, in Multan I once saw a super-large, four-wheeled oxcart
with rubber tires pulled by two magnificent, huge, pure creamy white oxen of
the old Zebu type, huge curved horns rising above their heads, which could
have kept pace with some trucks.  These proud and arrogant animals stood
about 6 feet high along their backbone, standing taller than a man, and
disdainful of awestruck children like me.  Confronting these charging beasts
would have been a terror to a foot-soldier armed with a sharpened farm
implement or even a sword, whatever kind of cart followed behind them.

In considering the efficacy of one kind of chariot over another, I would
think that the invention of a long-lasting hub that kept the wheel turning
straight would have been almost as important as the invention of spokes and
"tires" that kept the wheel from warping and gave it strength.



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