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Y. Yadin: The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands


p.48 (fig.) read "to fight" instead of " to light".

pp. 79 and 206 (bottom) read "1307-1275" instead of " 1310-1280" .
p. 126 read " Ein Gedi" instead of " Ei Gedi".
read "see page 125" instead of "see page 124".
pp. 130, 136, 150, 173 read " T elloh" instead of " Lagash" .
p. 154 read " Tehutihorep" instead of "Tehutitcp".
" (cf 169)" to be omitted.
p. 159 read "{zoth century B.C.)" instead of "(c. 1900 B.C.)".
p. 168 read " left" instead of " above" and " above" instead of "left" .
Same correction in index, p. 473, No . 168.
p. 174 read "at Ginossar" instead of " of Ginossar".
read " above and left" instead of "ab ove".
read "spear head" instead of 'javelin head".
p. 180 read "The Palestine Archaeological Museum" instead of " T he Rockefeller
Same correction in index, p. 474, No. 180.
p. 187 read " The Ugariti c hunt ing charioteer (above)" instead of " The Canaan ite
hunting charioteer" .
p. 191 read "1'69 ms." instead of " 1'47 ms."
p. 195 read "from a tomb at Thebes" instead of "from a tomb ofIamanezeh, Sheikh Abd
p. 197 (bottom) read" 14th century" instead of" 17th cent ury" .
p. 224 read "The city of Hattussas" instead of "The city ofBoghazkoy",
p. 229 read "on page 347" instead of " in the oppo site illustration".
p. 237 read "pages 103 ff." instead of " following page I07" .
p. 354, the words "National Museum, Athens" refer to the Warriors' Vase.
p. 397, Nos. 13 and 14 read: "xiii" instead of "viii".
p. 473, No. 168 read " The Palestine Archaeological Museum " instead of " Dept. of
Antiquiti es, Archaeological Museum, Jerusalem."
p. 473, No. 172 read "Virolleaud" instead of " Viroelleaud".


Where Rockefeller Museum is mentioned read Palestine Archaeological Museum.














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i, 1




The Art of Wa1are

The Chariot
Firepower: Personal Weapons
The Bow
The Composite Bow
The Arrow
The Qllillt'r
The Slin<
The[aveiin and the Spear
The Sword
The Mace and the Axe
Security: Personal Protection
The Shield
The Helmet





Cities ill Attack and

Attack and Penetration
FortUlcatiolls and Defense
The Cit)' Walls
The Gate
'T he Inlier Citadel
r..Vater Suppl dllrin,!? Siexe

Archaeological Sources
Ilutstrated Monuments
Finds at Ex cavations
Written Documents

Chronology and Terminology

Relative Chrollolog)'
Absolute Chronology
Archaeological Terms and Periods






The Most Ancient Fortifications in the World (7000 B.C.)








Personal Protection
The Shield
The Helmet


The Chariot
Weapons: Short-range and Hand-toHand Fighting
The Mace
The A xe
The Sword
The Spear and the[aveliu
\ Weapons: Long-range
The Bow





Methods of Wariarc
Battle in Open Terrain
Battle 0/1 FortUled Cities



Methods of Wiltjare
Weapons: Short- aud Medium-range 59
Battle 011 Fortified Cities
The Axe
Battle in Gpen Terrain:
The Sword
The Duel
The Spear and thejm'din
Standard Combat
vVeapons: LOllg-rallge
Communications and ltltelligmce
The BOl/!
The Chariot
The S!illg
Personal Protection
The Shield
MOSES, AND JOSHUA (1570-1200 B.C.)
vVeapoflS: Short- ami Mcdinm-ranoe
The Axe
The Sword
The Spear


TeapoflS: Lony-ranye
The Bow


Personal Protection

The Shield
The Helmet


The Chariot



Methods of Assault 011 Fortified Cities 90

The Fort!ficatiolls
Water SlIpply under Siege

Attack and Defense

Battle in Open Terrain
The Battle of Megiddo
The Battle of Kadesh
The March
The Surprise Attack
The Countcrattacl:
Ambush and Night Fightitlg
Standard Formations
Army Oroaniratioi:
Chariot Units
1'vlilitary Administration












MONARCHY (1200-920 B.C.)
The Philistines: Land and Napal
The Land Battle
The Naval Battle
The Egyptiall Army


Wars ill the Bible dllring the Period

of thejudges
The Conquest of Bethel
The Exploits of Eliud
Deborah and Siscra



Gideon and the Three Hundred

Abimclech and the Tower of
The Concubine ill Gibeah and the
Oroauiration ofthe TribalArmy
Saul the Warrior-Killg
Dapid and Goliath

26 3

Dauid and Solomon

The Conquest ofJeri/salem
The Battles '~f David
The Army of David and SOIOIllOIl
The Chariot and the Cavalrv
The Fortifications


The Troops and their Weapons
The Archers
The Slingmell
The Cavalry
The Chariot Corps
Battle in Open Terrain
The Battle of Samaria
The Battle of the Wilderness ,tj
josiah and the Battle of

Fortified Cities in Attack andDciense

The Breach-the Batteriuo-Ratn
Other Devices
Sealillg the Walls
Penetration beneath the vValls
Siege, Ruse, and Psychological
Water and Food Supply
The Walls
The Gate
Dejensive Warfare












This boo k-which is a first attempt to discuss all the facets of the art of warfa re.
its impl ements. techni ques and strategy in all Biblical lands-requires a few
explanatory word s as to its structure and meth od of presentation to the reader.
Altho ugh the book discusses a variety of subjects, each of whi ch is in a sense
independent , it is the interweaving of the vario us themes that makes the
harmonious wh ole at which I have aimed,
The boo k covets all lands o f the Bible-from Anarolia to Egypt and from
Palestine to Mesopo tamia- a part of the world conta ining nations and countries
that had been fighting each other over long periods of history . O nly a complete
analysis from both the military and archaeological point of view will enable US
to com prehend the development ofwarfare in all its aspects: weapo ns, fortifi cations.
army organization. and tactics.
The book is. in fact. compos ed of thr ee parts: the text accom panied by line
dr awin gs. the color plates. and explanatory capti ons. T his arran gement is
necessitated by the fact that the princip al sources for the subj ect are pictorial in
character, consisting o f thou sand s of carved and painted monuments. together
with other rem ains of an archaeological character, which must first be set in their
pro per histo rical and geogr aphi cal settin g through archaeological and chron ological analysis before it is possible for one to draw military conclusions.
T he objec t of the text is to defme the historical and archaeological backg rou nd.
to describe the various elements in the art of war and weave them into a single
pattern w hich wi ll make evident their mu tual relationshi p and their conn exion
wi th the different warring nations. Th e accompanyin g line draw ings sho uld at
this point assist the reader to visualize the subject withou t undue reference to the
color plates. T he subjects are discussed here within their archaeological period.
and in each period the ind ividual aspects are dealt with separ ately. This seemed to
me preferable to discussing any one element (e.g., the bow ) from its very
begum ing to the end of the period discussed in the book. The latter may perhaps
be a suitable method for a book whi ch aims merely at presenti ng a bod y of data
for reference purp oses. but . in my opinion, it is unsuitable for a book whose aim
it is to emp hasize the inter-relationship amon g the many elements which compose
the art of warfa re. this being the only satisfactory way to grasp the development
o f this art o r science.
The plates are put at the end of each part . according to the archaeological
period s. In this kind of book , w hich is based to a large extent on archaeologi cal
fmds. it is imperative. I believe. to present visually to the reader the many sources
in as clear and faithfu l a manner as possible. T he cho ice of suitable subjects o ut of
thousands of documents, the collection of colored and other pictures. and the

arran gement o f this abun dant material on plates. by their geographical provenance.
their archaeological periods. and their relation to the various clements of war, has
necessitated con siderable effo rts. which often surpassed anythi ng I had anticipated
when I first started the book. N everth eless. I believe this to have been wo rth w hile
since the pictur es will not on ly aid the reader to understand many things that are
Impossible to describe in mere w ords. but will enable him to read critically and
come to his own conclusions, Moreover. much of the material publi shed her e is
scattered in scor es of m useums and hundreds of publ ications (some of them qu ite
rare). I have made a special point of presenting mate rial from these so urces (such
as the rare publications o f Layard. Botta, and Flandin ) and at the same time tr ying
to show them in conjunction wi th their places of discovery. I have made it a rule
to pr esent . wheneve r possible, the pictu res of the obj ects themselves. together
with the monuments describing them. I have sometim es preferred a certain
monument to others. not because of its absolute impo rtance, but on the basis of
its relative artistic value or its rarity . As fot rhe w ritten documents-Egy pti'an.
Arcadian, etc.-whICh I have incorp orated in to the text. I have of co urse used
translations and . unless other wise indicated, I have mostly follo wed those in
Pritchard' s book (see bibliograph y). Th ese translations do not pre tend to be literal;
their purp ose is. in gcneral. to give a clear unders tan din g of the cont ents of the
As f or the .explanatory captions. I tho ught it best not to include too many
descriptive details o f the monuments and finds in the text prope r. lesr it distract
the reader from the main poin ts and hinder him fro m seeing the wo od for the
trees. On the other hand . it is frequ ently these fine differences in details which
make it possible to follow clearly the essential interrelationship between the
van ous aspects of warfare and the development of the science as a whole . Tha t is
why I have paid particular attention to the captions of the more complex
mo numents which embody several subj ects sim ultaneo usly.
Th e reader who wishes to explore mor e thoroughly the w hole subject. or
thato f a particular chapter, has but to tu rn to the last pages for the very extensive
bibliography ou every fmd and monu ment depicted in the book. I have no t
spared det ails there. since I wished to provi de the reader wi th ample op port uni ty
for studymg and comparmg varrous opi nions in regard to the obj ects.
Onl y seldom have I touched on actual batt les. the reason bcing that here.
, more than on any oth er topic. the sources are very scant aud are subject to
speculations and interpretations so ex tremely divergent that it is imp ossible to
present the pro blem satisfactorily from a scien tific viewpoint. 'Mo reover. the
details of the battles depend mainly on our knowledgc of the to po graphic al
factors which determ ined the tactical and strategical moves. In most of the
famo us battles this element is com pletely lacking, and often scholars canno t even
IdentifY with certainty the places named. Any change in iden tification of a sitea matter which is of prim ary im portance to our understauding of a particular
h.ltlle-alters. in fact. our grasp of the who le situation . Schematic maps. so o ften
bra.ught forth to explain the battles in Biblical lands. may be useful to exp lain a
war as a wh ole and the lines of the " grand strategy" . but 110t mo re than that. and



arc th erefor e liable to mislead the reade r who is no t fam iliar with the top ographical pro blem s. N evert heless, w e have eno ugh details abou t som e battl es,
and th e most impo rt ant of those are discussed here. Even this, however, is not
done JUSt for their own sake , bu t in o rde r to illustrate the pr inciples, techn iques,
and im plemenrs of wa rfare wh ich are the subjec t of this book . In a few instances
I have described Biblical battles, b nt on ly w here I th ought the data w ere sufficient
to clarify their main problems and , perhaps, to stim ulate other scholar s to give the
matt er more th ought.
I have no illusion s th at I have succeeded in exhausting the subje ct. This may
be possible in the future, when prim ary and basic work on the subj ects discussed
wi ll have been don e separat ely for each perio d and each co wu ry . I hope I may
succeed in ro using scholars in vari ous fields to dev ot e the ir abi lities and ene rgies
to fur ther research , and thus prepare the w ay for still other scholars to complete
the job . M y debt to pr evious research on every subject mention ed in this boo k
can be realized fro m the lon g bibliograph y at the end. w hich can also serve as a
guide to readers w ho may wish to del ve mor e deep ly into the subjec t.
It gives m e great pleasure to acknowledge m y gratitude to all those who helped
me to bring th is bo ok into being. First and fo rem ost I want to thank Mr. Y. Makavi,
the general mana ger of the Int ernati on al P ublishing Co mpan y. who urged me a
number of years ago to put into writing some of the data I had been collectin g.
and has spared no effort in help ing me to acquire ph ot ographs and publis h the bo ok
in its present elabor ate format. I am deep ly ind eb ted to his daring and able

reconstruction of the Lachish siege; to Miss T. Kish for her co lor recons tru ction
of several d rawings; to Mr. P. Bar-Ade n for th e ph otograph of an axe from the
Judean D esert; to M r. B. Roth enb erg for a ph ot ograph of Ein Q adi>. and to
M essrs. S. Smila n, D. Ussishkin , \ V. M armot , Co lonel M . Mi chael . Lieutenant Colonel A. Perr y, and M ajor A. Ar an, for their help in procuring colo red ph otographs du ring thei r travels. I also thank th e O rient al Photographic Company for
prepa ring several colored photo gra phs fro m vario us sources, and cop ies of all th e
ph otographs for the purpose of the layo ut.
I am deepl y ind ebt ed to Lord M arks. wh o kindl y put at m y disposal the
ph oto graphi c labo ratori es of Marks and Spencers and the services of its chief,
Mr. Bayn ton , w ho, together with his assistant s, w ork ed tirel essly to ph otograph
many obj ects from th e Br itish Mu seum . To my good friend Mr. L. Shalit I am
grateful for help , as usual, in m or e w ays than one. Mr . Zi m and Mr. Bengum
kindl y help ed in man y phases of the wo rk of pre par ing the layour .
I shou ld also like to express my deep appreciatio n to Clic hes Schwitte r AG.
Z lirich, who wi th mu ch patience prepar ed the illustrations, as well as to J arr old &
Sons. N orwich . England. for their high standard of pr inting.
I thank m ost heartily my friend Mr. Pearlman for his painstakin g translat ion
of the m anuscript fro m the Heb rew .
I am gra teful to M r. H . Ravi v of th e scient ific staff of the View s of the Bi blical
World for his help in selecting the pictu res and prep aring the index of sour ces,
and to Mrs . I. Pomerantz for mu ch help in edit ing the bibli ography and index of

execution .

so urces.

I am particularly thankful to the many museums and their dire ctors w ho have
permitted me to check their collections and som etimes em ploy special photo. graphers for my purposes. Amongst them I would like to thank Professor
A. Parrot and the Lou vre; Dr. D. R. Barnett and the British Museum ; Dr . W . C.
Hayes and the Metro politan Museum of Art; Professor P. D elo ugaz and D r. W .
Boy d of the Orienta l Insti tu te, U niversity of Ch icago (especially for permission to
use the magnificent colored dr aw ings from Medinet Habu); to the museums of
Florence and Bologna; to the University Museu m , U niversity of Pennsylvania
(and particularly to M r. A. R. Schulman w ho kind ly allow ed me to stud y his
m anuscri pt on th e organiza tion of the Egyptian army) ; to the Hittite M useum in
Ankara; to the Arch aeologi cal M useum in Istanb ul; to Miss W. Needler and the
Ro yal O ntario Museum; the Prin ce of Wales Museum in Bombay ; to the
Ashm olean Museum, O xford ; to the Archaeologica l Institu te, London U niversity.
and particularly to Dr. K. Kenyon ; and also to the Museum of the De partment of
Antiquities. gove rnment of Israel. and th e M useum of th e H ebr ew U niversity .

I w ish to th ank McGr aw-Hill ed itori al staff for m uch help , and particu larly
Mr . D. SCOtt.
Lastly. I wish to thank my wi fe. wh o not on ly took upon herself the exten sive
co rrespondence w ith museums and indiv iduals, but also gave me th e benefit of
her advice througho ut.

May I also record my thanks to Miss A. Pesin of the edit or ial staff of Horizon~
w ho allowed me to use a colo r tr anspar ency of the Tutankhamun chest ; to Mr.
J. Per rot for a ph ot ograph of a gate at Bogh azko y and Yazilikaya; to Mr. E.
Erick son for permissi on to reproduce an ivory pan el from his co llection; to
D r. E. Boro wsk y for permis sion to reprod uce a sickle sword of his; to Mr. A.
Sorrell and D r. R. D . Barne tt for permission to reproduce the draw ing of the

Yigael Yadin



War is the attempt by one nati on to impose its will on ano ther by force. This
breakd own in hum an association has been a recurring feature in the history of man
since the very beginning . Human conflict finds expr ession in the first pages of the
Bible. Hardly has man begun life on earth wh en, as the Biblical narrative records
wi th unadorned simp licity , "Cain rose up against his br oth er Abel and killed him."
The chain reaction to this event has continued right up to the zoth century. A study
of human history canno t therefore be complete without a study of the military
events of the past and of the m eans conceived by nations to secure their own
military aims and thwart those of their enemies. Moreover, in ancient times, as
today, men devoted IDtlch of their technical genius to perfecting weapons and
devices for destruction and defense; W eapons of war thus serve as an enlightening .
index of the standards of technical development reached by nations duri ng
different periods in history.
Since war always involves at least two sides, the development of the art of
warfare of one nation can only be fully evaluated in the light of the art of warfare
conducted by its enemy, in attack and defense.
As an object of military study, a single land or nation is too limiting and
confming-and can be misleading. The smallest unit of such a study is a region or
a group of peoples who battled each other at some period or another in their
history . One must examin e the.reciproc al effects ofsuch encounters, which enabled
each side to gain kn owledge of the weapons and fortifi cations of the other, to copy
them and improve upon them. And these effects are often evident in the relics laid
bare by the spade of the archaeologist. But-and here is an example of how a
limit ed study can mislead- these ancient weapons may be and have often been
found far from their land of origin, carried there as w ar booty by a victor or left
behind by a powerful nation waging war beyond its ow n frontiers. Such wa r
material, found in archaeological excavations, sheds much light on the art of warf;l rc' of a parti cular period and in a particular region , but not necessarily of the
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nat ion in w hose land it was discovered. Th e study of warfare mu st clearly cover
both rivals.
There is a reciprocal impact on nations who com e into conflict with each
oth er. Th ere are similar reciprocal influences, inevitable and consistent, which the
different weapons, fortifications, tactics, and military organizations make upon each
other. The progressive developments in each branch and instrument of war during
successive periods in history become clear only when examine d in the context of
enem y opposition at the time. New tactics int roduced by one side prompted new
counter- tactics by the other. Th esein tum produced furth er tactical innovations by
the first. W eapons developm ent followed the same process. T he appearance of the
composite bow, for example, with its increased power of penetr ation, led to the
inventio n of the coat of mail for defense. Thi s ill turn provided a further challenge
for a weapon to defeat armor. And so the process conti nued, leading to advances
in both offensive and defensive battle devices. Similarly, the various types of city
fortifications can be und erstood only in the light of standard patt erns of attack on
cities prevalent dur ing the different periods, and in particular of the use of the
The study of military development .is in large measure the study of the
unending process of reaction of each element in warfare to its counterpart. But
all elements must be considered as an int egrated wh ole, and the relationship of
each to the o ther properly examined. The development of weapons must be
stu died against the background of the development of tactics, army structure, and
the systems of fortifications. To stud y each element in isolation w ould be superficial and sterile, and as unreward ing as the study of military developments of a
single nation witho ut reference to those of its neighb ors. Bur account must also be
taken of a hum an featur e which has affected the rate of military development
amo ng different peoples-inertia, or conservatism. There are countless examples
thr ough out history, right up to the present time, in which military innovations,
pro ved in batt le, have been spum ed by other armies who have pre~erred to adhere
to traditional patterns, and have been finally int rodu ced only alter long delay.
There is often a considerable time-lag between the appearance of an improved
weapon in one country and its adop tion by another.
.M oreover, even when some technical imp roveme nt gradually becom es
accepted in the military scheme of things, it suffers for a time by being considered
in the obsolete terms of patterns prevalent before its int rodu ction. Th ese compl ex
factors must alwavs be borne in mind when we com e to study the monuments left
behind by the na~ions' of antiquity. Th ese monuments relate mo stly to warfare,
since wa r was a regular part of the lives of these people.
Military action may be classified in several ways. But none is compl etely
satisfactory . Th e most general classification, for exam ple, is by the character of the
operations, either offensive or defensive. Bur in every operation there is usually
a concern both with offense and defense. Even an army initiating an assault must
be organized to defend itself against surpr ise or count erattack. This is also true of
the individ ual soldier, who must be arm ed with bo th offensive and defensive


Military action may be classified accord ing to forms of warfare-battle in

open terrain and battle on a fortified ciry. Bur here, too, each side must be armed
and or ganized in a manner suited to both types of warfare. For ir may have to
move from the city to the plain, or from the plain to the city . durin g the course'
of the fighting. An army mau led in an open battl efield may seek to retreat behind
a fortified base- as did the Canaanites w hen beaten by Thutmose III in the
celebrated battle near Megiddo. And an army that may be expected to sit behind
rhe defensive walls of its city may break out and attack the enemy in the open
plain- as happened with the counterattack of the King of Samaria on the armies
of Aram w ho sough t to besiege him.
And there is yer a further classification. A military action can be analyzed in
the light of strategy and tactics. Basically, strategy is the art of war. Tactics is the
art of battle, concerned with the mov ement and operation of fighting units on
the battlefield.
But however military action may be classified and defined, in the final
analysis the art of warfare is to seek to achieve suprema cy over the enemy in three
fields: mobiliry, firepow er, security. To put it anoth er way, it is the ability to mo ve
troops to engage and inju re the enemy without serious inju ry to oneself.
The principles of warfare discussed in the following chap ters, as they emerge
from the military record of ancient peoples, reflect the attempt of each warring
faction to achieve this triple supremacy over the enemy , or the action taken after
its successfulachievem ent. Th ese principles, often regard ed as the basis of strategy
and tactics, may be broken down into surprise; mainten ance ofaim, economy. and
concent ration of force; coordination of arms; securi ty, mob ility, and the offensive
Incidentally, surprise is generally accepted as the most impo rtant of these
factors. Surpri se is, in fact, the ability to move one's forces to engage the enemy
at a time, place, and under cond itions which he does not expect, for which he is
unprepared, and to which he canno t, therefore, react by the most etfective
application of his own forces and weapons.
These principles are illustrated in cameo for m at any boxing match, in which
the conten ders arc even unar med. The constant movement of the body has a single
pu rpose: to put the box er in the most advantageous position fro m wh ich he can
both arrack and at the same time evade the blows of his opponent . Th e predominant role of one fist is to attack-firepowe r; of the other , to parr y-securiry. T o
gain this advantageous position, the boxer has to know where his opp onent is-or
is likely to be at a given mo ment-and to seck ou t his weak spots. In this he is
served by his senses-sight, sound, and touch. His eyes, ears, and hands provi de
him with the intelligence which, in battle, is provided by recon naissance units on
patrol or at forward observation posts. Th e action of his fists and other parts of his
body is directed by his brain, thro ugh the medium of nerves and muscles. T heir
counterpart in warfa re is the military comm ander and his staff, as the brain ; their
Ilcrves-the commun ications network; their muscles-trained and disciplined

Mobility, firepower, and security , as the three basic elements in the art of


w arfare, are appro priate head ings under w hic h the na ture of ancient warfare and
the weapollS used in antiquity ma y be examined. The three gr oups we shall be
conside rin g are therefor e :
Means w hose purpose was to ofier mo bility , such as cha riot s, cavalry. and the
capacity of the foo t soldier to m ove far and fast.
2 . Means of firepowe r , na mel y weapons w hose pur po se w as ro hit the enemy at
various ranges .
3. Mean s of security, namely prot ectiv e devices such as the helmet, shield , and
arm or , whose purpose was to parry or blunt the effecti veness of the enemy's

we apo ns.
Porri ficarion s are a subje ct in themsel ves. For , though they may be classed as
a security device ag ainst the designs o f an enemy , their struc tu re must be such as
to offer their own tr oops mo bili ty and freedo m of actio n in add itio n to secu rity
bo th fo r so ldiers and civi lians.
Befor e pr oceeding to a descripti on and analysis of these m eans of w arfare, it
is perh aps wo rt h und erl ining that in th e final resort it is not wea po ns alone wh ich
determine the issue in hattie, but oft en , particul arly where both sides are evenl y
matched, the spirit of the commander in the direction of his for ces and the spirit
o f th e tro op s in the handling of th eir weapons . These have been the decisive factors
in fateful war s through out histo ry .


The Chariot

The chariot in battle is basically a mobile firing platform. It is not, primarily,

a means of tr ansport fro m a distant base to the battl efield. Its principal purpose is
to serv e as a mo vabl e platform within th e battlefield, from w hic h rel ati vel y lim ited
firepower can be rush ed to and brought to bear on decisive spots in the midst of
th e fi ghting. A secondary and by no means negligibl e purpose is its sho ck valu e as
it cha rges into the en emy ranks :
To fultil its major function, the chari ot mu st o ffer speed and m aneuverabiliry
as well as stabiliry for the firing of weapons. These needs ar e contradictory. For
speed and ma neuverability are best pr ovided by a small and light chariot. But a
stable firing platform demands a heavier vehi cle, capable of supporting and
providing o perational space for at least one w eap on-carrying soldie r in addition
to the dri ver. The riva l claims of these tw o co nsiderations exercised the minds of
m ilitar y planner s throug ho ut the gener atio ns. Different soluti o ns we re devised at
differ ent times. And these arc reflected in the va riety of ancient ba ttle cha riot s. At
tim es speed was sacrificed to stab ility . At o ther rim es stabili ty gave wa y to speed.
Event ually the chari o t becam e a finely balan ced wa r instrumen t, serving both
need s equally effectively . In its com plete form, it w as a co m plex vehicle, co mprising the followin g carefull y design ed pa rts ; body , whe els, axle, chariot pol e, yoke,

and fittin gs for wea pollS such as qui vers, bo w cases, an d sheaths and stands for
axes and spears.
T o give it strength and ligh tness, the chariot was bu ilt largel y of woodspecial kind s for each par t-str ips of leather , and vario us metals. It was not an
instru m ent com mo n to th e equip ment of all armies. It co uld be fashioned only by
nations co mm anding rich reso ur ces and advanced techniques. T echniq ue w as
im po rtant . For, as we shall see later, the turning-point in the devel opment of the
chariot came with the lighter body, the introduction of the light, spoked wheel,
and the techni cal knowledge which en abled the axle to be set farth er to the rear .
For only with the rear axle co uld the chariot be co mp letel y m ane uve ra ble even on
sharp turns. But this requi red lightness. Fo r a rea r axle on a heav y ch ariot, ma de
heavier by the w eight of the militar y team , w o uld have been 100 grcat a strain on
th e draft anim als. It was the co m bina tion of the rear axle plu s the design of a light
bod y and light w heels, as w ell as po werful and swift dr aft ani m als, whic h brought
about the perfect chariot : stab le, fast, and highly man eu verable.
Like the ch ariot, the prim ary purpose of the cavalry hor se was also to serve as
a mobile firing platform, though here. too , the panic and co nfusion induced in the
ene m y by a cavalry cha r ge wa s not without impor tance. T he advan tage of the
horse over the chario t was its ability to m ov e ove r almost any gr o und, whereas
a wheeled vehicl e was lim ited to co mpa ratively level and unbrok en terrain .
Against this, the hor se o ffered a poor and unstable fir in g platform . In a chario t,
th ere was the driver, con cern ed solely with cont rollin g th e hors es, and a fighting
soldier , free for operariona l acrion. In th e cavalry , rid er and soldi er were one. If
his weapon were the bow, requiring two hands to o perate, his contro l of the hor se
in action was co rr espond in gly reduc ed . E ven if arm ed w ith a spear . w hic h need ed
only one hand and left the o ther free for the reins , he lacked a third to ho ld a shield.
T he eflcctivencss of the mounted ho rse in battl e in earliest times wa s th us limi ted.
O nly with the ve ry late introduction of im prov ed sadd les. stirr up s, and spurs,
making it possible to control the horse with thigh, kn ee, and ankle, w as the cavalrymanfree to fight with both hands. Small w onder tha t th e cav alry made its serio us
ap pearance on the battlefield only some 1, 500 year s after the chari ot .

An Egyptian chariot <if the XV /11th




FIREP OWER Personal W eapolls

A simple Jo"hle-rollvcx boll'

of a Semite, X 1Jth DyuaslY



Slrullg ImJ 'msmmg

Tatar composite llow

Every fighting comma nder since the beginning of time has dreamed of
possessin g a weapon which could out-range anything in the armory of the enemy .
W ith such a weapon he could not only surprise his foe, but could do so witho ut
harm to himself and his men , for they could remain out of reach of enemy missiles.
But long-r ange weapons do not obviate the need for medium- and shortrange instruments of war. Th eir key importance is at the start of hostilities. But as
the battle pro gresses, medium- range weapons must be bro ught to bear on the
enemy, giving way fmally to the weapons used in hand combat.
It was clearly impossible for the individual soldier to carry at all times the
weapons for all ranges required at progressive St2ges of battle. And so even the
most ancient armies were organized in units linked to specific rypes of weapons:
the long-range-weapon troops were used at the start of the battle; the follow-up
units were armed with medium-range weapons; and the hand-to-hand fighters
engaged in the final phase of battle.
Range, as a basic factor in the usc and development of weapons, can serve as
a convenient criterion in weapons classification. Th e major weapons in use in
ancient times were the bow and the sling for long range ; the javelin and the spear
for medium range; and the sword, the axe, and the mace for short range.
Th e bow is one of the earliest known weapons of war. It was in use in prehistoric times and was, because of its range, the most convenient weapon also of
the hunt er. Th e bow may well have been the first composite implement devised
by man, and definitely the first method of concentrating energy.
Since we shall be discussing its developm ent in some detail, let us first record
its component parts and action. It consists of two basic elements: the body, which
is of wood, and the string. The surface of the wood farthest from the string is
called the back; the inner surface is called the belly. The point on the wood at
which the bow is held, near its center, is called the grip. Th e parts of the wood on
either side of the grip are called arms, or limbs. T he string is attached to the
extreme ends of the arms. The bow is operated by placing the base of the arrow
against the string , putring the string under maximum tension by pulling it as far
as possible from the woo d, and suddenly releasing it. Th e act of drawing the string
brings the ends of the body closer together and puts the wood under tension. Th e
wood . which shou ld be both pliable and tou gh, springs back to its former position
the mom ent tension on the string is released, and this brings back the string with
a snap, propelling the arrow sharply forward as it does so. T he bowman holds the
wood with his left hand-the bow arm-a t the grip, and dra ws back the string
with his right , by which he also holds the base, or hook, of the arrow. T o protect
his left arm from the blow of the string as it snaps back on release, the bowman
often wore an armguard on the inside of the bow arm.
Th e range of a bow depends on one or all of the following factors-its size,
shape, and the pliabiliry and tough ness of the wood. Th e bigger the bow, the
grearer its pliability and consequently its range. But a large bow was more
unw ieldy to operate and it also hampered mobility.

Th e shape of the woo d in the early simple bow was a single convex arc, so
that the distance betw een string and body was widest at their respective cent ers.
Maximum tension was reached when the hand on the string was pulled as far away
as possible from the hand on the grip. But ir was foun d that this did not exploit
the maximum pliabiliry from the wood to produce thc deserved tension. T his, it
was found, could be achieved by reducing the distance between both fists in the
start position , that is, between the grip au the body and the center of the string.
Thi s led to the invention of the double-convex or doub le-span bow-like the
shape of a Cu pid upper-lip-which brought the grip closer to the sprin g, and,
when fired, increased the distance between the string and the peaks of both arcs.
The archer was thereby able to bring his weapon under greater tension and give
it greater range.
The emergence of the bow as a battle weapon of first importance came with The Composite Boll'
the introd uction of the composite bow. Th is weapon prove d decisive in numero us
campaigns in ancient days.
Parts lila Turkish composite bow.
There was no single natural element which could give a bow woo d the From Itj; TO n:lfht: } rst and second,
required toughness and elasticity. But gradually the idea was developed of com- pieces ojthin ivoodjonncd the core of
bining several available natu ral materials which, together, could meet all needs. [heboll', and lire pieces glued
Thus was born the composite bow . It was made offoue mat erials-wood , sections togl'{ha-~'111aCl: view. Thirdfro",
of animal horn, animal tendons and sinews, and glue. Even the wood-the It:fi: thepieces gll/eJ togNhcr-siJe
skeleton of the bow - was sometimes not made from a single block but comprised view. Fourth: the strip ~r sillcl/1 that
pieces of wood from different trees with varying pliabiliry suited to the different IVel! J/llcd to the (ore, and which
tension demand s at different parts of the limbs and the grip. Th e back of the bow [ormed theback l{ till' /;1.1/11 when
was covered with strips and bands of sinews. Th e belly was reinforced with two stn mg . F~/lh : sections lif horn, ",/'; eh
sections of animal horn , one on either side, the inner curve of the horn facing j;"' neJ 1/' (' bell)'
the belly.
AU these materials were stuck or bound together to form a single integrated
body. And they were so bound that before the string was attached, the arms of
the body tended to bend the other way. T o pull them round fo r the attachment
of the string, or the bracing, so that the wood assumed the shape of a bow,
required great strength. Th is, of course, put it under great tension even in its
position of rest, and, when operated, greatly increased its propu lsive power. The
composIte structur e made possible for the first time the pro duction of a bow
which, though compa ratively small, and therefore light and mobile. nevertheless
had considerable power. It was well described by an Arab author of the r j th
cem ury A.D. He wro te: "T he structure of the composite bo w is not unlike that of
man. Th e human bod y is made up of fonr basic clements-i-bones, flesh, arteries,
and blood. Th e composite bow has the same four cowlterpart elements: woo d- its
skeleton ; ho rns- its flesh; tendons-its arteries; glue- its blood. Man has back and
belly. So has the bow. And jusc as man can bend forward but is likely to damage
himself bv bendmg too far backward, so with the operati on of rhe bow."
The heighr of perfection of the comp osite bow was reached when, to endow
It with greater power, it was given a double-convex form.
The composite bow co uld have had an effective range of som e 300 to 400



yards, though its absolute range was about two times that distance. For the first
time in history, it was possible with this weapon to surprise the enemy and attack
him from beyond his range of retaliation, of hearing, and, on occasion, of vision.
Its powe r also had a revolutionary impact on the art of warfare, and was directly
responsible for the introduction of the coar of mail for personal protection .
Somewhere between the simple and the compo site bow came the compound
bow . T his was stronger than the first but lesscom plex and of course less powerful
than the second. and was in wide use among arm ies who had no t reached the
technical standards demanded by the manufacture of the composite bow . The
bod y of the compound bow was made of two or mor e strips of wood partially
overlapping, glued together or bound with tendons and cord.
Much of our knowledge of bows used by early warriors in Biblical lands
comes from ancient drawings and bas-reliefs. T he simple, reinforced, and composite bows are depicted in the works ofancient artists, both in their single-span and
double-convex form s. T he composite bow is always easy to pick out. For, as we
have observed earlier, in this bow, there was a tendency for the ends of the arms
to recurve and bend outwards before, and often even after, they were bound to the
string . T his feature is usually evident in the artistic representation of this type of
bow, giving it almo st a double-concave rather than convex appearance. Moreover,
the form of attachment of the horns beneath the arms gave the composite bow,
with the string as base, a triangular form . W e are indebted to the ancient artists,
who paid meticulous attention to detail, for the certainty with which we can
recognize the different bows used in antiquity .
None of the improve ments to give the bow greater range wo uld have been
of any value without compar able advances in the developm ent of the arrow,
which is. afler all, the offensive element of this weapon. The arrow is made up of
three parts, each of a different material to suit its special function. The arrowhe ad,
which is the destructive part, had to be of the hardest possible material-flint.
bone, or metal. T he body of the arrow, whose function is to direct the energy
transmitted from the string on release. had to be long , thin, hard . straight , and
light. and was made of wood or reed. The rail. designed to keep the arrow on its
course in smooth and straight flight, was made of feathers. The feathers of an
eagle, vulture, kite. or sea fowl were found to be the most effective. The tail,
without which the arrow could not reach its target. was so important that its
feather s were aptly described by the Persians as " messengers of death."


of arrowheads

Special technical difficulty was experienced in the attachmen t of arrow head .\let/lOds (~r release as depicted Or!
to body . If the base of the head was inserted into the bod y, the arrow head was Egyptianand Assyria" IIfO tlllIll ClIls .
known as a tang. If the body was fitted into the base of the head, it was known as Top[our drawi/lgs depict E.~ypliaH.
a socket. The effectiveness of the arrow to pierce arm or was determined by the lwtoHl tltrCl'.1.ssyriall
shape and structure of its head. Arrowheads may be classified as leaf-shaped, or
triangular, etc. and as flat or with a central spine or rib. Th e form was not the fruit
of caprice but was dictated by the nature of the defense and armo r of the enemy.
Since the bow was reqn ired to fire numerous arrows during the course of
bottle, the archer had to have some means of carrying a reasonable complement
vi arrows in a handy manner which would put them within easy reach and facilitate speedy reloading, In this he was served by the quiver. The quiver had to be
capable of holding betw een twenty and thir ty arrows and to be made of lightweight mat erial. It was carried either on the back oi the bow man or over his
shoulder so that both hands were free to fire the bow .
Of the bow , as of the chariot, it can be said that no other weapon in ancient
days required so high a technical capacity to produ ce and such skill to operate.
Th ese two qualities in com bination were decisive on more than one occasion in
determin ing the course of histor y.

The QJli"er

Th e sling, devised by ancient shepherds to scare predatory animals irom

attacking their flocks, gradually made its appearance on the battlefield as a weapon
of war. For it enabled a missile to be thrown a considerable distance-considerable
for those days-in any terrain, hilly as well as flat. Its capacity to fire up a slope,
mdeed, gave it some import ance in assaults on fortified cities.

The Sliug


A slingerfrom a paiming in Beni-hasan

Th e Ja velin and the Spear


Th e Swo rd

(14th W1tllrY s.c.)

T he sling had the supreme advantage of simplicity of structu re, which made
it easy to produce, and its ammunition, slingstones, was provi ded by natur e.
Its principal disadvantage was that considerable training and experience were
required to operare it with effective accuracy.
Th e early sling looked rather like a large eye-pat ch. It consisted ofa small piece
of leather or cloth with twO cords attached to opposite edges. Th e stone missile
was placed on the material and the cords pulled taut so that the material became
a kind of bag containing the stone:The bag was held by the left hand and the ends
of the two cords held together by the right . The bag was then swung round and
round several rimes above the head until it gained the required momentum, at
which point one of the cords wo uld be released, thereby releasing the missile
which would be flung forward.
Th e function of the sling was often complementary to that of the bow.
Wh enever they were used in battle, the slingmen always served close to the
archery units.
These two weapons are similar in appearance but differ in size and in the way
they arc operated. The j avelin was like a large arrow and served as a medium-rang e
weapon. It was hu rled by hand, and the soldier would be armed with several
javelins wh ich would be carried, like arrows , in a quiver. T o increase its range of
throw , a cord with a loop on the end would on occasion be added, giving the
weapon the appearance of a weaver's leash rod . T he cord would be wound round
thej avelin and the loop retained by the fingers of the warrior, so that as the javelin
was hurled , the swift un winding of the cord would give it a spin and therefore
a steadier flight.
Like the arrow, the j avelin consisted of a body, made of wood or reed, and
a head of meral, either provi ded w ith a socket or tang, and its shape was suited ro
the nature of the enemy' s armo r. Often, to enable the javelin to be stuck in the
ground during a rest period, its base would be fitted with a metal point . The
weight and form of this metal tip were such that not only did it not interfere with
the propulsion of the weapon, but contributed to the speed and balance of its
The 'pear, a replica of the javelin in shape, was much bigger and heavier, and
pierced by thrust. As a thrusting weapon it was thus nor unlike a very long
stabbing sword. It consisted of a stout staff and a metal head, with either tang or
socket, and was sometimes tipped at the base with a metal point.
T he swor d has always been the principal weapon for hand-to-hand combat.
There were two main types of sword, each serving a specific function : the sword
for stabbing and the sword for striking. Both consisted of two main parts, a handle .
or hilt and a metal blade. The stabbing sword had a long straight blade tapering
toward the point. T o give it strength , the blade was thickest along its center and
tapered toward the edges. T his straight sword , sharp at the edges and at the point,
served equally to cut as to stab.
The striking sword, on the other hand, had only one sharp.edge, and the


thickest part of the blade was not along the center but along the opposite or blunt
edge. This type of sword could also be curved, the sharp edge being the convex,
or outer edge. Sometimes the curve was slight, sometimes so considerable as to
give it the a ppearanc~ of a sickle. It is, indeed, often referred to as the sickle sword.
But this may be misleading, for in a sickle the inner or concave edge is sharp,
whereas in the sword it was the outer edge.
Th e curved sword underwent changes during the different periods in history,
notably in the relationship between hilt and blade. At times, the hilt was long and
the blade short ; at other times the short hilt and long blade were preferred. T hese
changes reflected the exertions of the armorers to f.\Shion a sword light enough to
be brandished easily, but without shortening considerably the blade.
It may seem strange, but the sword was never a decisive weapon in ancient
cam paigns-exeept on a few isolated occasions- and became import ant only in
comparatively later periods in history. Unlike the arrow, j avelin, and spear, where
thc metal portion was compara tively small, thc sword required a long metal blade
ro give it effective range. Bur before man had learned the secret of producing
perfect hard metals, the long sword was doomed to failure when put ro the test.
Alternatives ro the sword were therefore sought for close-contact battle, weapons
which required relatively small metal parts, or which could use a substitute for
metal. These alternatives were the mace and the axe.
T he common factors in the mace and the axe are that both were designed for The M ace and the A xe
hand-t o-hand fighting and both consisted of a relatively short wooden handle, one
end of which was fitted with the operative lethal part which was either metal or
Types oj ntaceheads: apple-shal't'd.
stone. Th e weapons were swung by the handle, and the head brou ght smartly ptllr-shOJpt.i, .1Ild saucer-shaped. The
down on the enemy. Th e key problem in the manufac ture of both was the firting ",m ,lled tl lact' is onr depicted on
of head to handle in such a way that it would not fly off when swung nor break Egypti<1t1 lI km W nfJIlS
011' when struck,
T he difference between the two weapons was the difference in function. The
purpose of the mace was to beat and smash. The purpose of the axe was to pierce
and cut. This differcnce determined the different shapes of their respective heads.
The head of the mace was heavy and blunt . Th e blade of the axe was light and
sharp. T o prevent the weapon from leaving the soldier's hand when swung, in
both mace and axe the handle was widest at the point of grip, rapering toward the
head, or it was curved. Sometimes the handle was both curved and tapered.
Th e head of the mace, which was usually of stone but occasionally of metal,
W 35 shaped like a pear, an apple, or a saucer, or it could be oval. Each shape had its
advantages and drawbacks. T he saucer-shaped head, for example. turned the mace
also into a cutting instrument, bur weakened its striking power. Th e head of this
weapon was always of the socket type, into which the handle was fitted.
T he effectiveness of the mace as an instrument of war declined sharply when
it was met by enemy troops clad in armor, and particularly when they were
helmeted. W ith the development of armored devices for defense, the mace
virtually disappeared from the battlefield.
The problems involved in the manufacture of the axe were more com plex

--~"~"" j

Types of axes:far l~fi, epsilon; uext

left. tor eye; andbelow it, dllck-bill.

The nt'xt pair are tallg and socket

axes, andfar r~~'It: lugged xcheads


L-ppa two drall'itl.~s, s,l,kctcd axe

with malic-like !Jack, Below, socketed

axes lI'ilh



than with the mace. And the varied attempts to find solutions led to the variety of
shapes devised for the blade during the different periods in history.
Since the axe was conceived, as the sword, for hand-to-hand fighting its
development was guided by the same alternate purposes of the sword-to pierce
(paralleling the sword's function of stabbing) and to cut. The priority of one
purpose over the other during a specific period was determined by the quality of
the enemy's armor at the time. This, too, influenced the form of the axeblade.
The cutting axe was effective against an unarmored enemy. Against armor, the
piercing axe was required, with deep power of penetration, Axes may therefore
be broadly classified according to shape, which also coincides with their respective
functions: the axe with a long blade ending in a short sharp edge, for piercing; and
the axe with a short blade and a wide edge, for cutting. There were also variations
within each type.
A problem facing its manufacture, which often influenced the form and
development of the axe, was again the problem of fitting blade to handle in such
a manner that it would not fly off in action. This, of course, is a danger in all such
instruments, even the axe used by the laborer. And the Bible draws attention to it
in Deuteronomy 19:5: "And when a man goerh into the wood with his neighbor
to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree,
and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbor, that he
The axe may therefore be further classified according to the way its blade is
joined to the handle: the socket type, in which the handle is fitted into a socket in
the blade; and the tang type, in which the rear of the blade is fitted into the handle.
In the latter type, the join was strengthened by binding or intertwining with cord.
In some tang-type cutting axes, with rhe short blade and wide edge, the rear of
the blade had three projections or tangs by which it was fitted to the handle, giving
it the appearance of the figure 3, or-it depends how you look at it-of the Greek
letter epsilon. This axe is therefore known as the epsilon axe. Another Made of the
same type had a somewhat longer central tang projection from its rear fitted with

a crossbar, by which it was fitted better to the handle. This projection and bar
and the shape of the blade gave it the outline of an anchor, and it is therefore
called the anchor axe.
The socket type also had its variations. There was the axe with two large
holes in the blade, known as the eye axe; the duck-bill axe, with the longer blade
and two smaller holes; axes with blades whose rear part was decorated with the
likeness of animal heads, the fingers of a hand, a horse's mane.
The variety of axes reflected the attempts of armorers at successive periods ro
meet the new technical and tactical demands of the times. Each will be studied in
detail in rhe context of its appropriate period.

SECURITY Personal Protection

Of the three basic elements in the art of warfare-mobility, firepower,
security-the third is the most passive. But without it, the other two cannot be
fully exercised, and at times not at all. A weapon cannot be fired if its wielder is
put out of action, through lack of secure defense, before he begins. Security is
a factor of warfare not only at the strategic and tactical levels but also at the level
of the individual soldier.
One of the most absorbing chapters in the story of warfare is the search
through the ages for devices which would offer personal security to the soldier on
the battlefield without limiting his mobility or firepower. There was a constant
srrcggle for priority among the three. A large and heavy shield could give excellent security-but at the expense of mobility, Protective devices for ears and eyes
would hamper both mobility and the efficiency to direct fire. A shield which
required to be held by one hand left only the other free to operate a weapon. And
a coat of mail which freed both hands was unwieldy and slowed movement. In
determining which of the three factors should be emphasized in rhe planning of Three typesof shields. From top 10
a protective instrument, account was taken of the character of one's own offensive bottom: a round"Sea Peoples"shield;
weapons, those of the enemy, and of the forms of mobility available to both- l\l/Ig E.~ypti(Jn shield; andjigure-8
chariots, cavalry, or infantry. The appropriate solution was sought by the appro- HifCilt'shidJ.
priate adaptation of the shape of the protective device and rhe materia] from
which it was to be made.
Instruments for personal defense fall into two categories-shields and
The shield is simply a device to serve as a barrier between the body of a
soldier and the weapon of his enemy. For reasons we have already considered, no
shield could be completely satisfactory. If it was large enough ro give complete
protection, it was too heavy to permit free movement. If it was small enough to
give easy mobility, it was inadeqnate to after the body full cover.

The Shield



strength and lighmess, were made of wood or leath er and stiffened with met al
plates and studs. All these variants are fully depicted in several illustr ated monuments.

Types of sltie1Js: all ~4 $Syr jau except

that carried by warrior in cer rer.
whois Egypl;au




The ancient armorers sought compromise soluti ons to these conflicting considerati on s, experimenting with different shapes, or different materials, or both.
Their effor ts are reflected in the num erous shapes of shields whi ch have been "found
- long , short, rectangul ar, circular, triangul ar, shields shaped like a figur e 8, flat
shields, and convex shields. pro vides its own clue to the reasoning behind its
design . Th e long shield served the soldier who fought wi thout arm or and needed
maximum body protection. The short, usually round, shield was for the armored
figh ter wh o required protection for his face alone . The figure -S shield was simply
an economy form ofthe long shield , with superfluous parts cut out to save material
and weight. The convex shield gave slightly more protection to the sides of th e
body, and was also designed to deflect arrows,
These we re all personal shields, car ried by the figh ter him self. But also in use
in ancient time s was the very large shield. This w as carried by a special shieldbearer w ho was con stantly at the side of the fight er he was protectin g.
Ancient designer s were as concern ed with th e cho ice of m aterial as they were
wi th shape in the search for the ideal shield. The ideal was of co urse materi al
which was both light and tough, and easily availabl e. Most early shields were of
wood, leat her, plaited twigs or reeds, or of metal. The metal shields were very
heavy, but th ey gave better protection. Some shields, as a compromise between

Types of arm"r scales allJ mflhoJ of

fUS fttling a"J14dllg-from Cypress

Th e tw in advanta ges o f personal armo r were that it cove red the body of the
fighter and left his hand s free to op er. te his weapon. Its draw backs we re that it
was difficult and expensive to manu facture and its w eight hampered movement .
The simplest solution was. uniform mad e of leather or some tough fiber . This
would not give perfect prot ection , bur it co uld give som e, was sim ple to manuf. crure, and was light to wear. It cou ld, in a W'y, serve as a substitute for the long
shield, and only a short shield would be required for prot ection ofthe face, though
this would not help th e bowmen or cavalry wh o needed tw o free hand s. T he
simple solution was not therefore the ideal solution .
The big advance toward perfection came with th e coat of m ail. This consisted
of h undreds of small pieces o f met al, like fish-scales, wh ich joined together and
attached to th e surface of . clot h o r leather cloak . Whet e3S armor made of plates
of metal was excessively heavy to wear and interfered with movement, the coat
of mail was relativel y light and afford ed easier movem ent. It was certainly the
best protective device conceived at th e time. Bur even the coat of m ail had its
disadvantages . Its manufacture dema nd ed high techn ical skills and W3S very
costly. It also had its point s of weakness at the join of th e sleeves and bet ween
th e scales.

A r/Hor

Th e most vulnerable p. rt of th e soldier in battle was his head. And so the

search for prot ection by means of som e fo rm of helmer goes back to early times.
Int erestingly eno ugh , because of the climate in t he land s of the Middle East in
Biblical tim es, the devel opment of th e helm et never reached the stage achieved
in Europe, wh ere it also coveted the face. T he only im provements in the Eastern
helmet were the armored neckband, w hich protected th e gap bet ween the origi nal
helmet and the coat of mail, a collar m ade of scales. Neith er of th ese hamp ered
movement or vision.
Different arm ies durin g different perio ds favor ed special shapes for their
helm et. In some cases, such as the round- or cone-shaped helm et, the consideration
was functional: to deflect the arro w and mak e difficu lt its penetr ation. In most
cases, th e reason was quite different. O ne was to facilitate ident ification between
friend and foe in the midst of the anar chy of battle . Th e head of th e soldier stands
o ~t more than my other part ofhis bod y, and so each >rmy would equip its troops
With. specially shaped or specially decorated hel met. Some went furrher, and
equipped different units of the same . rmy with different helmets so that the
commander in the field co uld quickly iden tify the position of each at all tim es.
And th ere were also instances in w hich the shape of the helmet and its decoration
had their origin in som e tribal or other t radition and served no military purp ose.
Some of these types of helmets have provided us with a safe clue in de termining
th e periods of ancient illustrated monument s, such as the monument s of the

The He/11Ift

Assyrian period.


.111 .1s.'yrio1ll hdmt'l


The art of warfare knows no mor e illum inatin g example, on so large a scale,
of the characteristic " chain reaction" feat ure of mili tary developments than the
history of the fortified city in defense and attack. The battl e on such a city produced
special and conflicting problems for th e atta cker and the defend er . And the actions
of on e were a dire ct response to the actions of the other. Th e study of the systems
of defense and the me thod s of attack , the problems of each and the various solutions conceived during rhe different period s, is therefore of great interest to th e
stu dent of milit ary history. Such study also sheds m uch light on the history of
man , fo r hu man bein gs, from earliest tim es, sought shelter fro m th eir enemies,
bo th man and beast, and devised som e system of fo rtifica tions. The develop ment
of such systems and the inn ovations int rod uced at different tim es are indices of
bo th the technica l advances registered by one perio d over its pr edecessor and also
of new m eans and meth ods of assault w hich they were devised to counter.
Fortifications arc basically an artificial barrier. whether or no t they are built
around naturally defensive terrain, whose purpose deny the enemy th e two
impo rt ant advantages in assault , mobility and firepower, and to provide a foundation of security for the defender. This dual purpose cannot, as m ay be supposed , be
achieved by the erecti on of a simple barrier, but by designing it in such a way as
to afford freed om of m ovement and firepower to the defend ers behind it.
To follo w th e recip rocal develop ments in the meth ods of attack and defense,
let us first consider the various ways of conq uering a fortified city .

Attack and Penetration


There were fi ve possible ways of conquering a fortified city . Sometimes one

was enough. At oth er times a combinatio n of two or more was necessary. The five
m ethods we re: penetration by force from above the fortifications , penetration
through the barri er , penetration from belo w , siege, penetration by ruse.
T he first thr ee methods demanded sufficient resour ces at the d isposal of the
attackers to enable them, at specific stages of th e battle , to cover their penetr ation
un its, so that they could work withou t in terference, by m ainta ining steady fire on
the defenders and preven tin g them from using their weapons.
Penetration from above the fortifications was achieved by scaling the walls,
mostl y with the aid of ladders.
Direc t pen etration thr ough the for tifications could be gained in several ways.
It co uld be effected by breaching the wall, either by prim itive methods using
hamm ers. axes, spears, and swords, o r by a special instrument called the batteringram . It could also be done by demolishing the doors of the gate or settin g them
on fire.
Th e batt erin g-r am is an interestin g object of study, for it was, in fact, a special
inven tion , techn ically co mplicated to manufactu re, and requiring , for its operation , both en gineering skill and the capacity to give effecti ve and sustained cove r
to its operato rs.
In its elemental fo rm , the battering-ram was a long beam with a sharp metal
head. It would be thrus t with force against th e wall to be breached so that its head

was lod ged deepl y betw een the ston es or bricks. Ir wo uld then be levered right and "
left, thereby dislodging the ston es or bricks and causing part ofthe w all to collapse.
The beam and its sharp head represent th e firing power of th e bart ering-ram . "
In action , th e penetration unit handling the batte rin g-ra m had to reach the
wall, brin gin g them close to the defenders abo ve-and to their missiles. T o pr orect
rhern, an early improvement was int roduced. Th e battering beam was carried
beneath a long wooden box-like structure, similar to th e top half of a covered
wagon , its surface strengthened wi th leath er or shields, its forward part open to
allow the beam to be swun g.
But onl y in the m ore primitive battering-ram was tills structure used solely
for protection. In later periods. wi th more advanced engineerin g skills, it was
adap ted to serve also the techni cal purpose of easing the m ovem ent of the beam
and giving it a more powerful thru st. T he merhod mo st com monly used was ro
drop a rope from the "ceiling" of th e stru cture and tie it to th e beam at an appropriate Spot, so th at it became a kind of pendu lum. It could then be swu n g backward
and forward, gath erin g moment um, so th at, w hen released, it wo uld fly forward
with greater force and wed ge itself mo re firml y in the wall. T he special shape of
th e structure stems fro m this secon d function. Its forward po rtion was higher than
the rest of its bod y, rather like a tower , and it was within this tower that th e rop e
hung from th e to p and was tied to the beam.
The batterin g-r am , complete wi th struc tu re, was heavy . It had to be brought
from great distances to th e proximity of the city und er assault, and then righ t up to
th e walls. Th e more adva nced types we re therefor e eq uipped wi th wh eels, and
this indeed gave it the appe arance of a com plete cov ered wagon and not just the
top half
From the rear base to the battl efield, it wo uld often be dra wn by dr aft
animals. But in the final phase. it woul d have to be m oved to th e city wall by the
soldiers themselves. T his was a tough task, for th e gro und was usually rou gh ,
roc ky, and steep, T o m ake it easier, th e assaulting force wo uld try to lay an
improvised tr ack , oft en of eart h occasion ally strengthened wi th w ooden planks ,
to serve as a smooth ramp of gentl e gr adient along whi ch the bartering-ram could
be moved from th e foot of the slopes to the city wall. When it had been br oughr
within appropriate range for the battering operation, it would be braked at th e
spot to prevent its rolling back,
Often, to give the penetrati on unit addition al prot ection , the cove rin g fire
fro m the regul ar infantr y was stren gthened by fire from special troops w ho would
accompany the batt erin g- ram , walki ng at its sides or even inside the structur e. Ar
a later period, such troops wer e m oved in hi gh, m ob ile, woode n towers from
w hich th ey could fire ar the defend ers up on the walls.
Penetration from beneath the fortificarious was perha ps less dangero us fo r the
assault group, but technically more difficult. Th e tunneling coul d be start ed o utside
the range of the defenders' weapons, and could be don e in darkness. But it was
a lengthy process, M oreover, if at som e stage the ope ration should beco me kn ow n
to the defend ers, they could offer a warm welcom e to th e attackers as they em erged
from the oth er end of the tunnel. However, with th e discovery of destru ctive

A primitive battering-fdm operated by

threesoldiers[tornbt'hitlJ rover.
Bm ;-hasDIJ, 10th crt/tury

B.C .


pllge J59





:: .~




Forl!ficatiotlS aud Dclense


devices which co uld be placed beneath the foundations of the wall, this penetration
from beneath the fo rtifications became in a mu ch later period extre mely dangerou s
for the defend ers.
The siege, as a method of conquering a fortified city, was by its very nature
themost protracted of all, and the least dang erous to the attacker, Its aim was to
encircle the city and so prevent suppl it:5 from reaching the defenders within. But
it de manded of the besieging army special measures for its own defense. For it
becam e, in great measur e, a passive force , and one whi ch was exp osed to attack
at any point by allies ofthe besieged city wh o ' might com e at them from an!
directi on. It mig ht also be atta cked by the defenders th em selves wh o, when their
plight became desperate. might venture fonh from their beleaguered positions and
attempt to break thr ough the ring. T o meet these possible threats, a besieging army
would establish fortified camps. This also enabled them to prevent outside arm ed
assistance from reaching the city and the defend ers from leaving it. .
The lengthy process of siege was resorted to by a hostile arm y when time wa s
on its side and it could afford to wait, or when it lacked the means of penetration
by for ce. or when the fortifications of the city were too powerful to overcome.
Some sieges lasted several years .
Penetration by ruse had as its aim the con quest of a city with om the dan gers
of the first three methods and with out the delay of the fou rth. Men of a hostile
army wou ld seek to infiltr ate into the city by cunni ng , using some trick to gain the
confiden ce of the defenders. O nce inside, they would overpower the guards and
open the city gates to the waiting attackers.
T he fortifications of an ancient city and the prin ciples gowming its defense
wer e determined primaril y by its topographical positio n, and its shape and size.
And , apart from certain subsidiary considerations , the nature and siting of most of
the cities of Palestine, Syria, and Anatolia, and of many orher parts of Biblical
lands, were them selves determined by two basic factor s: str ategic and tactical on
the one hand, and the source. of w ater on the other.
M ost cities were established only at sites whose natur al conditions met these
two basic needs. But in many parts of the Middl e East, both needs could be met
only by diam etr ically op posite conditions. For tactical considerati ons usually
demanded the siting of a city on the top of a hill or mountain, wh ereas the sources
of wa ter-springs, stream s, or rivers-were most often to be found in the valley.
To resolve this obj ective co ntradiction of natu re, fortifi cations had to be plann ed
so as to encompass at least part of the sources of wat er; or else some suitable system
had to be devised for ensuring that w ater flowed into the city .
Additional security considerations, parti cularly in lands ruled by powerful
central authority, dictated the establishment of cities at sites which were of coun trywi de or even region al strategic imp ortance, in order to protect main lines o f
communication s. highways, routes to supply bases, or distant sources of wate r.
The nearest approach to comp lementary natural con dirions to satisfy bo th
securi ry and econo mic needs was to be found only at specific p laces. Since their
topo graphy rem ained virt ually unchang ed thr oughout the pen ods unde r review ,

it is not strange for us to find a general continuiry of settlemen t at each site, w ith
a new city built on the ruins of the old.
This process, w hich led to the creation of the celeb rated " tell," or mound, of
the Midd le East, created in tim e irs own special problems of defense. At first, it
gave the new city an advantage. For its new constructio n raised it abo ve the level
ofits predecessor, and gave it a com mandin g defense position over the surrounding
country. But later, as the tell got higher and higher, after hundreds or thousands
o f years of settlement , it produced two great disadvantages. The high er the tell,
the softer its slopes. For now they were not of rock but simp ly the sides of a hug e
heap made up of the crumbled ruins of dead cities. They were easier now to
penetrate by anyon e seeking to undermine the foundations of the wa ll at the top.
T his probl em w as to exercise the minds of planners of forti fications in the later
periods. Moreover , the higher the tell, the smaller the area of the city built on its
crown. This in tum led to a more red uced population , wi th a corr esponding
reduction in the number of fighters to defend it. In tim e, these tw o defense
disadvantages often pro m pted the inhab itant s to make one of tw o far-r eaching
decisions; either to build an " ex tension" of the city at a lower level, or to abandon
the site altogether. W here it was decided to build an extension, it meant the virtual
construction of a new lower ciry on level ground. Th is required an artificial system
of defense in place of the natu ral to pograp hical defense advantages enj oye d by the
o riginal city on the tell. T hese arc the major premises in any analysis of the defense
problems of fortified cities. T hey made their impac t on the character of the ciry.
More important, they determined its size in most of the Biblical lands. In the
earliest periods, the average area of most cities in Palestine, Syria, Anatolia, and
M esopota mia ranged fro m 5 to 10 acres. Th ere w ere also, of course, a number of
principal cities covering an area of hundreds of acres. O n the reasonabl e assumption that there were ro ughly 2 40 inhabitants to an urban acre, the pop ulation
figures of most of the cities o f the ancient Middle East ran ged from 1,000 to 3, 000 ,
with som e cities boasting a population of between 5,000 and 10 ,0 0 0 . T here were '
a few exceptions where the population reached scores of thousands. T he proportion offighters among the inhabitants averaged 25 per cent . So that the small cities
had about 300 fighting men, the medium-sized cities about 1. 000 to 2. 000, and the
large cities several thousand.
In the o rganization of the defense of these ancient cities, there was a concentration of three major elements : the wa lls an d subsidiary fortifications; the inner
citadel; and the suppl y of water.
The primary purpose of the city walls was to prevent the enemy from
br eaking int o the city, to deny him, that is, his advantag e of mobility. BUl a passive
barrier cou ld only hold him up temp orarily. For, as we have observed, the walls
could be scaled or breached. T hey had therefore to be so built as to enable the
defenders to ti re their wea pons fro m the top, and so frustra te the enemy design.
Th e wa ll and its torrifican ons com prised thr ee principal components: the wall
itself-e-rhe barrier ; its upper structur es, ro enable the defend ers to fire their weapons
and to give them prot ection while doing so-the firin g plarform and defensive

T he City Walls



T HE Au r

OF \V A l~ F A l t E

cover; forward obstacles and traps, set up in front of the wall to keep the enemy
archers as far away as possible and to prevent battering-rams from being brought
into action. The city gate posed a special probl em. For by its narure it was the
weakest point in the system of fortifications.
To make scaling difficult, rhe wall had to be high. T o prevent breaching, it
had to be thick. And to withstand undermining or tunneling below it, its founda- .
tions needed to be deep and broadly based. A wall which is both high and thick,
whether built of stone or brick, or a combination of the two (bricks upon a base
of stones), requires additional strengthenin g by a series of regularly spaced
buttresses of considerable thickness.
Th e defenders on the ramparts had to be free to fire on the enemy in three
directions: forw ard, to direct frontal fire on the approaching attackers; right and
left, to bring flanking fire to bear on the enemy: down ward against troops
attempting to bring up ladders and battering-rams. Th e top of the walls had
therefore to be wide enough to give sufficient freedom of movement to the
defenders, and to be so designed as to offer them fields of fire in the required
directions while at the same time giving them protection from enemy arrows.
Th e architectural solution to meet these needs was the battlement. This was
a crenelated parapet built along the top of the walls facing the enemy. It looked
from a distance like a row ofteeth with gaps betw een them . The teeth are known
as caps or merlons. The gaps are called embr asures or crenels. Th e defending
..i tl Egy pliall representation of a ll
soldier would fire his weapon through the embrasure and find protection from
A siatic city (Illp) allJ a reconsuvaion enemy missiles by dodging behind the merion. Special towers or bastions built as
of crenelation and balcony an integral part of the wall at regular intervals, and protruding from its outer face,
enabled rhe defenders to direct flanking fire on enemy troops. The distance
between the towers was never more than double the range of the defender' bows,
and often less. In this way, fire from any two towers could cover the ground
between them. An inferior alternative was to give a stepped line to the wall itself,
but this was not as effective as the tower or bastion. The shape of the tower was
square or semicircular. T he latter was technically more difficult to build, but it had
the advantage of comm anding a wider field of fire and eliminating " dead" areas.
To enable the defenders to deal with troops who had managed to reach the
wall, the tow ers were built with balconies which had holes or slots in the floor
through which vertical fire could be directed down upon the heads of the enemy.
Sometimes the fortifications were so built that the dead ground at the foot of the
vertical wall was wiped out completely. This was done by filling it in with an
embank ment. This is called a glacis, a bank sloping down from a certain point in
the wall and broadening its base. It exposed the attackers to the defenders' fire and
made it difficult for them to breach the lower part of the wall by battering-ram.
Th e security of the wall itself was effected in one or both of two ways. One .
was the construction of an Outer or advance wall. T his was particularly necessary
where the main wall was at the top of a high hill or cell. The outer wall was then
lower than the main wall but within range of its weapons. so that, when attacked,
it could be covered by the fire of the main defending units. An alternative to the
outer wall was an obstacle of the reverse kind-the digging- of a wide and deep


moat running round the base of the main wall. This had the advantage, especially
when filled with water, of denying to the enemy the use of his battering-ram
unless he was powerful and skilled enough to bridge the moat or fill it up at
certain points-all under fire. T he ideal securiry for the main wall was a combination of glacis, moat, and outer wall.
T he gate was inevitably the weakest point in the system of forrificarions. It
was, indeed, a gap in the wall, deliberately left in order to allow entrance into the
city of inhabitants and friends. It was natural that the attacker should also seek to
gain entrance through this gap. And so the gate was always the focus of action in
battle, receiving the concentrated attention of both attackers and defenders.
It was also the central problem engaging the minds of those who planned the
fortifications. And the most imaginative ingenuity and the finest engineering
talent were mobilized over a long period CO design a city gate which would give
maximum trouble to an attacking army and maxim um help to its defenders. T he
result was a series of devices, each serving a limited purpose but together providing
a form idable defense complex.
Primary attention was given to the planning of the approach path to the gate.
The gate, like the wall of which it was a parr, was usually situated high up on a hill
or tell. To reach it from the bottom, a path had to be laid in gentl e gradients,
climbing the slope obliquely either from the right or left. For a direct road would
be far too steep even for the defenders themselves, whether in chariots or wagons
or on foot. W herever possible the approach road was planned so as to reach the
gate from the right-from the point of view of those facing the gate from the
outside, or left from the point of view of the defenders. Th is prod uced the first
difficulty for the attacker. For it meant his having to move up the incline with the
right side of his body nearest ro the wall. Since he carried his shield in his left hand,
he was exposed to the fire of the defenders without cover.
This principle in planning was followed with even greater cflecn veness where
the fortification system included a lower outer wall. Th is wall, too, would have
a gate. And it was sited to the right of the gate in the main wall (from the point of
view of one facing the main wall). Th e tw o gares were usually linked by a broad
wall. So, again, if the attacker succeeded in gaining ent rance through rhe gate of
the outer wall, he would have to approach the main gate with the right side of his
body exposed to the defenders' weapons.
The second and principal barrier to an attacking force were the doors of the


The Gate

4 a j ;m (lpcrmiugf roJl1I

f,d ,i" .l.ltl' m..'IIr1"",J parotpet. 1111,(/,,1/11

/IQ!.-,,"id . BOli-hasan, c. 1900 B.C.

S,',- pil\!,.. 158-1 59





t . .. . _

Type' of City Go",.

A ltOl-'(': AfiJ ,lJe Brtl1lu gat.:slrotTl

S yrioJ and Palestine

Bd oll': Late Brollz t' aM

Iron Age gatc; f rom

AJ,JlOliJ. S vria, I1nJ Mesopotamia

=E3 .~~

l=i ii

gate. T hese were made of wood and usually plated with metal to prevent th eir
being set on fire by enemy torch es. Since the entrance had to be wide eno ugh to
allow th e passage of ch ariots, dou ble doo rs were req uired. This meant, however,
tha t the barrier was weakest at its center, along rhc line where the two doors met.
T o strcngthen it against an attempted cnemy breakthroug h, it was tin ed with huge
bo lts. T hese usually took the form of a heavy beam w hich ran rig ht acro ss the back
of the double doo rs, and was held in position by sockets in both doo rposts. On e of
these sockets was a vcry deep recess int o w hich the beam wo uld be moved CO
allow the doo rs to be opened. T he other socke t was just deep eno ugh to hold the
othe r end of the beam after the doors were closed .
Th e third elem ent in the defense complex of the gate was devised to meet
a situatio n in w hich the enemy had succeeded in penetra tin g the outer defenses and
had come near enough to try and smash the doo rs and their hin ges wi th his axes
and firebr ands. T his coiled fo r some means-as wi th the wall itself-to enable the
defende rs to enga ge the enemy from above, bot h directly above and from me
sides. It was me t by build ing tw o towers, one on either side of the gate,
w hich protruded from the outer surface of the W211 and which enabled fire to
be directed at the attac kers from the sides. Direct fire from above was made
possible by the con struction of a roof above the gate, com plete wit h cren elations
and balcony. Th ese auxiliary structures virtually turned the gate co mplex
into an almo st independent fortress, with its battl ements and often two or more
sto ries.
T he additional buildings also determin ed the form of const ructi on of the gate
itself T he roof abo ve the gate and the additional stories req uired strong sup ports
in and around rhe entranceway. These we re pro vided by pilasters, rectangular
column s engaged in th e walls on either side of the en trance , Th e n umber of
pilasters depended on th e dep th of the gate. Some had one pair of pilasters, some
tw o, and some three . Th ey naturally narrowed the entrance at m e points w here
they we re erect ed. Where there w as more than on e pair of pilasters, me spaces
betwe en them on each side were either left open , so as to give the defenders more
roo m co en gage the enemy w ho would be crowded in th e narrower part of the
entra nce betw een th e first two pilasters, or th ey were closed in to serve as guard rooms for the senrries. T he part of the gate giving our on to the inside of the city
was of co urse mu ch broader, allowing the defend ers greater maneuverability in
engaging the enem y emerging through the narro wed entranceway.
T his type of gate structure was characteristic of fortified cities bui lt on the top
of a tell, and w here the approach route followed an oblique incline up the slope
com pelling rhe assault tr oops to leave their right sides exposed . But in the very
earliest cities, built on sites with no previous ruins to form a tell, neither wall nor
gate was very much higher than the surro undin g land . Th e probl em here, o f
dictating the direction of the enem y approach to put him at a disadvantage, was
partl y solved by design ing an angular gateway w hich could be traversed only by
passing thr ough a tu rning . T he entr ance of the gatewa y was so position ed mat the
approachin g troops had to exp ose their righ t sides, and even w hen the y succeeded
in moving thro ugh the fim opening , they fou nd themselves in a tur nin g of the


gateway wh ich cramped th eir freedom of action , while the defende rs coul d
operate under no such disability. But this type of gatew ay became fairly obsolete
with the emerg ence of the chariot. For the cnrran ccway had then to be wide
enough to take th e vehicl es of the inh abitants in peacetim e. In som e cases, the t y p~
W J S retain ed bu r the en trance and turn ings were made wid er,
Th e main weakness of the perimeter fortificatio ns, even th ough they were
for midable, was th e magnitude of th eir circumference. Even a city of average size
had a perime ter of som e 700 me ters, and in the big cities it was oft en several
kilome tccs. Feint ing or diversion ary attacks by the enem y com pelled th e defenders
to man every m eter of the wall, whi le the assaulting army coul d concent rate its
main striking force against one point alone. And once the wa ll at th is point was
breached, the rest o f the wall serve d no furt her defense purpose, even though it
might be intact and its guards unh armed. T o meet this weakness of the outer
funification s, several add itional defense systems were devised. Th e m ost common
was the division of the city int o several section s, each capable of independent
defense, by the consrr uction of an additi onal wall, an inner citadel, or both.
T he citadel usually include d the palace of the governor or th e king and the
dwelling-h ouses of his m inisters, and sometimes also the temple. It w as built 011 the

The II/I/er Citadel

A r<'o.llt.'fr :m hlll t1,( ,!,e i nner dfy I1" J

(i{ud, 1 ( ~l Zj,~irli



highest part of the city to give it additional natural protection . It was constructed
as a self-contained defensive unit, even though, on occasion , one or more of its
sides was based on and contiguous to the city wal l. The citadel was a replica of th e
fortified ciry, having its main wall, gatewa y, outer w all, and som etimes even a
moat. It was small in area, and was usually the scene of the city 's last stand , with
the govern or and the surviving inhabitants w ho had taken refuge therein fighting
to the end . In th e fight on the citadel, th e defend ers had an advant age in that th e
assault tt oopS, to reach the fort, had to batter their way through the built-up area
of the city, with its tortuous alleywa ys convenient for ambush. In the large cities,
where the original ciry on the heights had been extended by the buil ding of a
for tified lower city at its foot , the original ciry became a kind of do uble inner
citadel, serving as the inner citadel of the entire co mbined-cities area, and having
its own inner fort w hich housed the govemor.

Water Supply Jurirlg Siege


The various systems of fortifica tions had as their purpose the preventi on of
the enemy from breaking into the ciry. But the plann ing of th e fo rtifications had
also to take accoun t of the need to keep both tr oop s and civilians supplied with
w ater even during a siege. It W3S comparatively eosy to store food . But this was
not tr ue of water. A partial solution was the cistern . An d this served for long
peri ods as the sale solution. But it could not be the decisive answ er, par ticularly in
time of drought. It has alread y been observed that the siting of . ciry was largely
de termined by its proximiry to sources of water. If the source was. stream , the
ciry m ight be built on one of its banks , and th is afforded easy access to the water
suppl y in time of siege. The stream could also serve as p.rt of the city 's defense
system . But the pro blem arose where th e ciry w as bu ilt on a hill or tell and was
dependent for its water suppl y on a spring whi ch , naturally. would be found
nearer to the foot of the hill, and outs ide the ciry wal l. The solution here was to
bloc k its mouth and camo uflage it from the enem y, while safeguarding access to
its source by the inhab itants of the ciry.
Th is could be, and was, don e in one of tw o w'ys, and sometim es both : either
by cutting a tunnel at a gt3di ent from the spring or well through to a cistern inside
the ciry in to w hich the wate r wou ld flow by gra viry, and w hich wo uld be reached
by. pit equipped with a staircase; or by digging a pit inside the ciry, and, at its
bottom, tunneling a passageway th rou gh to the o utside near rhe spring, whi ch
co uld then be reached wit hout detection by th e besieger s. Th ese were tunnel ing
projects of considerable com plexity . But, as we shall see later , we have eviden ce of
extraordinarily advan ced en gineerin g knowledge and skills displayed by the
people o f ant iquity in th e constructio n of such tun nels. And, indeed, if it wer e not
for such engineering feats, these cities would not have been able to hold out against
lengthy siege.
Yet despite powerful fortifications and high ly developed system s of defense,
we kn ow that many fortified citiesw ere vanq uished. T his un derlines th e point th at,
in the final anal ysis.w hat co unts is not the strength of the defenses nor the po wer of
the assault WC3pOns but the spirit of the m an behind th e wall and th e man behind
the batt ering-ram.








Th e sole evidence in our possession w hich can help us to trace the patt ern of
life in ancient days arc the material rema ins left behind by ancient peop les. Their
thoughts, feelings, mood s, and aspirations arc lost to us forever unless they fo und
expression in tan gible relics, an d we can only seek to reC3ptun;. them by analogy
and inference from the rem ains whic h have been br ought to ligh t. Archaeo logical
discoveries arc thu s o ur main sources for an investigation of the art and meth od s
" f war fare in Biblical lands in ancient times.
Thanks to the revolution ary development of archaeological research in the
Biblical lands in the last hundred years, and par ticularl y in the last few decades, we
now have a wealth of finds w hich shed light on mo st of the subj ects dealt wi th in
this book . Moreover, since, as we have observe d, wa rfare played no less formidable
a role in the lives of ancient peop les th an it does in those of the nations of today,
many of the ma terial legacies b id bare by archaeol ogical expeditions relate to wa r.
For conve nient study, this archaeolo gical evide nce will be discussed under thr ee
headings: illustra ted m on uments, both sculptured and d raw n; ruins of fortificatio ns
and actual weapo ns found by excavatio n; w ritten docum ents,


T his group of relics is, in som e ways , the most im portant for a stu dy of ancient
warfare. For on many of th ese m onuments ore graphic representa tions of military
events whi ch cannot be reconstructed by an examination of other relics nor given
such tangibl e expr ession by lite rary descrip tion alon e. They are of im m ense help
to an understanding of several br anches of warfare- tactics, weapons, and


fortifica tions.










o f special value arc the drawings and reliefs of military articles and weapons
w hich were made of perishable materials, such as wood , leath er, or textiles. Such
materials defy preservation, excep t und er special cond itio ns, and rarely have th ey
figured among the find s of the archa eolog ist. Our knowl edge of th em would be
incom plete w ithout th e designs on ancient monuments. And even if, for example,
a reasonably preserved part of a ch ariot is discovered , it will tell US nothing of
how the horses we re harn essed or how the chari ot was used in battle. But the
drawing on a m onument m ay. T he same is true of instruments fashione d from
harder material whic h preserves longer. A few m etal scales will tell us som ething
about the coat of m ail. But only th rough monument s do we know wha t the
garment looke d like and how it was worn. We wou ld kn ow alm ost nothing of
the develop ment of the bow th rough the different perio ds and in the different
countries if it we re not for its repr od uction on mo numents. Th e batte ring- ram',
nude of Illany parts, mos t of them perishable, would be a mystery to us toda y if
we had no ancient pictur e showi ng the complete imp lemen t in action. And the
same . of cou rse, is true of fort ifications. Most of the fortified walls we re either
destro yed or fell int o ruin already in ancient tim es, with almo st nothing left above
their foundations. Yet it was precisely the ir uppe r port ions, the towers, battlemen ts,
ramparts. and balconies, which we re the vita l fun ctional featur es of the defense
' y" cm . O nly by their visual represen tation on m onuments are we able to restore

Illustrated Monuments


7 0 0 0 B .C .


7000 B.C .

The Most A ncient Fortljications ill the World


Had this book been wri tten in the year 1951, or even in 1955, it would have begun
with a descriprion of the artifacts and monuments belon ging to the second half of
the fourth millennium , 3500 to 3000 B.C . This would correspond to the end of the
Pre-D ynastic period in Egyp t, the beginning of the Pro to-Literate period in
Mesopotamia, and the end of the Chalcolithic period in Palestine and Syria.
But now , thanks to the amazing archaeological discoveries in Jericho in the
last ten years, we can start with the earliest known forti fications in the world,
dating back to about 7000 B.C. , the beginning of the Neolithic period.
Th e discovery of these groups of ancient fortifications, whose standards of
planning and constru ction almost match many of the powerful fortifications of
later periods, despite the 4,000-year gap, also had the effcct of changing all our
previously held concepts about the beginnings of the urban settlement.
Before these discoveries, the term " the walls of Jericho" was auto matically
associated with the walls of the city, which, we are told in the Bible, fell mysteriously before the hosts ofJ oshua some time between 1300 and 1200 B.C . Now,
however, certainly for archaeologists, the walls of Jericho are intimately bound up
with the N eolithic fort ifications built some 6,000 years before the lime of Joshua.
Un fortunately we cannot go into asmuch detail aswe should like on these Neolithic
structures, since this boo k is primarily concerned with relics fro m the later periods.
But a brief account will be helpful to our understanding oflater forti tications.
Th e tell ofJe richo- Tell es-Sultan-lies in the Jordan Valley j ust north of the
Dead Sea, close to a running spring which is popul arly known as the Spring of
Elisha. W hatever the reason for Jericho 's ancient exis tence-s-ir is the oldest known
city in the world-one thing is clear. It was the spring w hich drew the earliest
settlers and pro mpted them to build their city near by.



The Neolithic culture in Jeric ho prevailed for a long time and covered the
transition from the Pre-Pottery culture to that of Pottery. It was thus possible ro
divide the Neolithic strata ofJericho into Pre-Potter y (which is the true Neolit hic)
and Pottery Neolithic (which might be called Ceramolithic). Moreover , the
meticulous excavations by Kathleen Kenyon, who directed the exped ition, enabled
her to make accurate subdivisions of each of these two periods. which she called,
provisionally, Pre-Pott ery A, Pre-Pott ery D, and Pottery A and Pott ery D.
Th e first shock waves reached the scientific wo rld with the preliminary
discovery of Neolithic city fortifications dating back to the Pre-Pott ery B period.
Th e absolute date of this wall was determined by the carbon- r.i test as 5859 B. C.
(plus or minus 100 years), making it about 8,000 years old. Before this discovery,
the earliest known forti fied city, or indeed, any city, belonged to the period som e
3,000 years later.
When it was laid bare, the Jericho wall still stood some 2! meters high and
was built of large slabs of und ressed stone. Its lower part also served to butt ress
structures inside the ciry. T he full height of its external face, as seen by the enem y,
is estimated to have been at least 5 meters.
Th e span of settlem ent during Pre-Potter y B was long . T he archaeological
excavations revealed twenty-six strata of building in some places during this
period alone, strata, that is, which showed the raised floor built on the debris of
earlier ruins. Th e wall itself was built some time corresponding to the thirteenth
to fourteenth level of settlement, We still do not know enough about the characte r
of the fortifications. But the very fact of their construction is evidence of an
organized society, capable, either from desire or compulsion , of carrying through
an impr essive collective engineering proj ect. And the need to build this forti fied
wall also indicates the presence of an organized neighboring society capable of
launching a powerful assault.
The next shock wave to the world of archaeology was even more stunning.
This came in 1954 when it was found that the previously discovered wall was
neither the oldest nor thc finest in the histor y of Jericho. Beneath it, at a considerably lower depth, a series of fortifications were discovered w hich were staggering
in their power and the ingenu ity of their planning.
The core of this fortifications system was the wall. Part of it, on the western
edge of the tell was still standin g, to a height of 7 meters! Moreover, it was
possible to establish that this wall encom passed the entire city, which at that period
extended over some 10 acres. Irs population thus numb ered between about 2,400
to 2,600 inhabitants, ofwh ich some 500 to 600 were fightin g men. T his means that
it was possible ro station abou t one soldier to every meter of fortifications.
Thi s wall, too, was built of undressed stone, though the slabs were smaller
than those in the later wall.
Even mo re surprising was the second discovery. Th e excavations revealed a
large moat scooped out of the rock at the to ot of the wall, 9 meters wide and
3 meters deep. How the inhabitants of ancient Jericho managed to cut this ditch
out of the rock when the only tools they had were of flint is still a mystery .
Equally mystifying is their need for a moat. Wha t kind of powerful assault did



they dr ead fro m their neighbors that could demand the contin uous application of
a large labor fo rce for a proj ect that must have taken thousands. perhaps tens of
thousand s, o f wo rkdays!
T he third surprise was the discovery of a build ing which shows the very high
standards of plann ing and constructional engin eering achieved by the inh abitants
of Ne olithic Jeri cho (lI S). This is a hu ge stone circular tow er, 10 meters high,
seemingly attached to the inner or city side of the western part of the wall. It is
1 3 met ers in diame ter at its base and 10 meters at its cro wn. Inside it was a hollow
shaft con taining tw enty- tw o steps of dr essed stone. each 75 centimeters wide. T he
bottom o f the staircase led to a passage which ended in an opening at the foot of the
tow er. T he steps gave access to the top o f the to wer. \Vas it to give the inhabitants a
defensive position fro m which they could engage the enem y! T his could not have
been the towe r's main purp ose. Unlike the towers ofla ter periods, this one did not
abut against the outer side of the wall which would have enabled the defenders to
harry the flanks of an attac king enem y. Instead, the entire building was inside the
city . even though apparent ly attached to the wall . Co uld it have served as an
obser vation pom Or w as it built to defend so me near-by installation for securin g
water or structur e of special im portance inside the ciryr One can only speculate,
but there can be no definite answer without further excavati ons of the surroundin g

7 0 0 0 B.C.

men Jnst plucked their food from nature. They had started to work for their da ily
bread by som e form of farming and by o ther means. Flint arr owheads fou nd on
the site show that they also used the bow. And the fon ifications themselves.
particula rly the rower and the moat. indicate that the bow was the decisive weapon
in warfare. out-ranging the j avelin and the spear. Bu t the character and patt em of
attack and defense in this period w as still beyond the scop e of our knowledge. N or
do we have the answer to the enigm a of what took place during the fant astic
gap-a gap of 4,000 years- betwee n these and the next most ancient systems of
fortifications know n to us.
W e can only proceed. wi thout lingering ove r this batHing hiatus, to a consideration of the art of warfare from the beginning o f the histo ric period s, as
revealed by illustrated monu ments and archaeological remains.



T he shaft inside the tower cont ained hu man skeletons, apparently flung there
in a heap at some tim e, one on top of the other. Th ese could not have been
skeletons of city defenders who had made a last stand. for they Were found on top
o f the debr is by which the shaft was blocked and which filled it to a height some
60 centime ters from the top of the tower. T hey m ust certainly have been brou ght
there long after the shaft had fallen into disuse. T he pur pose of the tower remains
a riddle.
But there is no mystery abou t its chrono logy . T he excavations established that
there were at least three techni cal phases in the construction of the com plex tow er
and for tifications. First came the tower. T hen came a stone wall aro und the tower.
And last came the outside wall. Also built during the first ph ase w as an early
com pact wall slightly nearer to the cent er of the city than the later wall.
After the comp letion of the third phase, namely the constr uction of the outside wall, several buildings were constructed inside the city and partly buttressed
by the wall. The excavations revealed that the structu res built during this third
phase were destroyed by fire. Th e ashes were subjected to the carbon- ra test and
the result w as startling. It put the date of the fire at 6 770 B.C. plus or min us
200 years. Since the main fortifications, as we have indicated, were built a considerable time before the fire, the date of their construc tion can reasonably be presumed
to have been abou t 7000 B.C.
Even w ith the necessary reservati ons with which the carbon- r, test m ust be
accepted, it is clear in the light of both absolute and relative chro no logy that here
were the earliest known attempts on the part of man to build a city and to for tify
it with wall, tow er. and moat.
Th e inhab itant s of this city had certainly advanced beyond the stage where


40 0 0 - 21 0 0 B . C .


If I


4000-2 1 00 B. C.

Durin g th e second half of the four th m illennium , and more markedly during the
th ird, the foundations wer e laid for the princip les of wa rfare and the basic types of
weapon s and forrifi carions whi ch p revailed during the succeeding 3,000 yearsinde ed, righ t up to the discover y of gunp owd er in the 15th century A.D. T his is
clearly show n in the monum ents and archaeologi cal discove ries from the fourt h
and third m illenn ia.
Apart from cavalry units, w hich appeared on the battl efield only at the end
of the second and beginning of the first mil lenni um, the means of mob ility, attac k,
securi ty, and defense all have th eir origin in the earlier period . Natu rally many of
them were developed and considerably im pro ved iu later ages. But they were all
based on pro to typ es whi ch had been introd uced earlier. In som e cases there was
a markin g-ti me, and even a retr o gression, wit h the original standards rem aining
unma tched by the later arm ies wh o operated in the lands of the Bible.
N ot that these lands can be lumped togeth er in a generalization about mi litary
progress, especially during this period . Indeed, one of the strange features o f this
epoc h is the vast difference in the standards of wea pons and m etho ds of wa rfare
between th e different lands of the Bible. At this time. for examp le. the forms of
warfare among th e Sum crians we re highly adva nced . w hereas in Egy pr they we re
vety primitive. Th e most striki n g instance of this d ifferen ce is the use of the
chariot. Ch ariot units we re being widel y used in battl e in Mesopotamia already
in the first half of the third millennium. N ot unti l 1,200 years later do we find the
bott le chario t first being used in Egyp t.
It may be appropriate, therefo re, to start o ur review of th is period with the
chariot. Its invention and development were without doubt the mo st significant
cont ributions to the art of warfare in the third mi llenniu m, thanks , as we have
observed , to che inhabit ants of Mesopo tam ia at that time.

Th e first half of the thi rd m illennium in Mesopot ami a, which saw the in trodu ction of th e battle chariot, is also kn own as rhe Earl y D ynastic period. T he
mi litary impac t of the chariot was revolutionary. Its appearance cann ot be associated wit h any special city or kin g. It was in general usc, as a basic inst rum ent of
war, thr oughout Mesopotamia at this time.
Before describ ing its for m and the illustrations w hich appear on ancient
mon um ents, it is wo rth no ting that in one of the co mpara tive dictionaries of
the Sumerian and Accadian langua ges. there is a comp rehensive list of terms
rd ating to the chariot w hich almost certainly we re in lise in this peri od . In this
dictionary, abo ut a hundred terms are pr eserved which are conce rned with typ es
of chariots, ma terials of which th ey were m ade, chariot parts , w hips, and so on.
T here are terms for cha rio ts ma de of reeds, for th ose strengthened wi th metal.
and for the leather covering . Chariot parts listed in the dicrionary incl ude the
phtform, body, dust- shield, front , tail. po le. yoke, axle . and w heels. This detailed
terminolog y indicates both that the m an ufactur e of chariots was well developed
and that a wid e ran ge of types wa s in use, for bat tle, racing , and tr ansport. T he
abun dance of terms and the large nu m ber of chariot illustrations on ancient
monuments make it possible, w ith pleasing frequency , to identi fy the parts wi th
accu racv ,
Th~ legacy of illustrated m onuments w hich feature the chariot is ri~h and
varied . It includes drawings of cha riots (128); reliefs (t 30, 134) ; mosaics (1]2 - 133.
138- 139); and models (129, 130, 131, 1]2 ). Archaeolog ical excavations have also
brought to light parts of chariots, notably wheels and me tal por tions of the bo dy
(13 I). He re is what the archaeologist wh o excavated at Kish had to say about the
chariot parts he fou nd in tom bs belonging to th e Early D ynast ic period (see
accompanying d rawing).

The Chariot

" T hree of th e tombs contained chariot s. T wo two- wh eeled chariots, or

possibly one tw o- wh eeled and one fo ur-wh eeled . , , on ly . . . (on e) specimen
. . . could be studied in det ail. . . . To w ards the fro nt on each side of the pole ther e
were tw o pairs of skeleton s of equines w ith cheir leacher harnesses... . T he platform of th e cha riot was made of wood, 45 em s. wide , cerm inating at the rear ill
a second small platform surroun ded und er the back end by a copper band . 011
each side of the platform attached to th e tail stood stout spokes attached to an arc
band to prot ect the load of th e vehicle ftom rubbing against th e w heels. I am
unable to give th e leng th of the platfo rm, since it was totally decayed in front. T he
wheels fitt ed on to th e ends of the axles have a diam eter of 50 cms. Th e axles arc
90 ems. long and hove a diam eter of 8 cms. T he wheels we re kep t in position by
wooden pegs and ore made ofirr egula r pieces of boar ds held togeth er by transverse
boards attached to them by w oo den pegs.
" . .. T he copper nails of the felloes arc 4 em s. long and 2 cms. thick at the
head. Th ey arc dri ven inco the wo od obliquely and chere are abo ut 55 on the
cirru m tercnce, t'52 m eters in len gth ... ."

.-l l/rilll'illg 4 o1.!ollr-lI'J,,,t'1tJ d ,.lrio!

/;1.'111 Kishi J('sa ibcd 0 11 this page



T his qu otation underlines the point that information on the nature of the
ma terials and the deta iled measurements of the parts of a chari ot can be gained
only by an exam inat ion of its physical remains. We can n ow proceed to a review of
what we kn ow of th e chariot from illustrated m onume nts wh ich are enli ghtening
on m any addi tional details upon w hich the remains themselves are inevitably silent.
T here we re two basic rypes of battle chariots-two-wheelers and fourw heelers. Th is we kn ow not only from the above archaeologi cal discoveries but
also fro m ancient model s and mon umen ts. Th e battle chariot w hich appears in the
Stand ard of Ur (132-133) is a fo ur-w heeled vehicle, capable of carrying two
soldier s, the fighting man and his driver. A simila r chariot appears in the design
on the vase from Khafaj ah ( I ~ 8 ) . Th e lighter, two- wheeled chariot is the subj ect
of ancient models (129, 130), and pan of a relief on a limeston e plaqu e from U r
A solid wherl with noils of a chilriol (130) . T hese light chario t. also served , without doubt, on the battl efield , and were
from SlIsa probably used chiefly for com mand errands and communicati ons.
T he chariots w ere usually harnessed to four dr aft anim als. T hese were
apparen tly not hor ses but wild asses or onagers or some ot her anim al close to th e
ho rse breed. T he fact that four such anim als we re required sugg ests that they were
no t very robust, that the chario t itself must have been relatively heavy, and that its
traction system was not very advanced, so that the haul age powet of the beasts w as
not full y expl oited.
On the two-wheeled chariots, they had not yet succeeded in placing the axle
at the rear of the carriage , T his was no doub t due to th e weig ht of the chariot, fat
a rear axle would have pu t too heavy a load on th e anima ls. But this certai nly
meant that th ese vehicl es could not m aneuver at speed on tu rns. However, the
dan ger of ove rtu rning on a sharp curve was con siderab ly redu ced by linking the
wheel, to a lon g axle-rod so that they we re well clear o f the sides of the body. The
len gth of the axle-rod was dou ble th e wid th of th e carriage platfor m, 90 centimeters
toits 45. The w heels themselveswere all, witho ut excep tion , heavy , solid ,and spokeless, and were no doubt liable to bre ak when th e chario t took a curve at speed.
T o give the m greater strength, these solid wheels we re usually mad e not o f
a single woo den plan k but of several boards, either straight (129), fm ed side by
side with simp ly the edges curved to take the line of th e w heel, or crescent-shaped
(130) . Th e join of these boards with woo den pegs is characteristic of every repr esentation of these chariots in the mo numents of th e period. The rim s or " rites" of
the wheels were mostl y secured by nails (128- 129) which appe ar to have covered
some two-third, of th e surface of the tire. From the rem ains foun d at Kish, we see
tha t there were fifty nails, each wit h a z-cenrimcrcr broad head . cove ring a rim
wh ose circum ference was I! met ers. Th ese nails serv ed not on ly to strengthen the
w heel but also to give gt e;ter stability to th e chariot by actin g as studs w hich
gripped the eart h. O n occasion , instead of nails, th e w heel was fm ed with a
broa der rim to protect the wood on rough gro und (130 , 132-133) . Th e front of
the chario t was shielded by a high upright pane l which gave protection to the
soldiers fro m fronta l missiles.
Th is shows that th ese chariots were used mainly for direct assault on th e
enemy . and not for m ovement at medi um ranges along the flanks . M oreover, as

40 00-2 1 0 0 B. C .

we shall see later. the figh ting men in these chario ts were armed with the javelin
and spear and no t with the bow. w hich indicates that the securit y they required
was against weapons of similar m edium and short ranges.
T he reins, from the anim als' heads to the hands of the charioteer, passed
through two special rein guid es. T he rein guid es w ere gene rally tw o hoops o r
rings, one for th e right and one for th e left group of reins (131, 132-(33 ). T hey
were titled to the chari ot pole, w hich was either curved or straight , close to
the' yo ke. T his system prevent ed ent an glemen t of the reins and also no doubt
enabled the single charioteer to release them or tie them to the breast of the
charior (r 35) w hen he needed both hands to operate his weapon.
The carriage of the chariot was usually made of a fram e of woo den poles or
canes cove red wit h panels of wood or leather . At the rear of rhe heavy chariot was
an addi tiona l small platform , a kind of extension to the m ain platform , w hich gave
more roo m for the fightin g m an and enabled him to operate m ore freely without ,
jostling the driver. The ma in platform alone, j ust 45 centimete rs wide, wo uld not
have been enough to hold both dri ver and fighter stand ing side by side.
Th e four-wh eeled chariot offered more space for its two passengers; But its
nature certain ly gave it a reduce d speed and maneuverability over those o f the
rwo- wheeled vehicle.
Th e weap ons carried by the chariot were in the main a spear and a qu iverful
of javelins (132- 133, 135) and occasionally an axe. T he absence of the bow from
the armament of the Sum erian chario teer or even from tha t of the infantr ym an is
more instruc tive. For the bow. in the latest periods, was most definitely the
weapon of the chariot. Th is indicates that the bow, th e on ly accurate long-range
weapon , w as not yet in wide use during this perio d . It shows, too , that the primary
function of the Sum erian chariot was to charge and pan ic the enem y and en gage
him at m edium rang e with the help of the j avelins, and then at short ran ge wi th
the spear.
With all its shortcom ings, the Mesopo tamian chario t was assuredly a formidable and decisive instrument of wa rfare in this region. And it was used contiA Jrawing (If the llIo,Jd };OJII
nuously in its basic original form thr oughout the wh o le of th e third millennium
(131), O nly in the first half of the second m illenn ium did it und ergo a revo lut ionT,'1f .1g'.1o. q : ll9
ary development w hich tu rned it into an effective mobile firing platfo rm . Th is
change came wi th the mastery of the two basic problems of mobil ity and firepowe r.
Etiecrivc m obility was achieved with the discovery of the ligh t, spoked whe el and
the means of making a light bod y, whic h ma de possible the shifting of the ax le
to rhe rear, to give it maneuverabi liry. It was aided by the use of fast horses in
place of the fanner onagers. Strengthened firepo we r was pro vided by the



com posite bow . Strangely enough, the spear continued to be included, as a kind of '
third- millenni um hangover, amo n g the weapons ofthe charioteer in Mesopotamia
and neighboring lands even in the later periods, long afeer the bow had become
the principal arma men t of the chario t. As against this, th e spear was never one of
the weapons of the chario teer in Egy pt, where the chariot ma de its appe arance
only very muc h later.

WEAP O NS S HO R T -R AN GE and Hand-to-hand Fighti"g

The Mac"

It is perhaps natural that am ong the most im portant weapons used in handto-hand fightin g during Chalcolithic and the first hal f of the Earl y Bronze periods
(3500 to 2500 B.C. ), pride of place should have been taken by the mace , And indeed
the mace in its variou s forms was a weapon of muc h strikin g power in wide use
dur ing this period in all lands of the Bible, notably in th ose places and at those
times w here th e helm et had not yet made its appearance . Lon g after it had become
obsolete as a battle wea pon , the mace con tinued to serve as th e symbol ofauth ority
of the king and the god . Some of th e mo st interestin g specimens of ancient mac eheads are to be found in the Chal colit hic collection discov ered a few year s ago in
the excavations near Beer-sheb a. Even mo re specta cular are the magnific ent
varie ty bro ught to light by the Israel archaeo logical expedition to the caves of the
W ilderness ofJ udea, near Ein Gedi, in the sprin g of 1961. Many of them are made
of a ha rd, heavy sto ne, like hemati te, sim ilar to maceheads fo und at o ther sites
fro m the same period . (He m atite is a blood -colored stone containin g iron oxide.)
But the re were also many made of copp er (like th ose from Beer-sheba , 120).
Now in this period, copper was j ust becoming kn own. The face that m aceheads
were molded from copper is explicable only in ter ms of the high importance
. o f this wea pon, so m uch so that neith er resources nor effo rts wer e spared to
strengthen its stri king power.
These maceh eads, as in other countries, were ofthe socke t type, the hilt bein g
inserted into the head and tightened by strips of cord.
In Egypt, too , the mace was in wid e service. At th e beginning of the PreDyna stic period , a rath er strange typ e of macehead was found, shaped like a disk
and slightl y concave (120). This ty pe gradually disapp eared , as did m any other
weapons w hich were designed to fulfil two different funct ions and end ed up by
fulftlling neither. It is clear that th e designers of the disk-shaped (or saucer-like)
m acehead sou ght to ma ke it also a currin g instr umen t by giving it a sharp edge,
but this necessarily reduced its smi tin g po wer. Eventually they realized that the
tw o aim s cou ld not be achieved th rough a single instru me nt, and apart from
Pre-D ynastic Esyptiall saucer-shaped isolated exp erim ents here and there, they settled on the mac e for strikin g and the
maceheads axe for piercing and cm ting. And so, beginning with the latt er part of the PreD ynastic and continuing through the early part of th e O ld Kingdom, th e m aceheads were eith er pear-shaped or round (124- 12s ). Thes e maces were found in
excavation relics and are depicted in the m onuments of the period . Two of the

4000 -2 I 0 0 B . C .

mo st important monumen ts from the end of th e Pre- D ynastic perio d pre sent wit h
graphic clarity th e mace in th e act of operation bo th in hand-to-han d fighting
(116) and in hunting (119, top ). Thi s weapon was so chara cteristic of the time that
it even becam e the symbol of th e pha raoh 's migh t. T he cerem onial m acehead of
Kin g Scorpion (120), jus t befor e the Dynas tic peri od, is on e of the m ost int eresting art objects of ancien t Egypt. And at the beginning of the D ynastic period , the
pharaohs arc shown smiting their enem ies with a ma ce (10-1 I). These monuments
also show us th e shape of the hil t, whi ch was tapered toward th e head and
broadened at the base to prevent the weapon from flying out of th e hand w hen
sw ung. A further device to pre vent th e handl e from slipping was to bind it wi th
a rough cord (124).
In Mesopo tamia , too. we find the m ace in wide use du rin g th e Chalcolit hic,
Pro to-Litera te, and Early D yn astic periods. At first it was egg-shaped, then pearshaped, and finally it was fluted (rzo) . T his last type, w hich wa s also found in
Syria, succeeded in som e measur e in giving the m ace a cutti ng functio n wi th th e
sharp edges bet ween the grooves, wi thout redu cing its power to stun. T wo handsome ceremo nial maceheads, encrusted wit h precious stone s and gold, dat ing
back to 2500 B.C., are illustrated on page 142.
The mace, then , was an effective wea pon so lon g as the enemy was not
armor ed and his head, in partic ular , was unhelrneted. Bur as soon as he appe ared
on the batt lefield wi th these m eans of secur ity, ano ther wea pon had to be invented
which could be swu ng with force and which had th e pow er to pene trate. This
was the axe.
No weap on seem s to hav e taxed the inv entiveness of armi es and techn icians
more heavily th an the axe. An d none is so integral to the various tra ditions w hich
mark the character of these armi es. Th e period w hich best reflects the ingen uity of
the m ilitary artificer is the third millennium. This period saw the emergence of
every ty pe and prototype of axe wh ich was in use in all subseq uent per iod s rig ht
up to the end of th e Iron Age. Apart from the early experime nts in all lands of the
Bible with th e pr imitive stone axes, both single- and double-b laded (118, bottom
right-hand comer), the two main families of axe referr ed to in the Introduction ,
the tang type and the socket type , already appear in the first half of th e third
millennium. In this period , roo, we also find two distin ct functio nal for ms o f axe
- the axe for piercin g and th e axe for cutting.
It is no exaggeration to claim that one of the most rem arkable technical
achievements of th e Sumerians was th eir use of an axe with a pipe- like socket. its
blade n arrow , lon g, and very sharp-e dged. In this, th ey exploited to th e m axim um
the already existing prot otypes of such axes, as was recently shown by the dramatic
discover-y of a great number of copp er axes in a cave in th e Judean Desert , in the
Dead Sea in Israel (see pages 126-127). T he app earance of this ty pe of piercing
axe precisely am on g the Sumer ians and the Early D ynastic period is no accident .
For it is at th is tim e and in this land that we find our first evidenc e of a high-standard metal helm et (see page 49). Such helmets could be rend ered ineffective only
by a piercing axe which could be sw ung with force , by an axe , that is, whose

T vpcs ~r Early DylloHt;e Smnerion

s/ll k l't aXI 'S


40 00 -2100 B . C .


handle was very firmly attached to the blade. The Sumerian axeblade (134, 136,
137,139) was made of copper. It was long and narro w. getting slightly wider and
rounder near the edge. Its socket was rather like a pipe, and set at an acute angle, so
that the handle , whi ch fitted into it, sloped forward. To give a better grip and
prevent its slipping o ut of the hand , the handle was slightly curved toward the
bottom, where it was also thickened (137). The axe was the personal weapon of
the spear-carrying infantry (bottom of 134, top of 1]2 ) and of the charioteers
(bottom of 135, bott om of 1]2).
From the illustrated monuments and from the axeheads themselves which
archaeologists have brought to light, we are now familiar with their detailed
characteristics and their methods of use. The Sumerian axe continued to be used
right into the Aceadian period . particularly in Syria at the end of the third
millenni um, as we can see from the magnificent collection of axes discovered in the
celebrated tomb of Til Barsip (148). It underwent im provements from time to
time. There was the later addition of a small blade or a lub (in the form of an .
animal head) at the rear of the socket, which was accordingly shortened . And of
particular interest were the changes in the shape of the blade which made it a more
effective piercing instru ment. On occasion, the blade was much narrower and
tapered toward the edge, giving it almost the form ofa large peg (top left of 148).
This type, together with the beautiful axe of Naram-Sin-a long, narrow-bladed
weapon and a socket no longer in the form of a pipe-are the prototype of many
of the axes which appear in the Middle Bronze period, which we shall discuss
Another type of piercing axe in use at the time was the axe of Anatolia. This
could almost be called a double-bladed weapon. Its main blade, long and narrow,
was similar to the Sumerian blade. On the other side of the socket was a smaller
TIVOtpsiloll-shapl'dtang-typr axes
blade whose primary function was to add weight to the swing and to increase
jrom Palestine (Early Bronrc III.
thereby the penetr ation power of the first blade. Som e excellent examples of
26th-~J,J U III " ' )' B.C. ). Upper:
ceremonial axes of this very eype, made of precious stones and metals, were
Jericho. U IVcr: Tell d- H(j;
discovered in Tr oy at the end of the last century by the celebrated archaeologist
Schliemann in a stratum belongin g to the middle of the third millennium . More
recently, a similar collection was found in the royal tombs at Dorak, not far from
the southern coast of the Sea of Marmara, and they are even fmer and richer than
the Trojan axes. They can be more precisely dated because of the name of Pharaoh
Sahure wh ich appears on some of the objects found in the same tombs. This then
in the first half of the 25th centur y B.C. Drawings of these axes are to be found
on page 143.
Th e socker-rype piercing axe spread from Mesopotamia to several lands of
the Bible, but did not reach Egyp t. Egyptian armies always m ade do with the
tang- type axe, primarily a cutting instrum ent, even durin g much later periods
when they, too, had started using the piercing axe. But the rang-t ype cutting axe,
notably the triple- tang epsilon form , also made its first appearance not in Egypt
but ill Mesopotamia , Syn a, and Palestine. T his axe, as we have observed, was
strange to the conditions of warfare in Sumcr. Yet we have several examples from
that region and during the period under review, particularly duri ng the succeeding

Acc, dian period . T hus we fmd a tang-eype cuttin g axe in the hand of a soldier on
a monument of the period (151). T his, in fact, is similar in character to the
curved or sickle swo rd which. as we shall see, also had its origin in this period.
This axe, howev er, was not in wide use in this region, and its birthpla ce was
probably Syria and Palestine. T he best example of this kind of curved axe with
a well-made central tang was found at T ell el-Hesi in Palestine (149). It was found
at a time when the methods of archaeological excavation were not as developed
as they are today. and it was not possible therefore to date it definitely within the
third millennium. Out recently an identical type was,found inJericho , together with
porrery which was established as belonging to the Early Bronze III period (2600
to ~300 B.C. ) . Th is shows that the Palestinian relics were at least of the same period
as the Mesopotamian, o r even earlier. Additional examples of these axes from the
second half of the third millennium were discovered in Syria and southern Anatolia
(see also ' 50, right), and from there the eype spread to Egypt at the end of the
third and beginn ing of the second millennium (I H, ISS ).
It is wor th record ing that already in the Accadian period we find efforts to
strengthen the attachment of handle to blade in the epsilon type by adding
to the cent ral tang a vertical bar parallel to the handle. T his weapon, proto type of the socketed "eye axe" which appears in the beginning of the
Middle Bronze period, is comm only known, because of its shape, as the "anchor
axe ."

We have seen that, through out Egyptian history, the socket-ty pe axe was
never brought into use. This is explicable by the fact that, as we shall show , the
Egyptian axes in the third millennium were always wide-edged cut ting weapons,
and it was clearly difficult to fit such blades with a lon g socket. Moreover, it was
comparatively easy to attach the handle to the blade by means of a tang or by
cords run through holes in the tear of the blade. But this explanation does no t
meet the point that wh en the first piercing axe was introd uced into Egypt in a
much L1Ier period, even then it was sockctlcss, Perhaps the reason is to be found in
the conservatism of the ancient Egyp tians, which is also noticeable in other fields,
and in their laggardly absorption of new methods of warfare. But it may be also
that throughout the third millennium , Egypt had no need for a piercing axe. For
no evidence has been found of the use in Egypt or in its im mediate neighborhood ,
during the third millennium, of the helmet or coat of mail, against which a piercing
weapon would have been needed.
Th e cutting axe was an efficient weapon and WaS the standard type of axe
used in Egypt throu ghout the third millennium. We finds signs of early experiments to produce a hybrid weapon by fitting a metal blade to a macehead. but
they failed. In the first half of the third millennium, the axeblades were mostly
semicircular and often were fitted with lugs at the rear, on either side, to enable
the hand le to be boun d more firm ly. But starting from about 2500 B.C. we find
the gradual introdu ction of the narr ow blade, shaped like a slice of an orang e. T his
was attached to a woo den handle by cords w hich were drawn through holes in its
neck and fastened securely round lugs on either side.



I lit: l:' t:1U V U llt:t- V1U, A tl RA HA M

Th e siege and bat tle scene depicted on limestone in the tomb of Ant a, at
D eshashe in Upper Eg yp t (146), is m ost instructiv e on the functi onin g of the axe
in battle. It show s very clearly the shape o f the " slice axe" used by Egyptian
soldiers and it also shows how it w as used : it was sw ung w ith both hands an d
bro ught smartly down to delive r a sharp blow . In a scene fro m the wa ll painring
at Saqqa rah , the semicircu lar bladed axe is w ell dep icted. H ere it wa s used mainl y
for tearing down the w all of a besieged ciry (147).
The illustration of a triple-tang crescen t, o r epsilon, axe in the han ds of a
warrior, discovered on a fra gmen t of a ston e j ar , and attributed to the en d of th e
Pre-Dynastic period, is an anom aly. Even in Mesop ota mia and Palestine, it
app ears in a sligh tly later peri od , and in Egy pt itselfnot befor e the end of the third
millenn ium . For the mo m ent, we must reserve j udgme nt, for neither its or igin nor
th e method of its discovery is yet surliciendy clear.

The Sword


U nlike the mace and axe , w hose co m parative ly sma ll operative head or blade
co uld be easily attach ed to a long wooden handl e, the sword could be fashioned
only after a mastery of the art of producing hard m etals. For a long and tough
blade w hich would not break or bend on impact co uld be made from hard metal
alone. This technical limitation, tog ether wi th the existence of the mace and the
piercing and cutting axe, explain the time-lag behind the appearance of th e sword
as a decisive we apon of warfare in the third millennium.
When they did app ear during this period , the swords w ere usually straight,
doub le-edged, sharp. and very short, mo re like daggers designed mainly for
stab bin g (144- 145). Since they we re not mad e of hard meta l, there w as the
co nstant fear th at the y wo uld break or be blunted by a heavy blow. This, however,
was partly ove rcom e by thickening the center of the blade throughout its length,
giving it a protuberant spine (140. 141). The hilt was not an exte nsion of the blade
but was usually made of some other mate rial, either wood o r bon e, secured to the
blade by nails. This att achm ent wo uld have been ineffective wit h a w eapon that
needed to be swung downward, putting too grea t a pressure on the j oin, but
served this kind of sw ord, w hose function was stabb ing , so that hilt and blade
followe d th e same line of movement (145 ).
The sw ords shown on pages 140-145 are the most splendid and rypical specimens ever foun d in Mesopotamia, An arolia, and Palestine. The pommel was
ball-shape d o r carved into an anima l head , or, as we fou nd am on g the swor d s in
Ur (140, 141 ) and Alaca H iiyiik in An atolia, crescent-shaped . A sword wi th a
crescent -pommeled hilt would certainly no t be used for any thing mor e th an
stabbing. It is wo rth recording that amo ng this larg e collection are two swords
m ade of iron ! Not un natu rally, t hey are from Anatolia. For it was fro m here that
th e kno w ledg e of iro n spread to oth er lan ds of the Bi ble som e 1,200 years later.
AIso of intere st is th e fact th at the earliest obje ct made of iron was the sw or d. And
fo r hundreds of years there we re exh austive experim ents w ith ha rd metals to
fashion blades that wo uld be long er and tougher. T he iron sw or d of D or ak (145,
left ), for exa m ple, was very long , 75 centimeters. But on the wh ole, these swords
of iron are except iona l among the fmds of th e Bron ze Age in general and the third

4 0 0 0 - 2 I 00 B . C .

m illenn ium in particu lar , and were discovered again only at the end of the Bronze
Age, in the L~th cen tury .
In th e second half ofthe thi rd millen nium. th e earliest types of the sickle sw ord
make their de but. These we re the curved swords used fo r strikin g. They are clearly
depicted on relies fr om the Accadian period and th ey are perha ps th e w eapo ns
sho wn on some of the monuments from the Sum erian peri od. T his con clusion is
based on th e identificatio n of th e object held by the warrior at the left of the
relief from T elloh (136), in th e right han d of King Eann atum (135, low er
register), and by th e soldier from Ma ri (137). There is a scho ol of th ou ght w hich
holds that these o bjects are no t swo rds but hurling-dubs, like boomerangs. It is not
easy to be definite on th e poi nt. But I inclin e to the view th at all three are in fact
sickle sw or ds. T he curved sw ord made its appearance at the sam e time as the
crescen ted cutting ax e, and in m any ways they may both be regarded as seeking to
achieve the same aim . But w hile the axe comprised two compon ents- the handle
and the blade-w ith the concomi tan t problem of securing them firm ly tog ether,
the sickle sword was an attempt to solve it by fashioni n g bo th hilt an d blade fr om
the same bar o f m etal" T he serio us development of this w eapon began at th e
beginni ng of the Middle Bro nze Age, and we shall therefore be considering it in
a later chapt er.
T he mos t ancient monuments in our possession. belo nging to th e end of the
fo utth millennium, sho w that the spear, of good techni cal standa rd , w as already in
wide use at that tim e. It had a long staff tipped wi th a leaf-shaped blade which had
a protuberant spine. This was the weapon o f the w arrio r-hunter as dep icted on the
Egyp tian H unt ers' Slate Palette (118 and II 9. top ) and o n the black gran ite
stele from W arka (t i S). It was in co m m on use thro ughout the whole of th e third
millen nium , and of all the weap ons of th is perio d, it wa s the most effective for both
chariot and infan try charg es. It was th e basic w eapon of th e Sumerian (l p - I 33,
114). Th e Sum erian phalanx (see pages 49- 50) w as also basically eq uipped wi th the
long spear, w hich was shoulder-sloped on the ma rch (134. bot tom ) and car ried
horizontally during the assault (l p - I 33, IH- 135, to p). Indeed its impo rtance here
may be gauge d by the fact that a literal description of the illustr ations on Sumerian
monuments wo uld read like an acco un t of the role of the spear in the classic phalanx.
No t all the spearheads during the thir d millen nium w ere leaf-shaped . Int eresting examples of another kind are the th ree spearheads disco vered at T ell el-Hcsi
in Palestine- toge ther with a crescent axe-one of whi ch is sho wn on page 149.
The blade is long, spin ed , and tri an gular, and has tw o barbs at its base, to the rig ht
and left. T he length of the blade, 22 centimeters, is a clear indi cati on that this wa s
a spear and not a javelin. On the other hand , its bar bs-which made ext raction
difficult by the wound ed enem y-sugge st t~at in th e battle charge, thi s w eapon
was also used for hurli ng . In 1962, a group of similar w eap on s was fo und in Israel
between Ha ifa and Tel Aviv .
Th e spearhead had a tang, ending in a hook, whi ch w as fitte d into th e w oo d .
Th is problem of attac hin g blade to wood wa s solved in o ther wa ys d uring th e
secon d half of the th ird millennium. apart from th e less co mmon use of the socket.

The Spear and the j apeUI!

A pierced blade of a 5p t'aT ami reconsnwctrd l1U't Md of attachment




One way , ty pical and of special interest, was to pierce holes in the blade through
which a cord could be threaded. T his method was prevalent even at the beginning
of the second millennium, having originated in Anatolia in the second half of the
third millennium. Several examples of the pierced blade were found by Schliernann
in T roy, bur the finest were those discovered in the royal tomb s of Alaca Hiiyiik
(156). Th e long leaf-shaped blade ended in a long , slender tang that was bent
or hooked to enable it ro be fastened more securely to the woo d. This
improvement was a particular development of che beginning of the Middle
Bronze period, and we shall discuss it in greater detail later. T his cype of blade, so
easy co ident ify, ofiers an instructive means of tracing ethnic and military ties
during this period .
Th e Sumerian charioteers were bowless, Their compensation was the javelin.
Like the Canaanite and Egyptian chariots of a later period which were fitted with
arro w quivers, the Sumerian chariots were also equipped with quivers-but theirs
were for javelins. T his fearure stands out clearly in all the monum ents in which the
chariot is depicted, notably in the vase from Khafajah ( I ~ B) , the relief from
Ur (130), the Standard of Ur (132-133), and especially in the chariot of Eannaturn
(135). Page 1]4 shows a javelin-blade found at Ur .


Tile B OIl'

Th e bow is depicted on many monuments belonging to the end of the fourth

millennium covering the Late Pre- Dynastic period in Egypt and the Proto-Literate
period in Mesopotamia. The illustrations show a radical difference ill the shape of
the bow in the two countries. In Egypt it was decidedly double-conv ex in shape.
T he Mesopotamian bow was a single-arc weapon.
In Egypt the bow appears in the hands of som e of the warrior-hunters in the
Hunt ers' Slate Palette (119, top) and also as an inscribed sign a ll a cylinder seal
from the same period (118). The bow was not composite. For the ends of its arms
incline toward the string and not outwa rd. Moreover, it is not easy to imagine that
the people of so early a period could have produced a compo site bow of the
double-convex form, the height of perfection of the compos ite rype. On the other
hand, the double-con vex form shows that they had already discovered this device
for bringin g the weapon under greater tension .
Th e two arcs wer e sharply convex ; their outer ends wer e close to the ends of
the string ; and the grip was very wide. These fearures led several scholars to
suggest that the arms of this bow were made of animal horns, bound to a short
bar-the grip in fact-at their roots. It is true that J very small number of bows
with bodies made of hom have been found in Eg ypt. BUl these are only votive
models. and otler no j ustification for the inference that the functional bows were
made of hom and not wood. Besides, a hom bow would not be pliable. The best
assum ption is that if animal horns were used at all, they were attached to the ends
of the woode n arm s to give them a sharper curve. This wo uld not reduce the
pliability of the wo od, but would make it mor e convex.

4 0 00 -2 1 0 0 B . C .

The hunt er's bow from Mesopotami a's Warka stele (r rs) , on the other
hand, was an almost semicircular single-arc weapon whose ends after meeting the
string, curve conspicuously upward . Th is, too , is a simple and no t a composite
bow, despite the tendency of its arms to straighten themselves near the ends. Th e
thickness of its body suggests that the pow er of this bow was achieved by the use
of J particularly hard and thick woo d, or perhaps by the lamination of several
scrips of woo d, curning ir in fact into a reinforced bow. T o prevent the string from
slipping off the body, the ends of the arms were curved. perhaps with the help of
animal horn .
Thearrowsasdepieted both in the Hunt ers' SlatePalette andon the Warka stele'
were fork-head ed and were no doubt made of flint, like the arrowheads found in
archaeological excavations. Thi s kind of arrow was used noc only for hunting but
also for fightin g, as is evident from an Egyptian fragment of a palette depicting the
body of a Semite pierced by a fork- headed arro w (119).
The bow , as we have observed , was no t used by the Sumerian anny. But irs
usc by the arm ies of oth er lands of the Bible during this period. and later also in
Mesopotami a, is evident fro m several monuments . On e of the most enlightening
is the siege and battle scene from Deshashe in Egypt (146). from wh ich we learn
the type of bow used by the Semites defending themselves inside the fortified city
and also fighting outside it. This bow is definitely double-convex , and is not
composite. T he Egyptian bow does not appear on the parts of this monument
which have been preserved. Bur since their enemies are depicted with their bodies
fnll of arrows, the assump tion is clear that the Egyptians. roo, used bow s in addition to their cutting axes. Moreover, the poseure of the Egyptian soldier to the left
of the ladder on page 146 is obviously that of an archer aiming his bow at the to p
of the wall. In fact, there arc some fragments of reliefs from this period which show
clearly the shape of the Egyptain bow, which was rather similar (146, bottom left).
Most important of all the monuments showing the development of the bow in
general and in the third millennium in part icular is the celebrated victor y monument
of the Aceadian king Nar arn-Sin. Here we have' the very first representation of
the comp osite bow in the history of ancient weapons. And it is a singularly welldeveloped instrument.Th e King (I SO, left) is equipped wit h a battleaxe, and carries
a bow in his left hand and an arrow in his right. T he bow , which is depicted with
detailed accuracy, bears the two characteristic features of the composite weapon ;
it is small- about 90 centim eters from end to end (an estimate based on its relationship to the size of the figure holding it ); and its arms tend to recur ve near the ends
and then become straight.
The comp osite bow is shown on another monument, from the Accadian
period ( lS I , left), this time in action. Unfortu nately only part of this stele is
preserved, but it is possible to not ice that tho ugh the bo w is under maximum
tension, its arms still curve o utward slightly. T he fact char the deified king is
represented with the bow ind icates the Accadian pride in this weapon. And it is
perhaps this bow, mal e than any other weapon, which explains the interesting
historic phenomenon whereby the Accadians were able to conquer and gain
dominion over Mesopotamia and to penetral<' distant regions righ t up to the



Mediterr anean. It is indee d no exag get atio n to sug gest th at th e, in ve ntio n of the
compo site bo w with its co m paratively long ran ge wa s as rev olutionary, in its day ,
and br ought comparable results, as the discover y o f gun po w der thousand s o f
years later.


Th e d ifference bet w een the tech nical achievem ent s ofthe w arr io rs of M esopotamia and th ose of th e Eg yptian sol d iers is one of the n o table features ofany rev iew
of the m eans o f w arfare in the thi rd mi llennium . The di fference w as not on ly in th e
achieveme n ts th em selves but no tab ly in the ir ch aracter , w it h M esop otamia register in g ad vanced devel o p men ts in the m ean s o f m obil ity and firep o w er. Firepo w er
in M eso potam ia w as n ow a mo st efficie nt pier cing axe and th e co m posite bow.
This indi cat es tha t co n d itions in the land m ade th em necessar y , and th at the m ean s
o f perso nal protecti on w ere first devel op ed th ere to such a d eg ree as to be proof
againsr suc h w eapons as the simple bow, the m ace, the cuttin g ax e, and th e
stabbing sw o rd . Durin g this very p eri od , while M esopotamia w as making gr eat
progress in the fashion in g of mea ns o f protection, th ey were, ap art from th e shiel d ,
almost co m pletely ab sent in Egypt.

The Slridd

T h e per son al shield w as no d ou bt in use fro m a very earl y period . It alread y

ap pears on a w all paintin g from th e Lat e Pr e- D ynastic period (1I 7, bo tto m right )
w here, in th e du el, the soldier o n th e left is shown beari n g a rath er large shield ,
m ade o f an ima l hid e str etched on a w ooden fram e. Several of the w arrior-hunters
on the Egyptian Hun ters' Slate Palett e arc carr y ing o bj ects w hic h so m e sch ol ars
believe to be o val shi eld s (II 8, bottom ).
It was cer tain ly in use during th e Earl y Kingdom, where its sha pe w as
apparentl y rectangular , if we are to j ud ge by the h ieroglyphic signs fo r " to fight ."
This design sho w s hand s holding a m ace and a m edium-size shield. A t all events , by
the end o f the th ird mill enniu m, th e to p of th e shield begins to be ro unde d an d end
in a p oint, as we sh all explain in th e n ext ch apte r. B ut o f special interest is the fact
that in th e ba ttle picture from D eshashe (146) th e shield d ocs not appear at all.
Ve ry diffe ren t is the sto ry in Mcsop o rarnia . O ur m o st imp or tant so urce here,
as for m au l' o ther im plem ents of wa r, is the celeb rate d Stele of Vultures fro m
Telloh (134-135). In th e top panel, we find for th e first time a phalan x of six ro ws
(see bel ow ) o f hea v ily ar me d soldi er s, wh o carry a lar ge rec tang ular shield w hic h
co ve rs th em irom neck to ankl e. T he m at eri al o f w hich it wa s made ca nnot be
det er m ined . But from its size and shape it is pr esum ed to have been o f w ood and
covere d wi th h ide. T he hide ma y h ave been stu dded WIth m etal disks for
stren gt h ening. The six circles w hich appear on the shield s sy mb o lize the six
so ld iers-one in each ro w- (similar to the six spears ), and th is sug gests th at each
shield had a me tal d isk o n its b reast . The Eg yp tian shields d nr in g th e period of the
New Kin gdo m were sim ilarly str en gthen ed.

-1- 0 0 0 - 2 J 0 0 B. C.

The shield wa s not th e sol e m eans to protect the bo d y of the Sum eri an soldier.
From the inla id shell panel fr om the tem pie of Ishtar at M ari (I3 8- 139), and particularly from th e Stan da rd o f Ur (132-133 ), we learn that th e Sume rian troo ps
wore a sleevel ess cape w h ich fastene d at the neck . It is clear that this ca pe w as a
1~)[111 o f armo r, parti cu larl y as it was studded wi th sm all circular pieces of m et al ,
.l kind of early experim ent in the production o f a coa t o f m ail. T h iscape of m ail
' L IS appa ren tly design ed ag ains t an ene m y arme d on ly w ith a n on- compo site bow
" ho se arro w s w ere un ab le to pene tr at e it . B ut ir is pr o bable th at it w as pro of also
.lga inst the j avelin an d spe ar.

A n ll,>r

The m eans o f protect ion w ith which th e Sumerian wa rr io r is m ost definitely

.rssociarcd is the m etal helme t. T his is ve ry w ell depi ct ed in th e Stan dard of U r,
the Stele o f Vultures, an d th e in laid pa nel s fro m M ari (138- 139) . It wa s sligh tly
poin ted an d covered bo th the ca rs an d back o f th e neck . This ty pe o f h elmet, wi th
slight cha n ges, w as also fo und in th e excavation s at Ur, co ve rin g th e sku lls o f
b urred bodies. Such h elm et s w ere also w o rn b y the kin gs, and h ad a recess in th e
tear fo r the hair and plaits. Belonging to th is typ e is th e cerem onial gold helmet
fr tlm Ur. And it is also sho w n on th e co nc h p laque fro m Mari (137) and th e
Std e of Vultu res (134- 135) . The Arc ad ian so ldier s w or e helmets sim ilar to th e
Sum erian , as w e see fro m th e m onuments o f N aram- Sin (150) an d fro m the fragm cnt o f th e Accadi an ste le sh own on pa ge 15I.
The co ex istenc e o f pi ercing axe s and hig h ly d ev elo ped hel m ets is m ost
in tere st in g . It is an excellent illu str atio n of th e recipro cal reaction betw een
fire powe r an d defens e.

The H cimet



~ ~


The illu strati on s of w arfare in o pe n terrai n durin g th e per iod und er review
ale spa rse. Hu t w h at th er e is, is rich in con tent an d d eta il, un m at ch ed by any
an cien t m on um ent earli er th an rhe p eri od of the N ew Kin gdo m in E gyp t. The
rwo m os t im portant m on um en ts o f o ur period arc o f co urse the Standard o f Ur
and the Stele o f Vultur es, w h ich hav e alread y served as references in o ur stu d y o f
indiv idua l w eapons. Bo th th ese monumen ts reveal that in o pen battl e infa n tr y and
vhariors fun ct ion ed in close h ar m o ny .
The structu re of th e in fan tr y un it du rin g the action phase o f ch argin g th e
,'nem y is rem arkab le for its m eth odi cal an d discipli ned o rganization, and pr ima rily
It)! its use o f th e d eep ph alan x. The sold iers ad va nced und er the pr o tec tion o f
recta n gu lar shields , their spe.m th ru st [o rw ard at the ho rizo nt al.
W h at wa s th e st ruc ture of th e ph alan x , T h e answer is pro blem at ic, for it
lk pcnds on o ur und erstan d in g o f th c schemat ic co nv en tio ns l)f th e- Sume rian artist
m the Stele o f Vu ltu res. If we tak e h is design ttl represent a side v iew o f th e x o n t!Jl".- m arch, then what we have is a m ilit ar y uni t m o ving for ward in
" colum n of six files with ele ven men in each fde (som e are depicted on the narro w

Battle ill
Opm T errain



side of the stele which is not shownj-s-possibly ten men and an officet or NC O.
In such a case, the formation would present itself for battle by a right or left tum
order, which would offer a phalanx front six ranks deep. This conclusion is also
supported by the assumption that the artist in fact sought to show the front
presented by a unit , but depicted the warri ors in a side view . It is reasonable to '
conclude that this was th e intention. For if n ot, the phalanx would be charging
with a narrow front of six soldiers to a depth of eleven ranks, a structure which
wo uld not enable the unit fully to exploit its firepowe r.
T he phalanx assuredly went into action in the immed iate wake of the chariot
charge or simultaneously. Since the armament of the chario t, as we have seen
earlier. was largely medium- or short-range. it may be presumed that soon afier "
the chariots had confused, scattered, and rrampeled the enemy by storm ing
through their ranks and used their javelins to wound and kill, the phalanx would
follow up the charge from the flanks or the cent er and finish the battle with their
piercing axes and spears. Th is integrated functioning of chariots and infantry
org anizcd in a deep phalanx was possible largely on level grou nd. And indeed it
is on such terr ain that we first find them in ope ration .
Had the Sumeria ns been able to add to this battle formati on a long-r ange
archery unit operating from the rear and the flanks, they wou ld certainly be
entitled to the credit of having achieved near perfection in the art of battle in open
terrain in the first half of the third millennium in Mesopotamia. But this decisive
addition was the contri bution of their successors, the Accadians, and indeed it was '
the integration of the archers which broke up the skillful patterns of the earlier
battle machine.
Against all this, how primit ive is the form of battle. particularly the duel,
shown in the representation of open battle in the monument from Deshashe (146)
to th e left of the siege scene!
O nly more than 1.000 yeats later do we find a monument depicting a battle
scene in which chariots, phalanx of infant ry armed with spears and swords. and
long-range archers operate together in full coordination . This was a portrayal of
one of the most imp ortant battles in early history, the battle between the Egyptians
and the Hitt ites.

Battle 0 11 Fortified Cities


After a gap of almost 4 .000 years. there is evidence of the establishment of

fortified cities in all the lands of the Bible at the end of the fourth and particularly
at the beginning of the third millennium . Thi s feature signalizes with out doubt the
beginning of the historic periods and the emergence of powerful kings who
succeeded in bringing extensive regions under their domination. It is also a marked
indication of the reciprocal comm ercial cont acts between the different peoples at
the time, and, no less important. of their military contact .
The re was a combination of compelling forces which led to the construction
of powcrful fort ifications for the defense of cities at the beginning of this period.
Th ese were, in the main , the concentr ation of wealth in the cities, partl y from
agricultur e and partly from comm erce; expansionist aims of a well-o rganized
people of one land and their encroachment upon spheres of influence of other





kingdoms; and the presence of wandering tri bes. large and stron g, w ho drew their A Late Pre- D vnosiic slate pa l.:tI~
livelihood not only from their cattle but from predatory incursions into the ' ",ith Jt'pjctj(lll of couqll(wl fortified
dries (the Cities Palette)
cultivated fields of the settled population.
The existence of central authority, anxious to safeguard his lines of com munication both to advance his own offensives and to blunt the attacking power of his
enemies. led to the siting of fortified cities and fortresses, beginning with this
period. not only in accordance with the economic and military needs of the
ind ividual cities but with overall strategic considerations. Fortified cities and
fortresses were built to comm and imp ortant highways. centers of water, and
frontiers. Central direction led to more standardized planning of all for tifications.
And the aggressive designs of powerful empires upon distant regions made it
essential to construct torrificari ons able to withstand attack not only from imm ediate neighbors but also. and for the most part. from nations farther away.
Remains of stron g fortifications bd onging to the beginnin g of the third
millennium have been found in almost all the large city mounds of antiquity which
have been excavated. Bur since these relics were naturally at the lowest and
deepest levels of the tells, only small and narrow sections of the fortifi cations wer e
accessible to the archaeologists. As a result. wc have specific know ledge of the
materials wit h which they were built. the thickness of the walls. and other technical details. Bur we have on the who le no such specific data on their plan. T his
gives particular importance to the designs of fortified cities which appear on
several monum ents from the Late Pre-Dynastic and the Ist Dyna sty in Egyp t.
Unlike the artists of later period s. from the Middle Kingdom up to the Assyrian
period, wh o generally present their cities in elevation, the early Egypt ian artists
depict their cities in plan. giving as it wc re a bird' s-eye view .
Th e one that sheds most light on OUt subject is certainly the celebrated Palette
of King Narmer ( 12 2 , (24). who was probably the found er of the first united
dynasty of Egypt . Th e King himself appears on the palette in two scenes, once
wearing the crown of Upper Egypt and once wearing the crown of Lower Egypt.




T his palette, which also bears the first clear signs of the beginn ings of Egyptian
w riting, contains scenes whose meaning has been rhe subject of much controversy.
(A description of each side of the palette accompanies the plares in this book.) The
assumpri on of most scholars has been that the palette is dedicated solely to the
unification of Upper and l ower Egypt under the rule of Narm er, and its scenes
therefore were assumed to be illustrations of his victories in various parts of the
country. Th e ent wined serpent necks of the two anima ls, shown in the mid dle panel
on page 122, are thus interpreted as symbolizing the subjug ation and unification of
the two partS of Egypt . But none of this discussion sheds light on the problem
w hich concerns us, and that is, wh at was the character of the fortified cities which
N arrner destroyed or whose citizens he conquered!
At the bott om cente r panel on page 122 the King is depicted in the guise of a
bull battering a strongly fortified ciry with hishorns. The ciry isoval-shaped, its wall
studde d by several square bastions. The coun rerpart scene on the reverse (t24) of
the palette shows, in the bott om panel, tw o enem ies whose identity is symb olized
by the artist's plan of the cities to which they belong or their characteristic dwellings. Above the enemy on the left is the plan of a square ciry, studded on all sides
by n umerous basrions. T his rype of bastion-strengthened fortified ciry is similar to
man y which appear on other ancient palettes, such as the palett e on page t 23, or
the one whi ch is shown in the drawing on page 51.
These illustra tions, on their own , do not contradict the theo ry that all scenes
from the Narmer Palett e record battles which took place inside Egypt ; for we
know tha t during this period, Egypt boasted fortifi ed cities. But how then can one
explain the special for m of structur e which appears above the enemy on the right
in the scene o f the two enemies? It com prises tw o separate cleme nts: (a) a semicircular stru ctur e, and (b) two very long w alls leading out from it like the arm s
of a fan, with a j o-degree angle betw een them. Th ese walls have neither bastions
no r battlem ents. And the artist seems to have wished to stress their difference from
the wall round the semicircular structure which is marked by several thin lines.
Now this structure has no parallel in Egyp t. No r have Egyprologists been able to
identify it as a hieroglyphic or a pictog raph from amo ng the known signs in
Egypt . On the other hand, it seems to me, there is a strikin g similariry betw een it
and structures east of the Jorda n and in the W adi Arava south of the Dead Sea,
close to the celebrated King's W ay which passed through this region and which
linked Egyp t with Trans-Jordan, Syria, and Mesopo tamia, paralleling the sea route
w est of rhe Jordan. In this eastern region, a large numb er of stone structures were
found which, because of their shape, were called by modern archaeologists " kites."
These kite-shaped desert enclosures (124) are identical in form with the structure
depicted in the Narrn cr Palette, and they too consist of two distinct parts-the
semicir cular enclosure and the two long walls running off it , often indeed, as long
as 400 met ers, and without bastions or towers. On the other hand, the enclosure
itself did have " nests" and turrets at the poin ts where they were j oined by the two
walls which show ed unm istakably that it was intend ed as a defense fortification.
How did it funeti onl
O pinions vary . But the prevailing view w as that these kite enclosures were

400 0 -210 0 B . C.

established by wanderin g shepherd tribes, who tended their flocks near by. W hen
danger threatened, they qu ickly corralled thei r flocks between the tw o long walls
and drove them through the semicircular fortified enclosure, from whose turrets
they were able to maintain effective defense. T his view has received endorsement
recently with the discovery in Trans-Jo rdan of a graffito fro m the Safaitic period,
which clearly shows horne d animals being dr iven into the enclosure (124). From
this graffito we learn that these stru ctures wer e also in use in later periods.
If the above thesis is correct, then the Narmer Palette and the archaeological
fmds in Trans-Jordan offer us very rare examples of a form of for tification built
not for the defense of a ciry but of hunters, nomads, and sheph erds. It also means
that the Narme r Palette depicts not only the King' s victories inside but also outside
Egy pt. To come back to our scene of the tw o enemies, the kite struc ture on the
right thus represents the King's dom ination , or stru ggle to dominate, or perhaps
only the aim of dominating , the King's W . y in the east. It may be then presumed
that the enem y figure on the left with his fortified city signifies the domin ation , o r
desire to dominate, the area west of the J ordan. Moreover, the possibility cannot
be excluded that the oval-shaped forti fied city with its bastions together w ith the
serpent-necked animals which appear on the palett e represcnt not the record of
a victory in Egypt but the expr ession of an expansionist aim or perhaps a closer
association with Mesopotamia and her cities. For during this period, animals with
their serpent necks entwined was a widel y used symbo l in Mesop otamia. And in
Mesopota mia in this period there existed strong forti fied cities like Warka. .
The theory that Narrner invasion fo rces reached Palestine was strengthened
very recently when a potsherd was found in one of the southern Palestinian cities,
T ell el-Manshieh, on which the name of Pharaoh Narm er was incised (see figure
on this page). Incidentally, at this tell the remains of a very well-built brick wall
we re revealed, including rectan gular bastions belonging to the same period .
Even more im pressive are the fo rtifications of the same period recently discovered at T ell el-Far' ah (northern Palestine, Biblical T irzalu ]. He re was found
not only a ciry wall with square bastions, but also a magnificent ciry gate-unique
for Palestine- flanked by two pro truding towers wit h empry spaces inside them .
T hese spaces were, I believe, inten ded for ladders or wooden staircases, to enable
the defenders to climb up to the upper parts of the towers . The gate, with its
protruding towers is no t unlike the gates of Tr oy, discussed on page 57.
We can see, therefore, that already from the beginning of the Egyptian
Dynas tic periods, the cities of Palestine were endangered by military attack from
Egypt and perhaps also from other nations to the north . T his is certainly one of the
principal reasons why almo st every tell excavation in Palestine lays bare relics of
powerful fort ifications from the Early Bronze ages, which are equivalent to the
Early Dynastic periods in Egypt.
We have mentioned tha t so far archaeological excavations have failed to
uncover very large sections of these fortifications because of technical difficulties
associated w ith the process of excavating. But the small sections which have been
uncovered in such ancient cities as Megidd o, Bcrh-yerah, Gczer, Jcricho, and Ai,
.and now also T ell el- Manshich , enable us to follow their method of construction.
. ~.

." ar/l/er'5

fl ,W lt'

j"n'seJ (ltj a potsherd

recently in the' UVTlhcf/l .\JegeIJ ,

ill the southern pare oj Israel



Plan of U )lIJTl

4 the Early Broil;;:"

i)ftifi (ariol/S m Ai, sltarllil/,I! a semicircular bastion

Th e fortifications were built ofbrick or stone, depending on the materials available .'
near by, and often wirh a combination of both-bricks upon a foundation layer of
stone. The walls were very thick, a thickness indeed of several meters, which was
far greater than was required if the purpose was simply to prevent their being
breached by the prim itive methods available at the time . Th e real purpose of the
thickness was to enable the walls to be built high enough to prevenr the enemy
from scaling th em with ladders. Th e construction of these thick high walls of
brick or undr essed stone required special care and special methods to make them
proof against collapse by earthquake or even by local breach. Th ey were therefore
often built in vertical sections, one /lush against the oth er, without being bonded,
so that the destruction of one section wo uld not bring down others with it. Th e
bastions and tow ers, whose military role has already been described, also served
the technical function of bolstering the walls.
M uch ofimportance can be learned of the history offo rtifications and methods
of attack upon them dur ing the third millennium from the siege scene on the
monument of Deshashe (146), which has already served us to illustrate the axe and
the bow. Th is monu ment, from the second half of the third millennium , is one of
the few belon ging to the period of the O ld Kingdom in Egy pt which deals with
military subjects. And it is the only monument extant from this period which
depicts . fortified city under attack.
The city on the right is oval in plan, and its princip al interest lies in the semicircular bastions which protrude markedly from its walls. Judging from the
portraits of its inhabitants, this wo uld seem to be a Palestinian city. And, indeed,
relics of semicircular bastions belonging to this period have been found at archaeological digs in Palestine as well as in Mesopo tamia. A very fine specimen was
discovered in one of the walls of Jericho from the third millennium . It was 2' 5
meters in diameter and was clearly capable also of support ing without difficulry
a balcony from which the defenders could direct vertical fire upon the attackers
below. Similar semicircular bastions were also found on the walls of the city of
Ai belonging to the Early Bronze Age (see figure to the left on this page).
It was possible to exploit such bastions to the full only when the defenders
were equipped with elfective bows. And, as we have observed in an earlier chapter,
the field of fire comm anded by the semicircular bastion was well suited to this
weapon. The Deshashe siege scene sho ws quite dearly that the defenders were
indeed armed with the double-con vex bow, albeit not of the com posite type.
PIa"0/4(a mily JiSCtH'~n'Jf("'ifieJ city gate. from Teil el-Farah
(Bi/JIi(al TirztJlt?) 4 ,he fi rst IttJlf of the third mil!rn llilHtI B.C. To th,
pn'pMd reconstruction pr(pdred IJy the {'XCdl'ilt"r, Roll1fld J( Vaux ,
I dlMfd a series of staircases U'ithin the toU'ers

_ ......_,jf

4000 -2100 B .C .

Th e combination of a well-designed bastion and an effective bow was born

of rhe need to find some defense against an enemy that did not limit his attem pted
assault to scaling the wall but sought also to breach it. Again, the Deshashc monument provides not only the earliest illustratio n of the semicircular bastion, whose
development in the beginning of the second millenniu m we shall discusslater, but
also of combined attack upon a wall both by scaling and by breaching the gate.
While ladders against the wall are being climbed under covering fire from archers,
a technique we shall come across in the later periods, other attackers, in an interesting action, are shown trying to breach ehelefi co rner of the wall. Thi s is precisely
the corner where the bastions are built very close together, and was.probabl y the
site of the gate-always the weak spot in the fortifications and always the focus of
attempts to break through. The breach was not yet effected by the battering-ram '
-the earliest exampl e of this implement , and a very primitive example it is,
appears only at the beginning of the second millennium- but with the help of
spears or long poles which wer e thrust into the wall by the soldiers. Their commander is shown at their side, directing their operation or perhaps the tempo of
their actions. Indeed some of the " spear" blades recently foun d between Tel Aviv
and Haifa-which were already mentioned-may have been, to judge by their
The.fon of Hacilar in Asia Minor
immense size, blades of such long poles. .
A more pri mitive method of tearing down a wall is presented in the second
Egyptian monument belonging to the next century, the wall painting wh ich
appears on page 147. Here the soldiers are shown bartering at a wall with axes
while standing on a ladder. Too method was effective against walls built of brick
or mud and even continued to be used in the first millennium w hen the advanced
rypes of bartering-ram were already available to the attacker .
The most remarkable development revealed in this wall painting is the nature
ofthe scaling-ladder. It rests on tw o solid wheels. This is the only example we have '
in an ancient monument of a mobile assault ladder which we know to have been
in use in the lands of the Bible. The wheels were not designed to facilitate movewell! of the ladder from one part of the wall to anoth er. This could be accom- .
plished either by being carried or by the provision of several ladders. It seems
reasonably certain that they played a part in the breaching operation, enabling the
ladder to be pushed gradually closer and closer to the wall while it was being
battered. At the beginnin g of the ope ration, the top of the ladder would be against
the wall and its base at some distance, form ing an acute angle with the ground. As
the breaching work pro gressed, it would be pushed for ward, the angle at the base
widening until the whole ladder was close to the wall. The method of keeping it
stable is well illustrated in the scene. To the right of the ladder, a soldier is seen
sticking a bar into the ground to prevent the wheels from rolling. Th e soldier on
the left holds the ladder to stop it from falling while his comrades batter away
with their axes.
Th is study on the fortifications of the third millennium wo uld be incomplete
without a derailed mention of the celebrated Trojan fortifications in north west
T urkey. Th anks to the most recent excavations in Anatolia, in 1958-1959, we now
haw definite proof that even during the Chalcolithic period , at the end of the fifth



and during the fourth millennium, there were settlements surrounded by walls
which may be described as reasonably fortified citadels. Places like Mersin,
Beycesulran, and Hacilar can shed important light on the history of fortifications in
this early period. Especially worthy of mention is the interesting citadel of HaciIar
which was excavated in 1958, belonging to the last period ofsettlement on this site
of many strata. From the knowledge now in our possession, the archaeologist
I. Mellaart was quite right when he declared that "So far, Hacilar is unique in the
Ncar East." (The fortifications of Jericho are very much earlier, while those of
Mersin belong to the latter part of the period under rcview.)
We have not enough to go on as yet to reconstruct the plan of the Hacilar
fortifications beyond indicating that the walls were 2 meters thick, are built of
brick, and enclosed a number of chambers. But despite their importance in the
history of settlement and fortificarions in the fifeh and fourth millennia, these walls
and citadels cannot be compared even faintly to the magnificent fortifications of
Troy in the third millennium. Since the excavations of Schliemann and Dorpfeld,
more archaeological digs have been carried out at this site in the last few years by
Blegen. And we now are in a position, for the first time, to understand the plan
of the fortifications and to be able to date them, both relatively and absolutely.
The excavations brought to light several series of fortifications of ditferent
periods and an even greater number of buildings of diflerent phases and strata
inside the city. We shall confine ourselves in this study to an outline ofthe principal
phases in the plans of the fortifications. We can say right away that these are not
the fortifications of a densely populated city but of a large citadel. The diameter of
the earliest citadels was not more than 80 meters, and even the large citadel during
the third millennium, at its peak construction in Stratum IIe, had a diameter not
more than 120 meters. The wall of Troy I in its middle phase is already distinctive in that it broadens toward the base, forming a kind of glacis. Its lines are f1usq
and unmarked by any sign of bastions. Its gates are still quite primitive-a narrow
passageway between two towers.
There is a further improvement in the first fortification of Stratum II. The
gate is still a narrow opening between two towers, though these have now been
considerably extended on the outside, giving them the appearance of two
lengthened walls. But the main wall of the citadel, at least in one section, now
Truy I

Troy II. Note


particular the tIVO

city gates discussed


0/1 IlCX[


4000-2100 B.C.

comprises a series of very strong bastions built on a sloping base. The bastions are
JO meters apart, 3 meters thick, and project 2 meters from the wall. The wall itself
is built of bricks upon a limestone foundation. The foundation in some places is as
high as 8 meters from ground level, and its slope is not very steep. Later, when
larger stones were used for building, the slope became much steeper.
The most interesting change of all appears in a later phase of citadel II, and
reaches its highest stage of development in the celebrated phase IIe, when the city
fortifications were at their peak during the third millcnniurn. This was the change
in the forms of the gate (see illustration) which was converted into a self-contained
structure with inner pilasters. In front of the entrance is an open square protected
by a wall on the right and on the left. From the square one reached the gate itself,
which was built just inside the city. Its roof was supported by four pilasters, two
on either side. In many important particulars this gate is like the gates of the
Middle Bronze period in Palestine and Syria, as we shall see later, and it is the most
ancient example of this type.
All the phases of the fortifications of Troy I and II belong to the third
millennium, ranging from the beginning to the end of that period. We are not yet
in a position to associate with any precision this type of fortification with those in
other lands of the Bible. But they show that also in Anatolia, as in the other
Biblical lands, significant achievements were registered in the construction of
fortifications in the third millennium.

This millennium was a period ofextraordinary military activity which brought
in its wake innovations and developments in basic branches in the art of warfare.
They were to have an important impact on warfare in the second and first millennia,
notably in two major fields: battle in open terrain, with chariots and the infantry
phalanx; and powerful fortifications and the early attempts to breach them. The
composite bow, which began to appear in the second half of the third millennium,
continued to be perfected, and proved decisive in many battles both in open
torr-am and in siege. This acute military activity came to an end in the last centuries
of the millennium. All lands of the Bible seemed to go into decline some earlier,
some later. The Accadian empire in Mesopotamia collapsed. Catastrophic fire
consumed the proud fortifications of the second citadel of Troy with its bastions,
towers, and walls. The Old Kingdom in Egypt tottered and fdl. And the fortresses
of Early Bronze Palestine and Syria were destroyed. This was a "decline and f,ll"
period for all lands of the Bible. Kingdoms and Powers with traditions based on
a high material culture seemed to vanish from the map of the Middle East.
Wandering tribes came sweeping in with all the winds from heaven and covered
these kingdoms, which seemed to crumble at the very height of their prosperity
and power. Empires vanished. But not their inhabitants.
After a prolonged period of somber bleakness, the faintly glowing embers of
earlier traditions were sparked by the combustive fuel of new cultures into bright
flame which lit up a new age, termed by archaeologists as the Middle Bronze


2100 - 15 70 B . C .



210 0- 1570 B. C .

The 5oc- year span betw een the end of th e third m illenn ium and the middle of
th e second is pr oba bly th e most signifi cant in the general history of the lands
of the Bible . It is a per iod of special importance in th e development o f systems of
wa rfare, for tifications , and arm am ents. Mass wan derin gs of tr ibes and peopl es,
military and com mercial conta cts betw een different parts of the M iddle East, and
changes in the political and ethnic struct ures of many countries brought the ent ire
region into touch with achievements of the third m illennium wh ich had hitherto
been confined to a few coun tries alone . D uring this period, the art of wa rfare
advaneed to new levels, notably by th e in trod uctio n of the horse and light chariot
and by the perfection of th e battering -ram. which chan ged th e charac ter of
cam paigns in open terrain and against fortifi ed cities respectiv ely .
T his pro cess is, of co urse, not suddenl y app aren t at the beginning of the
second millennium. Nor was its development uniform in all lands o f the Bible. Not
that our kn owl edge of milita ry ev ents in these lands throughout the entire period
und er review is uni form and com plete. Th ere are differences both in the quantity
and quality of our info rm ation on the different coun tries and at different times.
T his is du e sim ply to th e variable nature of the archaeo log ical sourc e ma terial on
whic h our knowledge is based. In some co unt ries and at som e periods, it is rich and
abundant . In ot her land s and at other tim es it is poor. We kn ow , for exam ple, a
good deal about Egypt at the tim e of th e M iddl e Kingdom fro m the wealth of
wall paintings and relics of fortifications fro m that period (sec descrip tion , pages
158-1 61). But in other lands of the Bible during this time archaeologi cal find s shed
mu ch ligh t on th e different types of weapons in use, but the re are no illustrated
m onu ment s, and so we canno t reconstruct them in battle array. O n the other hand ,
in the second part of th e period under review , the H yksos period in Egypt and
Palestine (see page 176), there arc neith er dr awings nor engravings from Egypt on a
mil itary subj ect. But there is an abun dance of archaeological finds from which we

learn much about typ es of weap ons and fortifications. And there is a wealth of
wr itten documents, notably fro m M ari on rhe Eup hra tes, w hich enable us to
teconstruCt the prevailing m ethods of wa rfare, com munications, intelligence
services, and army stru cture . It is also possible, from the details provided by the
available archaeo logical sources, to gain an insight into other branch es of wa rfare
on which no such sou rces have, as yet, been discovered.

WE A P 0 N S Shorr- and Medium-rallge

Am on g the weapon s used for short- ran ge and hand-to-h and fightin g. th e axe The Axe
und erwent the most interestin g development. It is particularly instr uctiv e to trace
th e development of the flat, m ulti-ranged cuttin g axe w hose begin ning s we hav e
followed in Mesopot am ia, Syria, and Palestine in the second half of the previous
millennium. Interestingly eno ugh, th is axe , effective lar gely against an enemy not
equipped with helmets, becam e obso lete in the count ry of its invention. yet
continued to be widely used and even perfected-in the land ofits adop tion - E gypt.
Th is w as due, no doub t, to two facto rs: it conformed to th e tradition of Egyptian
axes, whi ch wer e socketless; and it suit ed the pattern of wa rfare in Egy pt d urin g
the first half of this period when the fighting was without arm or, the w arri ors
protecting themselves with a lar ge bod y-shield (see page 155).
Th e Eg yptian epsilon axe was really a union of the short blade w ith the w ide
edge, wh ich was already in use in Egyp t, and the tr iple-tang device of th e Mesopotamian, Syrian , and Palestinian axe. In the latter typ e, the three tangs are wedged
into the haft and m ade secure by bindin g; in the E gyptian axe, the rangs have holes
th rough which they are fastened to the haft either by sm all nails or with cord, or
by a com bination of both, simila r to their earlier method of attaching blade to haft.
Some typical exam ples of this axe are shown on pages 154 and 155. At least one
(154, right) show s that on occasion the haft itself was ma de of metal. T hese relics,
and the meticulous illustrations on the m onu ments, co mpl ement each other
ad mirably.
Q uite different was the developme nt du rin g the very same tim e in Syria;
Palestine, and the neighboring regio n. An d here, tOO, the weapon that eme rged
show ed the twin influence of tr adition and necessity . Th e tradit ion in these lands
was the socket type; the necessity was occasioned by the appearance of helm ets and
armor , against wh ich th e cutting axe w as ineffective. This led to the invention of
a compl etely new type of axe-a piercing weapon with a socket .
It developed out of the epsilon and the anchor axes and is commonly referred
to as the eye axe ('68- 171) because of the prom inen ce of irs tw o ho les, whi ch look
like hollow eye,. T hese are really a carryo ver of th e spaces bet ween the tWO inne r
curves of the epsilon tan g- but they are now bo und ed at the rear by the socket.
Th e eye axe was a difficult w eapon to pr oduce. Some splend id examples o f ceremonial axes of this ty pe, mad e o f gold, we re found at Byblos and are shown on .-1 St'milt' lI',lr' ;M oti d.-piat',lllll
pages 1 70 and 171.
lVall ill BI'I/;-/ l<1s<1l1.
The eye axe was bro ught to Egypt by the Semi tes wh en they starte d to Sate lht' eye axt'





Egyptiall version
of ,Ju epsilonaxe
Right: 0.1 ,i/llk-bill 4.W
frlJlII BagllOuz


Two typcs of til(' JHiddlc Bronz e II

uarr"w soc1ieted axes




The Sword


infiltrate and establish themselves there and even serve in the army . But it did not .
gain acceptance, no doubt because the tradition of the tang ty pe was too entrenched.
T here are, however, some Egyptian examples (168, right ; 169, top) of the tang axe
being given an eye form. Th e illustration at the top of page 169 shows the purely
decorative influence of the "eyes," for they are artificially carved on a semicircular
blade of the socketless type.
The Syrian and Palestinian eye axe was further devel oped to make it a mor8
effective piercing instrument by lengthening the blade and narrowing the edge.
The hollows have become smaller and less prominent, and the whol e blade
assumed the appearance of a duck's bill (167, right). Th is, in fact, is what it is
called today. Th e haft was usually curved to prevent it from slipping o ut of the
hand, for the weapon required to be swung with much force. T his is seen in the
celebrated Beni-hasau wall painting of the caravan of Semites going down to
Egypt, like the Israelites. The warri or on the extreme left on page 166 bears in
his right hand an object which looks like an axe of this type . In Baghouz, Syria,
a cemetery was discovered belonging to this period w hich contained graves of
war riors who had been bur ied with their weapons. Th ese included duck-bill axes.
Page 166, right, shows such an axe with a curved handle, which had been set
at the head of a warrior laid out on a bed at burial.
In the 18th century, the duck-bill axe had already given way to a new type
wh ich was designed solely for piercing and penetration. Th is development was
certainly prompted by advances in the development of armor . It demanded a very
long blade with a nar row thin edge (174), almost like a chisel. This was a socket .,
axe, the prototype of which we have already come across du ring the Accadian
period in Mesopotamia, and which is illustrated on the Naram-Sin monument
(150, left). These weapons were so widely used duri ng this period that there is
hardly a warrior' s grave in Palestine and Syria in which they are not to be found
(see page 166).
In Egypt during this time, there is evidence of an axe with a long and narrow
blade more suited to piercing than the earlier cutti ng axes. But it is still a tang axe
and its edge is wid e.
Each stage in the development of the axe during this period, and its transformation from the epsilon tang type to the narro w-edged long-bladed socket type,
reflect the untiring efforts of armies to perfect their weapons and enhance their
effectiveness against the armor of their adversaries.
Efforts to design an axe that wou ld more effectively fulfill its function , which
resulted in the advanced piercing axe, were also characteristic of the developm ent
of the swor d. This led to the emergence of a well- made sickle swor d, which first
appeared in the second half of the third millennium. It was a striking, as distinct
from a thrusting, weapon, and was, as we have seen, really a kind of cutting axe
whose blade and handle were fashioned out of one bar of metal. Several line
examples of this type of sword , found at Byblos in Mesopotamia and at Shcchcm
in Palestine (172), show that it was quite common dur ing this period. Th is sword
was easy to handle, even by charioteers at the height of a charge.

1 100 - 1570 B . C .

The distinctive feature of all these sword s dur ing the first half of the second
millennium is the shortness of the blade in relation to its hilt. T he hilt was rou ghly
twice the length of the blade, giving the weapon an axe-like quality : This
relationship undergoes a change in the sickle swords of the second half of this
millennium, when the blade is as long as its hilt, and at times even longe r. It was
during this period that this weapon can be said to have become a prop er sword.
In addition to the curved or sickle swords. the Middle Bronze Age also
prod uced a series of short straight swords, somewhat like d,'ggers. T hey were
designed no do ubt fOldefense in hand- to-h and combat. Un like the straight narrow
sword of the early part of the Middle Bronze period, the blades become broader
during Middle Bronze II, taking on the shape of a pointed leaf. Th ey were
designed primarily for stabbing , and the blade was therefore strengthened by a
central spine (sometimes mo re than one) or ribs. Exam ples of the spined or ribbed
sword. both from Egypt and Palestine, are shown on pages 174 and 175.

A l\1iddlc Bronre I

stra ~g lJl fll' IH'JgeJ


I ,

At the end of the rhird millenniu m, the armo rers were still grappling with the The Spear and tire
pro blem offi nding an effective method of attaching the spearhead and ja velin-head [avetin
to the wooden staff. and had com e up with nothin g better than the tang. This also
marked the type of spear and j avelin in use at the beginning of the second millennium, and not until a later stage in the first half of the second millennium was
the socket type to be developed and mo re com monl y used.
At the beginning of this period , then, the attachment both in the spear and
jave lin was by means of a tang which was voluted or curved at the rear. Both
instruments were designed to pierce. In action , with the power of the thru st, the
woo den staffs were liable to split. Wi th a bent or voluted tang, this danger was
The drawing on page 157 shows the method of attaching these sockerlessblades
to the staff. Th e top of the staff wo uld be split down the center and the tang inserted,
irs volute turned outward, and then the entire upper porti on of the staff, with the
tang wedged in, was tightly bound with stout cord. T his method was typical of the
' peats from Cyprus ; of the "eye " or double- pierced blade of the rSth-ccntu ry
spear of Anniras, the Early Hittite king, found in Ktiltepe in Anatolia (156, f.1t
right), which shows that this type of blade was in wide use at this time; and of a
similar spear from Megiddo belonging to the same period . The most interesting
of the spears and javelins with a volut ed tang are those found in Palestine at the
beginning of the Middle Bronze period . Th eir technical standard is qu ite high.
These weapons belonged mainly to the semi- nomadic warriorswho suddenly '
started pou ring into Palestine. Such javelin s have been found in many graves,
together with the straight sword . but 50 far no city ruins have been unearthed
which can be definitely associated with soldiers who bore arms with a volu ted
tang. Since this device is characteristic of the military culture primaril y of the
northern areas of the lands of the Bible at this period. it may be presumed that the .
nomad, trekked to Palestine from these regions at the time of the great wanderings
which marked the end of the third millennium . It is conceivable, therefore, that
t\ htaham 'sj oull1cying to Canaan was part of this great trek, and that the weapons Hyksos Ja.~gas (.\ fiddle Bro/lze JI)



used by his hou sehold were rhis type ofja vclin and spear, as well as the straight and
narrow swo rd .
Another characteristic of the spear and j avelin at th e beginning of the Midd le'
Bronze period is its meta l butt at the base of the staff. We have ment ioned th at the
blades of this weap on were fo und in many graves. Fou nd with them were me tal
rips, also voluted (156, second from righ r). T hey were assuredly not used as a form
of blade . They almost certainly served as the bun of the ja velin or spear, enabling .
the weapon 10 be stuc k in the gro und w hen no t in use. Und er certai n circum stances, they could also be used to strike the enem y, as we sec from th e Biblical
srory in II Samuel 2 : 23 which describes the slaying of Asahel by Abner: " Howbeit,
he refused to turn aside : w herefore Abne r, wit h the hind er end of th e spear, smo te
him und er the fifth rib.. . ."
The tanganachment, as we have seen, had serious disadvan tages, th e most"
important of w hich was the <huger of splitting the staff in action . Efforts con-.
tinued to devise an im proved method, and by the later part of the first half of th e '
second millennium a sock et- type head for spear and j avelin, of qu ite advanced
standard, becomes th e universal ty pe.
The Egy ptian wall painti ngs on pages 166- 167, 169 endo rse the point that
the spear and the j avelin , together with the axe and, as we shall see laser, the bow,
were the most im port ant weapons for the wa rrior of the first half of the second
millenni um.


The Botl'

Th e bow, however, remained the prim ary w ar weap on of th e Middle Bronze;

period , despite th e high advances in the developm ent of short- and med ium-range
weapo m . Thi s is evident from the many illustrated monuments of the perio d. We
also kno w m uch of the character of these weapons from actua l bows found in
Egyp t.
In Mesopotami a th e com posite bow was, as we have seen , widely used as early
as the Accadian period . But in the early cen turies of the second millennium its use

Two archers d S J"p;cr,'J 0 11 a U'oJlI

pail/lillg ill Bcni-hasan, Note the


archer ~m the left who strillgs the bow

ArthctsasIlt'picu J en d II'all J'iJj,ltjJl.~ iJ1

Bm i-lltlSall. '1(1'C l1Ie pil($ oj arrows,
Il lld

thearcheru-lw uses his 1(~ ,/0'

hf(f(j",c the boUJ

was sparse. Th is was d ue 'no doubt to its com plicated manufacture, whic h was
beyond the capacities of the semi -n oma dic tr ibes of Syria and Palestine. And in
conservati ve Egy pt, too , its develop men t was slow . Arm o r was not yet in general
usc by Egypt's imm ediate enemies ro the south and west, and so the stimu lus was
lacking for so advanced and exp ensive a lon g- range weapon as the composite bow .
But we have evidence of such a wea pon , of an advanced type, ar the beginning of
rhc period o f the New Kingdom in the 16th century. T his means that it must have
been introduced into service at the end of the previous period. during the later
ccntu ries of the M idd le Bro nze period, the H yksos per iod .
As we say, there is no clear posi tive proof of the wide usc of the composite
bow during th e first half of the second millennium. But there is much evidence of
the wide usc of the simp le bow dur in g th is period . It was a double-convex weap on.
There is reason to suppose that in many cases it was also rein forced.
A fine examp le of this rype appears in the wall paint ing from Beni~hasan
(166- i67). The bow borne by the soldier on the extreme left is ve ry pronoun cedly
d4IiIIble-convex and h as a parti cularly thick grip . Some scholars hold this to be a
composite bow , but the inward curve of th e anus clearly discounts this view.
Ne vert heless, though sim ple, it w as a well-mad e we apon .
Doub le-convex bows are also borne by several o f the soldiers storming the
fortifications in other scenes from th e Beni-hasan painting (158- 159). T he mon umcnr shown on page 162, also depicts a double-convex bow , although the curves
are somew hat shallow .
Conclusive proof th at these bow s w ere no t comp osite is given by th e weapons
themselves, a nu mber of which were discovered in Egypt ian tombs (163, bottom ).
They arc mad e from a single, stro ng , and sizable piece of wood , and measur e up
to between 1' 5 and 1'7 meters. T here is also a painting (165, bo ttom) showing a
wo rkshop for the manufacture of bows. Th e double-convex bows here are m o wn
withou t their strings . If they were composite, their anns would surely curveoutwards, towa rd th e back. They do not .
In addi tion to the dou ble-con vex simple bo w, the o rdinary large sin gle-a rc
bow was also in common usc. Th is can be seen from the wooden model of N ubian
archers (16J), fro m actua l relics of bows found in ancient to mbs, and from the
Egyptian wall painti ngs show n on pages 160 and [61. Though a simp le bow , its
penetra ting force was considerab le if the ene my was without armo r. T his we
know fro m the arrow-riddled bo dies of wa rrio rs fro m this period whi ch we re
found in Egypt . In one case the arrow had gone righ t thr ough the body from back
to chest and prot ruded for a distance of som e 20 centi m eters.


In order not to strain the pliability of the bow, the string was usually not
fitted until shortly before battle. It was then done by slipping one looped end over
one end of the bow, the bow held upright with that end on the ground, and then
bent to meet the other loop ofthe string either by the weight of the body (158, top
left, and figure on page 62) at by kneeling and pulling it down. This isalsodescribed
by Sinuhe when he tells of his bracing the bow before starting to practice on the
eve of battle,
The quiver was already known in this period. Its Semitic name, ashpah, is
indeed found in Egyptian documents, which shows that it was introduced into
that country from Syria and Palestine. Yet the wall paintings from the period of
the Middle Kingdom show that the Egyptians used to carry their arrows mainly
not in quivers but in bundles which were laid at the foot of the bow (158, top left,
and also figure on page 63).
The bow was used not only in open battle but also-and probably in the
main-by both attackers and defenders in the battle on fortified cities, as is shown
in the scenes on pages 158-159. Remains of fortifications from this period, as we
shall see later, show the provisions of well-dcsigned firing embrasures fat the
archers defending the wall. The attacking archers were not equipped with shields,
they were screened by the shields of the axe- and spear-bearers,
There is no substantiation from ancient monuments at relics, but it may be
assumed that the composite bow began to be widely used during the later part of
this period, particularly in Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. This supposition is
based on the fact that at the beginning of the following period it appears in a vety
advanced form. And we know that it was in common use in these lands in the
preceding period.

The Slitlc~

The slingmen were used in support of the archers, as they were in later
periods. They were particularly useful in an attack on a fortified city, since they
could direct high-angle fire up a steep slope. They ate depicted in the wall paintings
shown on page 159, top right.


The Shield

Since the helmet and armor did not make their bold appearance in Egypt
until the end of the Middle Bronze period-the beginning of the New Kingdom
-the warrior during the preceding period, that is the Middle Kingdom, had to be
protected only by the shield. And it is understandable therefore that this should be
a large shield, capable of giving complete cover to the whole of the bare body of
the fighter, particularly one equipped with short-range weapons for hand-to-hand
combat. A good example of such a shield is shown in the wall painting on page
155, lefr, which depicts a soldier armed with a cutting axe and bearing a shield
which matches his height. It is wide at the base, narrowing toward the head, which
is rounded. Though made ofwood and covered with hide, it must have been heavy
and surely impaired mobility. This perhaps explains the appearance of another
type of shield at this time which was smaller and lighter. It was of medium size,

2IOO-I570 B.C.

and though there were slight variations in shape, its standard form was wide at the
base with a pointed or rounded head (158).
We have no concrete information on the type of shield in vogue in Egypt
during the latter part of Middle Bronze II, nor in the other countries of the Bible.
But in these lands the shields were probably smaller than the Egyptian, for we
know that their people had already developed some form of armor and did not
need the shield for complete body protection. It is also reasonable to assume that
the shape of their shields was rectangular, for the Sumerian shields during the
previous period were rectangular and so were the shields of the Asiatic peoples
during the Late Bronze period. The round shield, designed mainly to ptotect the
uncovered face, did not come into use until the end of the iarh century, having
apparently been introduced by the "Sea Peoples."
Thus we sec that this period, too, reflects the interrelationship between
weapons and armor-or its absence-in the lands of the Bible, and the time-old
struggle between mobility and security.
Ancient relics, archaeological excavations, and written sources from the first Fortiiicatious
half of the second millennium shed more detailed light on the fortifications of the
period and the pattems of battle on a fortified city than on any other branch of
warfare. The study ofthese subjects can therefore be most instructive to our general
understanding of the art of warfare of this period. It also serves as a significant
preface to our consideration of fortifications in the period which follows, since
their development sprung from the achievements gained earlier.
It is well to begin with a description of the Egyptian fortifications of the
Middle Kingdom as shown on wall paintings and as revealed by archaeological
excavation. A good jumping-off point are the fortresses or fortified cities
depicted on some of the wall paintings of Bcni-hasan (158-159). These types of
structure contain almost all the elements required of a complete system offortifications: high walls with battlements to facilitate defensive fire, and balconies for the
defenders to harass the enemy's flanks and direct vertical fire on troops approaching
the wall. The lower part of the wall, strengthened by a sloped bank or glacis, is
shown vety clearly. These fortresses or fortified cities sometimes have two gates,
sometimes only one. The illustration of the gate in the painting is a simple outline,
offering no details of its structure. All we can see is that it was rectangular in shape
with horizontal lintels. On the other hand, the methods and patterns of defense of
the troops on the wall and the methods of attack by the assaulting troops are
depicted very well.
But the most illuminating insight into the character of strongholds at the time
of rhe XIIth Dynasty, in the 20th and roth centuries, is provided by the fortifiestionsofBuhen in Nubia-Sudan oftoday-on the west bank ofthe Nile, near Wadi
HaIfa. These fortifications, which were thoroughly excavated only as recently as .
1<)57 by Emery, are the most complete example of a fottress of this period among
the many found aloug the trade routes and the strategical areas of Nubia. These
well-preserved structures, with the help of the wall paintings mentioned above,
enable us to reconstruct the plan and appearance of the fortress (160-161).



The fortress is almost square, measuring 170 by 180 meters. The fortifications
comprise four basic elements: the main (inner) wall, the outer or advance wall, the
moat, and the very well-fortified gate structure.
The main wall was built of bricks and was about 5 meters thick. It is considered to have been 10 meters high. The gate was in the center of the western side
of the wall. Throughout its entire length the wall was "blistered" at intervals of
5 meters with protruding square bastions, each 2 meters wide. Each corner of the
fortress was marked by a large tower, which protruded from rhe face of the wall
even more conspicuously than the bastions.
An impressive feature of the Buhen fortifications is the siting and the form of
the low outer wall, which served also as a kind of revetment to the near wall of the
moat immediately beneath it. This low wall was also of brick, and along its face
a series of semicircular bastions 3 meters wide had been built at intervals of
10 meters. In the wall and bastions there were two rows of firing embrasures, one
above the other, with loopholes arranged in groups of three, centering on each
shooting embrasure. This is an example of excellent exploitation of the purpos: of
the semicircular bastion to give a wide-angled field of fire. For each embrasure
cnabled fire to be applied downward onto the attackers in the moat in three
directions: straight.down, a little to the left, a little to the right. These bastions,like
others in Nubia, such as Aniba, Ikkur, and Kuban, are in the tradition of the curved
bastions whose origins we first came across in the middle of the third millennium
in Palestine, Egypt, and Mesopotamia.
At the foot of the outer wall there was a dry moat 85 meters wide and more
than 6 meters deep. To make it even more difficult to cross, an additional low
wall had been built on its farther bank, and its outer face strengthened by an earth
The entire gate complex is ingenious in plan and formidable in structure. The
opening in the outer wall and the wall on the further lip of the moat were in line
with the double-doored gateway in the western side of the main wall. Two large
towers were built on either side of the entranceways, 15 meters in length, stretching from the main gateway to the moat and even beyond. For they protruded even
from the wall on the distant bank of the moat, and formed a well-fortified gate
complex from which fire could be directed across the moat to the right and left.
According to the archaeologists who carried out the excavations, there were indications that originally there had been a wooden drawbridge across the moat which
could be withdrawn in time of need by means ofrollers.
Some impression of the effectivenessof these fortifications may be gained by
recalling that for assault troops to reach their objective, they had to penetrate the
first low wall, then cross the moat, then fight their way through the outer wall
with its semicircular bastions, and then get through the main wall-all under a hail
of arrows. It is quite clear that this would have been nearly impossible except at the
points of the gate. And indeed the excavations revealed that there had been great
fires at the site of the gare. It is equally clear that no such formidable fortifications
would have been necessaryif the enemy were not yet in possessionof the batteringram. And evidence that the battering-ram was already in use is provided by the

2100-1570 B.C.

WJ!J paintings of Bcni-hasan. We shall deal with this at greater length when we
come to study the method of attack on these fortifications and on those of Palestine
and Mesopotamia and in the Middle Bronze II period.
One of the characteristic features of the fortifications of Palestine and Syria in
this period, beginning, that is, from the rSrh century, is the large gla~is or steeply
sloped bank by which they were surronnded. Since this has been the subject of
much controversy among scholars, it is perhaps worth going into some detail as
to its nature. It will be recalled that when the people of the Middle Bronze II
period came to build new cities on a tell, which had been the sire of settlement for
some 1,500 years, they found a pretty high mound with steeplv sloping sides
formed by layers of debris from earlier cities. The Hyksos glacis was in fact built
not at the peak of rhe tell but against its slopes. In other words, it covered and
encircled the lower part of the tell which was below the walls of the new city. At
the beginning ofthis period, the glacis was built in a special way, colorfully termed
the "sandwich" method. It was constructed of repeated layers of beaten earth, clay,
gravel, and limestone. The face of the glacis was covered with thin layers ofplaster, The plan (~( HROT. Bd')l/!: tlte bottleand made very smooth. In some cases, as for example at Tell el-lerishe near Tel shaped IIpper city. A!Jtlvt'., the hllge
Aviv, the-glacis was an even more complex structure, being greatly strengthened rcctanoular lowercity. At IcJc rite
by the addition of bricks to the,layers of limestone. The city walls, built mostly of earthen rmJlparr all.J [esse. Areas ,if
brick, were constructed at the top of the glacis. During the latter part of this excavations lIIarkd 11'111, letters
period-although in some cases even earlier-the beaten earth and indeed the
whole sandwich system gave way to the glacis constructed entirely of stone,
turning it into a battered wall, a wall in fact which covered the foot of the tell.
Several fine examples of this type were found, notably in Jericho, Hazar (179),
and Shechem. At the foot of the glacis a moat was dug or hewn out of the rock.
Many were very wide and deep. At Tell e1-'Ajjul, for example, in southern
Palestine, the moat was 15 meters wide and 10 meters deep.
In addition to such tell cities whose slopes were strengthened by glacis, a new
type of city makes its appearance during the Middle Bronze" period. It, too, has
a glacis, of either the sandwich or stone form. But it is quite different from the
earlier cities. These new cities were very large and were not built upon an existing
tell, but either very close to it, as a kind of extension, or without any relationship
whatsoever to a tell. The size of such cities-like Hazar in Israel which covered an
area of 1,000 by 7,000 meters, or Qatna in Syria whose area was 1,000 by 1,000
meters-clearly indicates that the earlier tell cirv was too small and the inhabitants
had therefore to build a new one outside th; tell area, usually on the adjacent
unfortified level ground. Since this new area lacked the natural defensive qualities
of a tell city, they had to construct artificial devices for protection. This they did
in a remarkable manner, which reflected ingenuity and daring in their engineering.
They built walls as well as steeply sloped banks in the following way.
They wanted their wall to be as high as the wall at the top of the tell city. This
meant a construction anywhere between 20 to 40 meters high, which was hardly
possible. So they solved the problem by digging a moat. utilizing the excavated
eanh to form a rampart and constructing rhe wall upon it. This, then, gave the
wali the required height. Archaeological digs have laid bare such walls built on

2100 -J570 B . C .

hugemounds of beaten earth . The idea was at once simp le and inge nious . And the
sing le o perat ion of excava tin g the moa t served a do uble purpose.
Th e project mu st have kept thousands ofl abo rers on the j ob for several years,
to j udge by the scale of the fortifi cations of Hazor : th e western ram part of beaten '
earth is 700 m eters in length. A t its wid est point, the base of the ram part is 90
meters broa d and 15 meters high . T he moat to ies immediate west (178 ), from
w hose scoop ed out earth this ramp art was formed, reaches a dept h of I ) meters. It
has inclined sides. like th e cross-section of a basin. and is 80 m eters wide across the
top and 40 met ers wide at its base: Th is. therefore, gives the side of rhc fortifie d
city a man-made steep slope 30 me ters in heighI- t) meters being the sloping side
of the moat and [) me ters the heigh t of the mound. Structures on a similar scale
were also fou nd at Qa ma and new cities of the same ty pe elsewhere. Incidentally.
the co nsiderable wid th of the moat kept enem y arche rs that muc h fart her away
from the m ound . and weake ned the effect iveness of thei r weapollS.
Arch aeolo gical excavations of the Middl e Bronze II period also provi de us
with m uch information on the plan of th e city gate. At the beginning of this
period the gate is still angled, like the lett er L. so that anyone wh o entered had to '
go thr ough a tu rning. An enemy fighting his way through would thus have to
tu m and leave one side exposed to the fire of the defenders. A typical example of
such a gate was found at Stratum 13 of the Megiddo excavations (sec figure on
this page). Th e path leading to the gate was stepped , And this together with the
tu rnin g in the gate would have mad e it difficult for a chario t to maneuver. It may
th erefo re be presumed tha t at this time. chariot s we re not yet in use. no t even by
the ru lers of the city .
Th is gate belongs to the mid dle of the rSrh century, sho rtly before the introducti on of the new type of glacis on for tifications. With the innovation of this .
glacis, w e fmd a change in the type of gate now built in all th e cities in Palestine
and Syria during Middle Bronze II. Instead of the angl ed gate , the ent rance is now
straigh t and direct. Bur to giv e them greater prot ect ion , they are built in depth,
the length ofth e passagew ay reaching from I ) to 20 me ters. Th ese gates (see figures
on pages 68-69) all h ave six inner pilasters, three on each side, which narrowed the
entrance at these thr ee p oin ts. W e do not know whether there was on ly one set of
doors-which is most likely, betwe en the twin pilasters nearest the exte rnal face of
the wa ll-or additional doors between the othe r sets of pilasters. The T rojan gates
from the middl e of the thi rd millennium ate perh aps the earliest example of this
type. although th ey have only four pilasters.
Th e gates found at several archaeologi cal excavations in Syria and Palestin e
are protected b y two large towers , one on either side. Th ey wer e almo st certainly
m ulti-stor ied. as is ev idenced by the stair ways found inside.
An extremely strong gate of this ty pe was also found in the no rth east corner
of th e lowe r city of Haze r, belonging to the t Sth cent ury (Areak) .
T his relic at Hazer also provides a good illustr ation of the inte gration of the
appr oach path to the gate with in the overall system of fortifica rions of the city .
The gate itself was bui lt on the high gtound of the city site. and w as som e 25 meters
above the surr oundin g countryside. A direct approach path from below to so high
City gate's, Troy, Ala/akh. alia Qawa

, poin t wou ld have been too steep. And so an oblique path with an em bankment
was laid acro ss the slope. o f gentle gradient , which reached the gate from the
righ t-from the point o f view o f the person facing the city-so that the right, or
exposed . side of an enemy would be at th e mer cy of the city 's defend ers. Im mediately in front of the gateway. the path ended in a leveled piece of ground wid e
enough to allow a chariot to tur n and en ter the gate fro m the right . T he path. its
em bankment, and the leveled space in frolll of the gate were protected by a thick
revetm ent wall built of lar ge basalt boulders w hich for med a kind of de fensive
glacis for the entire slope (179, top ). T he degree of tho ugh t, planning , resources,
and sheer physical labor that went int o the constructio n of the path and the revetment wall arc an indi cation of the high im portance attached to this solution to the
probl em of ent ry int o the city . Th ere is no doubt th at the change from the stepped
approach and the ang led gatewa y to the sloped path and the dir ect entranceway
coincided with the intr odu ction o f th e chariot to wider use in the I xth cenlUry- a
feature on wh ich we shall have m ore to say later.

The large cities built either as an extension of Ot apart from a city on a tell
were heavily popu lated. A city like Qa tn a, for example. could hold som e 40.000
inhabitants, and Hazor could hold close to 30,000. Clearl y, onl y with the help of
so considerable a population could such cities defend their walls, who se perimeter
reached 4 kilom eters at Qa tna and 3 kilometers at Haze r.
T he appearance of th is new ty pe of fortification , with its glacis, the new gate
structure offeting ent ry to chario ts. and the large lower cities looking like huge
camps, is exp licable only in terms o f a revo lutionar y change in the m eth ods of
wa rfare w hich demanded appropriate counter- measures. Since th is occurred at
the same time as the introduction o f the hor se-drawn chariot , and because of the
character of the new gate and the cam p- like form of the lower city, it was widely
believed until quite recently tha t the powerful glacis was designed as a means of
protec tion against attac k by chariots.
No elabora te exp lanation is required to dismiss this theory as ground less. For
apart from the difficulty of conceiving th at chariots co uld carry O llt a charge up
such steep slopes, we know tha t at no tim e was the chari ot ever used to br each a
for tification . And it is fallacious to co mpare it. as some do . with the modern tank .
T he chariot, for breaching purp oses. could never be m ore formidable than th e
fore heads of the horses by wh ich it was drawn . And, in any case. an upt ight wall
wo uld surely be more effective than a glacis ill sto ppin g a charging column o f
g.illopi ng horses.
There can be no question that the stren gth ening of th e lowe r port ion of the
wall, and particularly the smooth . beaten-earth slopes of the tells. were certainly
dC'signed to prevent enemy atte m pts to teat down and destroy the wall and the
slopes beneath it and enter the city thro u gh the breach . This explanation wo uld
10llg have been gener ally accepted if it were not for th e wid espread , though

CiIy <~atfs. Top to bottolll; Gal.'r.

Sicncm,alld Bcth-sucmesh

Battle Oil Fort!fiedCit ies

I N t: !'.l:lU UI)


21 00 -15 7 0 B . C.

err oneous, belief that the battering-ram did not make its appearance on the battlefield unril the Assyrian period in the roth centu ry-that is, nearly 1 .000 years later.
B~t the evidence both ofIllustrated mon uments and w ritten documents shows that
qUIte well-dev d oped battering-rams were already being used in the first half ofthe
second millennium , We can go even furth er and say that, from the siege scene of
Deshashe back ro the 25th cent ury , and from the character of the powerful
thIrd-lllIllenmu m Trojan fortIficano ns. for example, w ith their glacis and bastions.
It IS reasonable to assume that a primitive type of battering-r am was in use as f.1f
back as rhis early period .

and let it be bro ught into place. Begin to heap up earth . . . .' The King w as angered
and said : 'W atch the roads; observe wh o ent ers the city and wh o leaves the city.
No one is to go out from the city to the enemy . .. .' Th ey answered : ' \Ve watch,
Eight y chariots and eight armies surro und the city.' ''
Thi s document sheds light on several details conce rning the action of the
battering-ram and its manufactu re. Th e " mo untain" is nothing other than the
mound or ramp of earth which had to be laid up to the wall, to fill in part of
the mo at, over which the battering-ram could be moved into position. as we shall
see very clearly from the illustrated Assyrian monuments from the first millennium.
Th e description also completes the picture of the besieging units. Th e chariots. of
course, were there no t for storming the city but to seal off rhe approach road s
against allied help to the besieged.
Th e pur pose of the siege to wers referred to in the Mari documents. as in the
later period. w as to enable the attacking archers to give covering fire fro m a greater
height to the men operating the battering- ram. and to neutralize the weapons of
the defender s upon the batt lements. Th e importance of this covering tire by
archers is endorsed in rhe Beni-hasan paintings , but here the mobile to wer had not
yet been intr oduced and the bows are fired from the standing or kneeling position
from the ground.
All the evidence, it seems to me, clearly supports the view that the tremendous
resou rces and labor invested in the fortifications of the Middl e Bronze period were
designed primarily to prevent breaching by the battering - ram. Th is was the major
purp ose of the moat, the outer or advanced wall. and the glacis, which prot ected
the steep slope aud lower portion of the wall. Th e gate. on the other hand . was

At alI eve~ ts. we have clear proof that it was in use in the first half of the
second m']le~nlllm. The earliest illustrations of battering-rams known to us so far
are those whi ch appear on the wall paintings of Berti-h asan dating back to the
zoth century (158- 159). To the right of the fortre ss we see a mobile Structure
rather like a hut with a slightly point ed arched roof, which co uld be moved with
the help of two parallel crossbars. It served as cover for two or thr ee soldiers whose
hands grasp a very long beam with a sharp tip, prob ably made of metal. T he point
ofthe beam IS aimed at the top of the fortress wall, to the balconies and battlements,"
for the lower portion of the wall is already pro tected by a low glacis. Th e fortifica_ll
tl (~llS . of Buh cn, referred to earlier, compl ement the details of the Beni-hasan
pamon gs to gIve a complete pictur e.
T hese battering-rams, though they seem primitive, were no doubt effective
under the. prevailin~ conditi ons. O therwise, it is hardly likely that they wo uld be
depicted m these SIege scenes as the principal weapon of an arm y attackin g a
fortress. M oreover, the excavations at Buhen sho w that its magnificent forrificanons were destroyed as a result of breaching by a more developed battering-ram
and being set on tire, du ring the Hykso s period in the i xh century.
On llllp roven1t'n ts ro the battering-r am in the r Sth cent ury we learn from the
many w n tren documents of Mari on the Euphrates. T he M ari letters make several
rnenn ons of the battering- ram. made largely of w ood, and of its effectiveness.
Ishme-Dagnn, for example, w rites as follows:

given its new fonn

. . ' 'T hus saith (shme- Dagan. thy broth er ! 'After l conq uered (the names of three


cin es I turn ed and laid SIege to Hur ara. I set against it the siege tow ers and batter-

mg-r ams and


seven days I vanquished it. Be pleased!' "

Th e power of the battering- ram must have been great, for in another letter,

Ish~e-D.,gan reports that he conquered another city in a single day. It was also
possible to move this heavy implemen t over long distances and even to surmount
natur al barriers. For another letter talks of transportin g it by wagon and boat.
Mo~e derailed evidence of ho w the battering - ram was operated is contained
111 a Hittite document from Bog hazkoy which describes rhe siege of a city named
Urshu at the end of Midd le Bro nze 11. The text reads:


. " :hey broke the battering-r am . Th e King waxed wroth and his face was
gn m.'.: T hey consranrly bring
me evil tidings. . . . a battcri
. [he
Jncnng-ram m
Hu rrian manner! and let It be bro ught into place. Makc a " mo untain" and Jet it
[also ] be set III Its place. Hew a great batter ing-ram from the mo untains of Hazzu


enable the city's o wn chario ts to enter and leave. w itho ut, at

the same time, making it easier to breach by the enemy. W e see, therefore . that
alreadv in the first half of the second millennium , the foundations were laid for the
extra; rdinarily advanced methods of attack on and defense oi a for tified city
which reached thcir apogee in the first millennium.


Th e absence of paintings or reliefs on the mon uments belonging to most of

the Middle Bronze " period, unlike the periods w hich preceded and follow ed it,
leaves us withou t any detailed illustration of the methods of open battle at this
time. Fortunately, however, we can till the gaps by dra wing on the written
docum ents of the period which have much to say on vital aspects of our
subjec t.
In a zoth-century B. C. docume nt from the period of the Middle Kingdom , we
find the earliest detailed w ritten description of a uniq ue form of battIe-the duel.

Battle ;'1 Open Terrain :

The Dllel

Duels as dfpi{(('J 0 11 a lJIall paintino

ifI Beni-liasan

2100-1570 B.C.

mourning for him. Then I carried offhis goods and plundered his cattle. Whar he
had planned to do to me I did to him. I took what was in his tent and stripped his

rVarriors depicted


a wall painting
ill BClli-hasmi

Two Canaanite warriors



011 alt

vase, rccmtlyfOUlld

at Tell el-Far'all (Ilorthern Pahstitte)


This, let us recall, covers the period of the Beni-hasan wall paintings with their
battle and siege scenes, The duel was a contest between two warrior-heroes, as
representatives of two contending forces, Its outcome, under prearranged agreement between both sides, determined the issue between the two forces, This
system, which obtained even in later periods such as the Mycenaean in Greece,
found its most dramatic expression in the duel between David and Goliath, and
between the warriors of the House of Saul and the House of David as we shall see
later. A description no less colorful, and amazingly similar to the David-Goliath
epic, is found in a document known as "The Story of Sinnhe the Egyptian."
Sinuhe, a Chamberlain in the royal court of the XIlth Dynasty, had chosen voluntary exile and went to live with the Semitic tribes in northern Palestine and Syria.
His hosts were hospitable and he spent a very happy time among them. But he
fmally returned to his country at the invitation of the Egyptian court. During his
stay with the Semitic tribes, an encounter took place which Sinuhe describes in the
following way:
"A mighty man ofRetenu [i.c., Syria and Palestine] that he might challenge
me in my own camp. He was a hero without his peer, and he had repelled all of it
[i.e., he had beaten everyone of the land ofRetenuJ. He said that he would fight
me, he intended to despoil me, and he planned to plunder my cattle, on the advice
of his tribe. That prince [the host of Sinuhe 1discussed it with me and I said: 'I do
not know him. Certainly I am no confederate of his, so that I move freely in his
encampment. Is it the case that I have ever opened his door or overthrown his
fences? Rather, it is hostility because he sees me carrying out thy commissions.
I am really like a stray bull in the midst of another herd, and a bull of these cattle
attacks him ... .' During the night I strung my bow and shot my arrows [in
practice}. I gave free play to my sword and polished my weapons. When day
broke, Retenu was come. It had whipped up its tribes and collected the countries
of a good half of it. It had thought only of his fight. Then he came to me as I was
waiting, for I had placed myself near him. Every heart burnt for me. They said:
'Is there another strong man who could fight against hirru' Then he took his shield,
his battleaxe, and his armful of javelins. Now afrer I had let his weapons issue
forth, I made his arrows pass by me uselessly, one close to another. He charged me,
and I shot him, my arrows sticking in his neck. He cried our and fell on his nose.
I felled him with his own battlcaxe and raised my cry of victory over his back,
while every Asiatic roared. I gave praise to Montu, while his adherents were

This lively and detailed account can be completed by the Deshashe siege
scenes which depict (146) dueling warriors near the fortress. Though they are not
duels in the basic sense with which we arc concerned they sbow the characteristic
fighting pattern which was followed by the representative duel. Incidentally,
Sinuhc's adversary seemed to have used the eye axe which, as we have observed
earlier, was apparently in wide use in this period.
With all the importance of the duel, it does not mean, of course, that the
major campaigns between national armies were settled in this way. The wooden
model of spear-carrying Nubian archers from Egypt (163), belonging to the
Middle Kingdom, shows that armies of this period were already organized in units
which marched in disciplined order. The written records also contain much detail
on the size of armies and the units taking part in battle, which indicate that there
was open combat on a large scale. Thus we find several references in the Mari
documents from the r Sth century to militia units of 10,000 warriors. Mostlv, of
course, the units referred to are smaller, containing 3,000, 2,000, 1,000,600,' and
100 men. Also mentioned is the joo-man unit, used mainly as an assault unit,
comprising three companies of 100 men each. It appears from the documents that
the basic unit, the section, was probably composed of 10 men. This is also borne
out by Sinnhe's reference to the palace guard: "When the day had broken, very
early, they came and summoned me 10 men coming and 10 men going to usher
me to the palace."
If this period is poor in documents and monuments which show the movement of armies and their maneuvers on the battlefield, there is detailed written
information on the intelligence and communications services without which it
would not have been possible effectively to plan and execute large-scale military
operations. We draw again on the Mari documents on an account of the quite
well-developed communications system. It was based on signaling, and the signals
were given by torches or firebrands according to a prearranged code. The following two letters explain the system:
"To my lord: Thus Nannum, thy servant. Yesterday I departed from Mari,
and spent the night at Zuruban. All the .Benjamites raised fire signals. From
5amanum to Ilum-Muluk, from Ilum-Muluk to Mishlan, all the cities of the
Benjamites of Terqa district raised fire signals in response, and so far I have not
ascertained the meaning of those signals. Now I shall determine the meaning and
I shall write to my lord whether it is thus or not."

Standard Combat

Communications and

This letter shows that the signals were flashed in accordance with a code, and
that the writer of the letter recognized them as a system of transmitting informatIon. This practice was in wide use as the second letter indicates:
"When I had made ready the city of Hirnush over against him and he saw that



the land was hastening to my aid, he raised a fire signal, and all the cities of the
land of U rsum on the other side acknowledged."
From other letters we learn that this method of signaling was used for calls for
imm ediate help by those under attack. T here is no specific infor mation on the
means of com mun ication between units during an att ack, but it was probably
carried out by special runners, by sem aphore, or by trum pet-calls as in a later
period .
Th e intelligence services were also well developed. T his can be well imagined,
for it wou ld have been impossible to plan and carry out long- range operations and
handl e large form ations in different conditions of terrain with out advance int elligence. And again the documents of Mari illuminate the systems of intelligence in
use du ring this period. From one of these letters we learn of the practice of
dispatching pow erfu l reconn aissance units for the express pur pose of capt urin g
prisoner s for interrogation. Here is the letter:
" Harnmu rabi spoke to me as follows: ' A heavily arme d force had gone to
raid the enemy column, but there was no suitable base to be found, so that force
had returned em pty-h anded and the column of the enemy is proceeding in good
order without panic. Now let a light armed force go to raid the enemy column
and cap ture informers [literally, "men of tong ue"] .' ''
T hese " men of tongu e" were, according to other letters, a most important
means of intelligence. T he docum ent s also show that battle intelligence was based
on fast and detailed reports from commanders to their superior officers. T he
commanders of Mari indicate whether they ate transmitting direct or only hearsay
inform ation, and they record in detail the movements of the enemy : He has
reached the river. He has not yet crossed. He is now organ izing for battl e. Th e
following form ula is typical: "On the sixth day of the month ... 6,000 soldiers of
so and so reached such and such a place. Th eir rum ored aim is to conql1er such
and such a city .. . ."
T he administrative services also operated at a high level of efficiency . Th is can
be seen from the receipts and the detailed lists of equipment and supplies found in
the Mari archives. We have seen earlier how the engineerin g and transport services
of the arm y managed to mo ve siege towers and battering-ram s ove r long distances
by wagon and boat. Th ese operations predate by at least 2 00 years the action of
Thutrnose 1Il who transported boats on ox-drawn carts. Before the discovery of
the Mari documen ts, the operation ofThutmose 1Il at the beginning of the 1jth
century was considered one of the most daring engineerin g feats of the period.
T here mUS1 also have been SOme SOrt of medical service, j udging from the
reports of the Mari commanders w ho frequently refer to rhe health of their men, .
and send " strength" reports like " No dead; no sick."

The Chariot


O ur knowledge of the chariot du ring this period comes almost exclusively

from wr itten documents, This docs not imply that its function at this time was of

2IOO - 1 5 70 B . C .

secondary import ance.. O n the contrary , there is much reason to believe that
begitlning from the r Sth cem ury the horse-d rawn chariot was one of the most
important instrume nts of batt le in open terrain. Bu t its fate in the first tw o
c<'nturies of the second millennium is not at all clear. \Ve know of its existence from
the Assyrian documents, but the general picture is blurr ed. It is certain that d urin g
the 20th and iorh cemuri es, the chariot was not yet in use in Egypt and it is
doubtful jf it was used in the region of Palestine and Syria. In the many wall
paintings from the X llrh Dynasty, w hich have been referred to in earlier chapters
and which often deal with military subjects, the chariot docs not appear at all ,
neither among the Eg yptian w arriors nor among the Semi te'S. There is no doubt
that, had it been in usc, it would have been depicted on these monuments.
On the o ther han d, the documents fro m Mari of the rSth cent ury speak of
horse-d rawn chariots. T hat they were broug ht into COmmon use from no w on is
certain ly to be inferred from the new gate struc ture in fortifi cations designed to
take chariots. whi ch we have already discussed. But w e also have concrete evidence
in the skeletons of horses found at excavations and in the chariot horses' bits also
found in strata belon ging to the Middle Bronze II period. A fine examp le is the bit
with spoked check- pieces found at T ell cl-'Ajjul in Palestine which appears on
page 180. Incidentally, these bits show the great advance in the chario ts of this
period over the chariots of the third millennium. For they enabled the driv er to
maintain full cont rol over his fast horses and to guide them at the gallop even on
sharp turns and in other maneuvers.
Additional important evidence of the use of the chariot in this period is the
mention of the " horses of Hyksos" in a docum ent from the time of Pharaoh
Kamose, the last king of the XV lIth Dynasty, at the beginning of the ierh century.
T he Hyksos were the Asiatic tribes who ruled Egypt in the 17th century , and
Kamose, by fighting against the " horses of Hyksos," paved the way for their final
expulsion from Egypt. It is cleat fro m this that the Hyksos were using chariot s
before their encounter with Karnosc, that is, already in the 17th century.
O ur fmal piece of evidence comes from the period imme diately followin g,
the period of the New Kingdom . At its very beginn ing. as we shall sec later,
Canaanite chariots make their appearance for the first time in Egypt. T he standard
of their developm ent indicates clearly that they m ust have been in prolo nged use
before this time. Th e sum total of all this evidence docs not amo unt to a sharp ly
etched picture, but it is enough to show with certainty that the migh t of armies in
the Asiatic lands of the Bible in the second half of the Middle Bronze period was
based on the light horse-d rawn chariot with spoked wheels.
It IS equally evident that the art of warfare reached its highest standard in the
tim half of the second millennium. Th is was true of co mbat in o pen terrain, with
the chario t and the composite bow as the principal battle instru ments; of the
structure of fortifications, with their glacis and moats; and of attack o n a fortified
city. in which the battering-r am held a prized place. In no later period, until the
invention of gunpo wder. did the armies of the wo rld succeed in introducing on to
the battlefield new methods o r new weapons of war. But they did succeed in
petfecting them , as we shall sec in the follow ing chapters.













I57 0-I200B.C.

The period of the New Kingdom in Egypt, or the Late Bronze period, to use the
language ofarchaeology ofPalestine and Syria, is the period which saw the renaissance of Egypt and its development into a mighty Power that struck terror in
the entire region right up to the frontiers of the Hittite kingdom. This is also the
period in which the great Hittite Empire became a formidable military force, the
only one indeed able to stand up to the Egyptians. This is the period which covered
the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, and the
conquest of Canaan underJoshua. And, in its fmal phase, this was the period which
saw the beginnings of the collapse of the two mighty empires, Egyptian and
Hittite, and the rise of the "Sea Peoples," who gained domination of the coastal
region at about the same time as the Israelite tribes were securing control of the
eastern area.
These momentous historic events would have vanished into oblivion if it
were not for the rich legacy of written documents and illustrated monuments in
which they are recorded, and which illuminate the social, cultural, and military
context in which they were set. The number of wall paintings, reliefs, and other
archaeological finds from this important period, which provide direct information
on its military problems, is greater than those which have been preserved from the
previous period and from many of the later periods.
Bur this information, however valuable, would be incomplete without the
written documents. These are of extraordinary importance, particularly for the
subject of our study. In addition to the Bible itself, there is much material of
significance in the rhousandsof documents discovered in the archives of Nuzi,
Bogbazkoy, Ugarit, and Tell el-Arnarna, from the 15th to the r jth centuries B.C.,



1570-1200 B.C.

coinciding with the period under review. The diversity of the documents is also
of great value in completing the gaps in our knowledge. They include chronicles,
peace treaties, administrative records, and exchanges of correspondence between
the various kings and rulers. The military events referred to earlier find their echo
in these documents either directly or indirectly.
And this period, too, left behind in documents and illustrated monuments, the
earliest detailed descriptions of warfare in the lands of the Bible: the battle of
Thutmose III near Megiddo; the celebrated battle between Ramcses II and the King
of the Hittites near Kadesh on the Orontes; and Joshua's battle of conquest. These
documents and monuments enable us to follow the military features of the period
with an authenticity and detail which was impossible before. They show that
many of the weapons and methods of warfare and fortifications were the heritage
of the previous period. But they also show considerable advances in military
We shall begin our study as usual with the basic clements of warfare,
mobility, firepower, and security. And we shall follow with a description and
analysis of several of the celebrated battles of the period in which we shall see these
elements in operation.

All axe Iwm Chooar-Bazar

(18th ct'HflIry


WE A P 0 N S Shorr- and Mcdiutu-ranoe

In this, as in the previous period, we again come across the two earlier and
conflicting traditions: the Egyptians continue with conservative consistency to
stick exclusively to the tang-type axe, while the other lands of the Bible continue
to use, in addition, the socket-type weapon.
At the beginning of the period, particularly from the rorh to the r jth century,
the Egyptian axes follow the earlier Hyksos pattern. They are piercing axes with
a long, narrow blade, and wide edge. The finest examples of such weapons, which
can be dated absolutely, are presented on pages 180 and 181. They belong to the end
of the XVIIth and the beginning of the XVlIIth Dynasties, at the very outset of the
New Kingdom. The axe on page 180 bears the name of Kamose, the Pharaoh who
started the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt. The axe on page 18I is the
ceremonial axe of his nrother, Queen Ahhorep, who received it as a present from
her second son, Ahmose, the founder of the XVlIIth Dynasty, who completed the
Hyksos expulsion started by his brother Kamose. Both axes are similar in shape,
with a long and narrow blade which curves to a wide edge and a wide rear. The
rear portion has two lugs by which the blade, whose back is inserted into the
wooden haft, is tightly bound to strengthen the join. The edge is very sharp and
convex, which makes it an excellent piercing weapon.
This axe was used throughout the period of the New Kingdom, though its
shape underwent slight changes. Beginning from the r yth century, its blade
becomes shorter and its edge narrower until eventually the edge becomes the
narrowest part of the blade. The beginning of this development is well illustrated
in me axe (184) which bears the name of Thutrnose III, whose dates are

The axe (lIthe warrior)fum Bogltazkiiy

(page 222)


1490--1436 B.C., and. in the axes depicted in the relief from Deir el- Bahri belonging
to the same period (185). The end development can be scm in the axes in the hands
of Turankhamun 's infantr ymen as depicted on the painted lid of a wooden chest
found in his tomb at Th ebes. belonging to the middle of the 14th cent ury (214215), and those born e by the soldiers of Rarncses II as illuminated in the relieffrom
the temple of Karnak (228), belonging to the middle of the t j rh cent ury.
In other lands of the Bible, we come across a tang-type axe reminiscent ofth e
earlier period. Th is weapon (184, top ) differs from the Egyp tian type in that its
rear portion is much longer, forming a deep tang. And the lugs here are positioned
berween the tang and the blade.
But the most interesting and indeed the most beautiful group of axes from the
other lands of the Bible in this period arc of the socket type. Two representative
examples arc shown on page 222. Th e port ion of the blade to the rear of the socket
is fashioned inca ornamental lugs, or prongs, in the shape of fingers of a hand, or
an animal' s mane. T his had a functional and not only a decorative purpose, for the
prongs gave the rear part of the axehead an operational value. The rSth-century
axes from Kiilrcpe in Anatolia and from Chagar- Bazar in northwestern Mesopotamia (sec figure on page 77), which have somet hing akin to lugs at the rear of
the socket, are no doubt the ptot otypes of those shown on page 222 which arc
typical of the axes of the Late Bron ze period.

The Sword

The pattern in the development of the sword during this period has the same
central design as in the previous period but there ate several inceresting and
characteristic chang es. T he curved or sickle sword of th e Middle Bronze period
was, as we have seen, little more than a cutting axe, and it therefore had a comparatively lon g hilt and short blade. But with the total disappearance of the cutting
axe in the Late Bronze period as a result of the widespread use of the helmet and
armo r, the warrio r was left withou t a cutti ng weapo n for use in chariot fighting
or against an unarm ored enemy. T his explains the change in the curved sword
during this period and the revolutionary difference in the relationship of blade and
hilt. The blade is now long , equal in lengt h to the hilt, and sometimes longer.
Th ere are many examples of this type of curv ed sword, both among the archaeological finds and in the graphic representations on the reliefs of the period. From
these illustrated monum ents in particular do we learn how Widespread was the use
of the sword from Anatolia to Eg ypt. Th e 13rh-cenrury rock carving tram
Yazilikaya near Boghazkoy in Anatolia (205) depicts warri or-gods marching in
column (see figure on page 79) bearing the curved sword with the long blade on
their sho ulder. Th is apparent ly was how the sword was carried on the march, as
depicred also on the [are-r j rh-centur y ivory carving from Megiddo (206). Th e
fou r swords shown on page 207 com plete our knowledge of its detailed form
and shape. The first specimen was found at Gezer in Palestine in the tomb of
a nobleman , belonging to the first half of the qrh century . (T he swo rd shown on
page 209 (left) from the same period, was discovered at Ug arit ; 209 (cenrer) is from
the tom b of T utankh amun and was found toget her with anoth er sword of similar
type. They were certainly not Egy ptian, but probably reached the Pharaoh as a

gift or as booty .) The sickle swor d on page 207 (left) bears the name of the The tl'urriilr-gI,Js.1;01/1 't'4dlikaya.
Assyrian king, Adad-Nirari (1310-1280 B.C.), and therefore is of extre me impo r- wilh siclelc swords (pdgr 205)
tance for dating some other specimens. In shape it is transitional between those
of the rath centu ry and those of the t zth and 1 111, cent uries.
In the period of the New Kingdom, the Egypti ans, too, began to use the
sword very widely. Th ey no dou bt learned the art of its manufacture from the
people of Canaan, as they did with the chariot and the composite bow, as we
shall see later. The Egyptians called this swo rd H opesh aiter their term for the
foreleg of an animal. In their sword s, the blade was somewhat longer than the hilt
and was quite wide. This is furt her evidence that it reached Egypt during the
period of the New Kingdom, for at this time this type of sword was already
established among the Canaanites. No t only was the lehopesh sword in comm on
use with the Egyptian army of this period, as is shown by such monuments as the
relief at the temple of Karnak (228, left) , but it became the symbo l of Pharaonic
authority . Th e relief showing Rameses 1II smiting his Canaanite enemies (350)
depicts him brandishing this type of swo rd. In earlier periods, the Pharaoh is
shown wielding a mace.
The fact that the long-bl aded curved sword, a smiting weapon, was so WidelYj
used at this time, explains the Biblical phrase so frequently applied to J oshua's
actions of conq uest, which started in this very period- "h e smo te with the edge of
the sword ." Tltis expression co uld not be used for the action of the sho rt, straight
narrow sword, which was a thrusting o r stabbing weapon, but for the operation
(If the curved sword, wit h whose edge one smote the enemy .
Side by side with the smiting sword , w hich was the most convenient weapon
for the charge of the phalanx in hand-t o-hand combat (228), much pro gress was
made during this period in the developm ent of the straight sword. At the beginnmg of the period , it is still a kind of dagger, with a narro w blade (208- 209),
similar to the dagger-swo rds of the Middle Bronze period . But starring from the
r jrh century, the long straight blade begins to be more popul ar under the influence
of the Sea Peoples.
The Sea Peoples, som e of whom were mercenaries serving' in the royal
Egyptian armies of the XIXth D ynasty, were armed with very long sword s of the
same type as those used by the Egypti an soldiers, particularly when scaling ladders
in an assault on for tifications where a smiting weapon would have been ineffective
(22H, the warrior on the right- hand ladder). A sword of this rype belonging to the
end of the r jrh century, bearing the name of Pharaoh Merneptah, was discovered
at Ugarir (209, left). Its blade was 60 centimeters, and its hilt added another

1570-1200 B.C.


Lj. centimeters to the length of the sword. Another group offour swords, probably
slightly earlier, were also found at Ugarit in the house of the high priest.

The Spear

The spear was a basic weapon of the infantry. Several illustrated monuments
clearly depict special spear units, carrying spear and shield (216-217, 230). They
formed, rogether with the sword- and axe-bearers, the main power of the phalanx
in assault (238).
The 'socketed spearhead was leaf-shaped and strengthened by a protuberant
spine. A good example is shown in the relief from Shihan in Trans-Jordan (223,
top). Some scholars ascribe this relief to the end of the third millennium, but from
the shape of the warrior's helmet and his curled locks it clearly belongs to the latter
half of the second millennium. The top part of this relief is broken, and this gives
the impression that the warrior is holding a short-handled weapon. But it is
certainly a heavy spear with a long staff. Even the way in which it is held with both
hands shows that the action was spear-thrusting and not javelin-hurling as has been
The spear was also used effectively by defenders on the ramparts to stab
attacking troops ascending ladders (229). And it had an interesting function in the
chariot units. Egyptian chariots were not equipped with the spear. But it was
frequently to be found in the chariots of the neighboring armies, where it was kept
in a special pipe-like socket, at the rear of the vehicle. This spear was the weapon of
the driver, and it was no doubt used under certain battle conditions when the
charioteer was pressed into service as an infantryman. This difference between the
Egyptian and the Asiatic chariot units is strongly in evidence in the chariots of
the Hittite King in the Battle of Kadesh. The chariots of the Hittites and their allies
were manned by two warriors in addition to the driver. The warriors were armed
with a shield and along spear (239). The spear in this case assuredly served as the
principal weapon in the charge into the enemy ranks. This tradition is followed
by the chariot units of the first millennium in Syria and Assyria. Their standard
equipment always' includes a spear, which is kept at the rear of the vehicle and
serves as the weapon of the driver.
As against this, beginning with the XIXth Dynasty, the Egyptian chariots are
equipped with short javelins which are carried in a special quiver (240).


The BolV


The illustrated monuments and written documents carry the clear implication
that the composite bow was the decisive weapon in all the big armies of the lands
of the Bible during this period. Its effectiveness to the chariot units and the infantry
as well as for the defense of ramparts made it a most sought after weapon, and
special workshops were established for its manufacture. It was, however, a difficult
weapon to make, and not every warrior was equipped with it. The armies of
small kingdoms and the fighting men of small tribes, unlike the regular forces of
rich empires, could not produce this rype of weapon in mass quantities. An

additional difficulry was that not every rype of wood, horns, and tendons were suitable for the manufacture of an effective composite bow. An interesting document,
which itemizes the rypes of materials required 10 produce this instrument, is found
in the U garit texts. Aqhat promises Anat to supply her with the necessary
"Let me
Let me
Let me


iqlnn [birch tree, ] from Lebanon

tendons from wild bulls
horns from wild goats
the locks of bulls."

The shape of the composite bow is well illustrated in many monuments. Two
basic rypes are in evidence: the triangular bow and the recurved bow. Both are
carried by Semites bearing votive offerings as depicted on a wall painting of the
r yth century (195). The triangular bow is a shallow isosceles, with a wide-angled
peak of about 120 degrees and the angles formed by the string and the ends of the
arms each 30 degrees. Some good illustrations of this bow are to be seen in the
Thutmose IV chariot reliefs, both in the hands of Pharaoh himself and in those of
his enemies (193) and in the wall paintings on pages 195 and 199.
The recurved composite bow is easily recognized by the tendency of its arms
to curve away from the string near its ends when it is not drawn, and even when
it is, as the bow of Rameses II well shows (240-241). The composite how was
liable to be damaged by changes of weather, among other reasons, and so, like the
violin, it was frequently kept in a special case. Such bow cases were fitted to the
side of the chariot and the bow remained there when not in use. These cases, too,
offer additional testimony to the extensive use of the triangular composite bow.
A detail from the wall painting of the tomb of Kenamon (199) shows one of these
cases being carried by an arms-bearer. It is the same shape as the bow, a shallow
isosceles triangle. A similar case is depicted in the relief from Deir el-Bahri (185).
Several illustrations, notably the wall painting from the tomb of Nebamon (210),
show that it was easy to open-from the top--to allow the bow to be quickly
withdrawn and put into operation. Other cases appear on pages 192, 196, 215,
and 216.
The arrows usually had a body made of reed. This was an ideal substance,
strong, pliant, easy to shape and to receive the arrowhead and tail-feathers. Many
arrows of reed were found in Egypt in a good state of preservation. This material
is also mentioned in the Ugarir text referred to earlier. Following his undertaking
to Anat, which we have quoted, to send her materials for the bow, Aqhat goes on
to promise special reeds from a place noted for the excellence of its specimens. The
common use of the reed for this purpose also finds substantiation in the word for
arrow in Nuzi. It is "reed."
The arrowhead for battle was generally of bronze. In this period it was rather
thick in the middle and had a spine, either protuberant or flat. This is explicable by
the prevalent use at this time of the coat of mail which could be penetrated only
by a spined or ribbed arrowhead. Much effort went into fashioning the thick
portion of the head, between its rear part and the beginning of its tang. This



15 70 -1 2 00 B . C .

thickening prevented the arrowhea d from being pushed into its teed bod y and
splieting it on impact with the targ et. Th is was, of course, essential fa t comba t
against armo r. Th e aim o f more eriec rive penetration of arm or also found expression in the manufactur e of an iron arrowhead, but it was very rare. One was foun d
in Egypt, belon ging to the beginning of the qth century, the perio d of Amen-

horep III.
T he arrows wer e gene rally carried in a quiver. It was lon g and cylindrical and
made of leather (198, center ). To make it easier for the archer to carry, it had a
sho ulder m ap (198, right). Alrhou gh quivers were titted to chariots, some
charioteers also carried ad ditional q uivers on their shou lders (186, 187, 2I-l-2 I5,
216- 217). Each qui ver held between twenty -five and thi rty arr ows . Thi s we know
specifically from the Nuzi documents of the 15th century. In one docu ment,lisring
military equipment, we fmd the follow ing : "5 leather qui vers, 30 arrows in
each"; " . . . T otal 7 leather quivers , 178 arr ows placed in them ."
Th e operation of the compos ite bow requir ed strenuo us training . The archer
had to develo p his muscles, acquire the co rrec t stance, learn to ho ld the arrow
correc tly while dr awing rhe bow. For this purp ose special practice ranges were
established. Th e instructors would stand behind the trainees and correc t their
position and aim. Traini ng would begin on the simpl e bow (201, bottom right )
and lead up to the composite weapo n (201, bott om left). The left forearm -the
bow arm -was bound with a special leather guard to prot ect it from the Sllap of
the string on release (192, J99, 2J5, and 240). T he range targ ets were rectangular
board s of w ood fixed to a bar. For testing a particularly strong bow wi th great
power of penetra tion , a target board of crude copper was used. Here is a contemporar y boasting report of practice firing by Phar aoh Thurmose 1II which show s
his strengt h and skill:
"H e sho t an ingot o f co pper, every shaft being split like a reed. T hen His
Maj esty pllt a sam ple there in the House of Amon , being a tatg et of wor ked copper
o f three fingers in thickness, wi th his arrow therein. W hen it had passed through
it, he made th ree palms come alit of the back of it [i.c., abo ut 25 centime ters of
the arr ow protruding from the back of rhe rarger]."
T he system of training on the rang es and the sitin g of the targets is described
in the teport on the prowess of anot her Pharaoh, Am enliorep II, son of T hu tmose Ill. T his shows tha t stress was laid in the Iraining of chariot archers on firin g
wit h the horses at full gallop. Th is is also depicted on illustrated mon uments such
as 1.00 :


" He [rhe king] entered into his north ern garden and found that there had been
set up for him four targets of Asiatic copper o f one palm in their thickn ess, with
tw em y cubits betw een one POStand its fellow. T hen His Majesty appeared in a
chariot like Mont u [the god of war] in his power. He grasped his bow and gripped
four ar row s [see page 2001 at the same rime. So he rod e no rthw ard, shooting
at them like Montu in his regalia. His arrow s had come out of the back thereof
wh ile he was attacking another post. It was really a deed whi ch had never been



done nor heard of by report : shoo ting ar a tar ger or coppe r an arro w which came
out of it and dropp ed to the ground. . . ."
Th e archers were lon g-range warri ors and fought at times with the slingmen.
In the Egyptian monuments fro m the Ne w Kingd om, the sling appears only at the
beginni ng of the X'Xth Dynasty . W e shall have mo re to say abo ut the function of
the bow in barrle wh en we discuss tactics and methods of warfare.






Th e shield unde rwent considerable changes during the period of rhe New The Shield
Kingdom in Egypt -the Late Bronz e period in the o ther lands of the Bible-for
armo r and the helmet we re already in w ide use. T his prom pted far-r eaching
modifications in the shape and size of the shield. It becam e smaller and smaller as
the coat of mail and the helmet became more and more eriecrive.
But there were differences in the types of shield used in Egypt, Palestine,
Syria, and Anatolia and the shields of the Sea Peoples of the Egy ptian armi es
dur ing the XIX th D ynasty in the r jrh centu ry. The Egyptian shield thr oughou t
the period of the New Kingd om is comparatively small. Its top is roun ded and is
slightly wider than its base, which is straight. T his suggests that it was design ed
primarily to protect the face and the upper part of the bod y. This shape remains
virtually unchanged, with on ly minor modifi cations throughout the New Kingdom.
The shields we re made of woo d and cov ered with leather (202- 203). In the
i j rh centu ry, the top part of the shield protecting the face is strengthened wi th
a metal disk. Th e loop or strap co uld be length ened to enable the shield to be
carried on the back. Th is was very practical in ope rations against a for tified city A Iyp;lil! E.I:Yl',io1l, sl,it'!,J
(228), both in scaling the ladd ers and breaching the gate.
(lIthe SlOW Kjl~':llom
The light circular shield was used in the Egyptian arm y exclusively by the
Sea Peoples (229). Th ese troops were w ell armo red; their basic weapons wese the
lon g sword and spear. Thi s shield was parti cularly we ll suited to hand- to-hand
combat, and did not encumb er movement .
The C anaanite, Palestinian, and Syrian shields may have followe d the tradition of the old Sume rian pattern. wh ich w as conceivably popula r in this region .
We have no actual shields foun d at excavations. But we know the rype of shield s
used by the Palestinian and Syrian warr iors tor they are represented on illustrated
Egyp tian monuments. T he mo st im po rtant for our purp oses is the relief on the
chario t of Thutmose IV from the 15th cen tury (192-193). Th e shields here arc
rectang ular, and are app arently no larger than 60 by 30 cen timeters. It is possible
that they were slightl y con vex. T here are tw o rypes. On e is made of plaited reeds
(19 2) atid the oth er of wood covered with leather studd ed wi th numerous me tal
tacks and disks, both for added prot ection and for decoration (193, 199, top right).
There are somewhat similar illustrations of Semit ic shields on the painted side panel
of the chest fro m the to mb of Tu tankham un from the rr rh crn tllry (216- 217) as


against the round-t opped shields of the warriors in the Egyptian army with
whom they ate seen locked in battle.
T he Canaanite shields depicted in the reliefs of Seti I (231) and Rameses II
(where the Canaanites are fighting together with th~ Hittites) are also oblong. But
we fmd a radical change beginning with the r jth ce ntury when both the round
and the rectangul ar shields appear on the battlefield. W e find the round shield in
the hands not only of a warrior from the city of Ashkelon (228) but also of the
fighters depicted in the Megidd o reliefs. In the Megid do illustrations. some are
shown eq uipped with a sickle sword and carrying a round shield on their back
(206-207). som e carry an axe and a round shield (2.p ), and some a spear and a
similar shield (2.B ). There is no doubt that this shield was introduced into the
Canaanite armies under the influence of the Sea Peoples who made their appearance
in this part of the world precisely at this time.
Th e Hittite shield was quite different from all the others. and is well illustrated
in the Rarneses relief of the Battle of Kadesh (see figur e on page 88) . It is shaped
like a rough figu re 8, round and wide at the top and bott om and narrow at the
waist. broadly following the lines of the human body, T he Hit tite chariots were
used for short-range combat, and this perhaps explains the form of their shield. For
ir gave protection to the whole body, yet was reasonably lighr by virtu e of its
narrowness at the center.

A nllo,

Th e coat of mail is the o utcome of the advancement of the bow and the
chariot to extensive use. Th e charioteer and the archer were the only warriors who
required both hands to operate their battle instruments. and so lacked the means of
pro tecting their body wit h a shield. At the beginning. the archer, even wielding
rhe simple bow, was in large measure protected by distance. since he was out of
range of enemy missiles. But with the development and wider use of the comp osite
bow . this military advantage was neutralized. It wasof course possible to solve the
problem for the archer and the charioteer by means of the special shield-bearer.
And this method was indeed adopted in later periods. For the chariot it meant the
addition of a third man-driver. archer. plus bearer-wh ich put a heavy strain on
the light vehicle. Despite this, the system was prevalent among the Hittites. But
the search for the ideal solution persisted. It was found in the coat of mail. wit h irs
metal scales. hard , reasonably light, and flexible. It was expensive. and not all
armies could afford it. Even large armies could no t afford to armor all the men in
every unit. Th ey laid down prioriti es. T op of the priori ty list were the archers and
the charioteers.
As the bow and the chariot became more and more commo n in the Late
Bronze period. so did the coat of mail. Thutmose III records. for example, that in
the Battle of Megiddo he took more than 200 coats of mail as war booty. An
instructive illustration of the use of this type of armo r by the Canaanite charic t
drive rs is to be found in the Th urmose IV chariot relief (192. 196, top). Here we
sec how the dri ver wore his scaled armo r. It covered his body and the top part of
his arms almost to the elbow. His neck, too , is protected by a leather collar
stiffened by pieces of metal.

1 5 7 0 -1 2 0 0 B .C.

Th e Egyptian artist also points up the weak spotS of the coat of mail by
showing an arrow stuck in to the driver at the armpi t. at the join of the sleeve to
the bod y of the coat. (Compare this with I Kings 22: 34: " And a cerrain man drew
a bow at a venture. and smot e the king of Israel between the j oints and (of] the
armo r. . ..") T his relief also shows in detail the shape of the scales. They are largely
reccJnguh r, with the bottom edge fashioned into a point, and they have a protu berant spine down the center. A well-preserved part of an earlier coat of mail.
found at Nuzi (196. bottom ), has a row of scales in one section which are round ed
at one side. From this relic we learn that me scales were not of even size. They
varied according to their position on the coat. T he smallest ones were 64- millimeters long and 36 millimeters wid e; the intermediate were 101 by 4-5 millimeters;
and the largest. 118 by 63 millimeters. T heir average thickness was 2 millimeters.
By comparison, the scales of the coats of mail foun d at Thebes in the palace
of Amenhorep III (197 . bott om ) come to a point at the bottom and arc Il 5 millimeters in length . Armo r with precisely this type of scale is excellent ly illustrated
in complete form in the wall painting from the tomb of Kcnamon in the reign of
Amcnhorep II (197, top).
These large scales m ust have been very heavy, and in time improvements
were effected and the scales made smaller. A coat with small scales was worn by
Rarneses II at the Battle of Kadesh (24<>-241).
Since the ancient artists often depicted the scales simply in painting, wh ich
wears off in time . their apparem absence from many reliefs was interp reted by
some as indicating that the coat of mail was not widely used. But the Battle of
Kadesh wall painting (237). whose colors were apparentl y well preserved when
the copy was made, shows that even the Hitt ite charioteers wo re similarly scaled
armored clothing .
The coat of mail in the Kenamon wall paintin g has about 4 50 large scales. The
armor of Thutmose IV's enemies (196. top) had a similar number- or slightly less.
Details on the number of scales per coat are given in the equipmentlists from the
Nuzi archives. Large and small scales are itemized separately. T he text of one
tablet deals. for example, wit h four coats of mail. O ne is listed as having 400 large
scales and 280 small scales-c-oso in all. Anoth er has a total of I ,03 5 scales.T he coats
were thus of different sizes and different quality. Th e bigger and better the coat,
the larger the number of small scales.
T he method of attaching the scales to the garment of leather or cloth is also
well seen in the armor found in N uzi, Egypt. Palestine, and Syria. T he scales were
sewn on to the garment wi th strong thread which passed throu gh tiny holes
punctured in each scale-usually three at the top . two at the botto m, and two at
one side. But the numbe r and position of the holes varied from one type of armo r
to another. And they were also suited to the part ofthe body the scale was to cover.
T hese details serve to underline the two weaknesses of the coat of mail: irs
weight and its complicated manufacture.
T he helmet, too, was in extensive use by warriors in the Late Bronze period . The Helme:
Those worn by some of the enemy chariot drivers in the Th utmose IV chariot


relief (192- 193) are slightly pointed and cover the ears and the forehead up to the
eyebrows. This meta) headgear must have becom e very hot in battle, and so it was
covered by some insulating material, which was also decorati ve. Some helmets,
for example, had long feathers stuck to the crown , their points meeting at the top.
their broad porti ons fanned and covetin g the metal. Some were overlaid with a
cloth-piece, or cloth strips. And some had a tassel attached to the crown and
knotted at the back like a plait. Such a helmer. albeit with well-defined ear-shields,
is worn by the warrior carved in rhe relief on the gate j amb at Boghazkiiy (222,
top). Egyptian warriors also wo re helmets, especially in assault. Th ese, like their
coats of mail, were q uite expensive, and it is presumably because of their value that
helmets are often depicted in Egyptian wall paintings in rhe hands of Semites
bearing gifts. Th e piercing axe, a universal weapon in this period, was primarily
designed against this metal helmet.
As the means of security reached the point where they matched the means of
firepower, mobility became the decisive factor in battle. And so as arm or and the
helmet on the one hand and the composite bow on the other both achieved high
standards of development, the chariot assumed a more significant place on the

15 70 - [ 20 0 B . C.


The Chariot


fl. re-fl,t -)


Th e chariot reached Egypt from Canaan. This is also borne out by the fact
that Egyptian terms for the chariot and horses are borr owed from the Canaanite.
Moreover, the Egyp tian chariot in the first half of the XV IIlth D ynasty is exactly
like the Canaanite chariot. Thi s is seen in wall paintings which often depict
Canaanites bearing chariots as votiv e gifts to the Egyptian royal court.
O ur sources of information on the chariot in the Late Bronze period arc rich
and varied. Th ey comprise wall paintings, reliefs, remains of actual chariots, and
literary descriptions, from which ir is possible to reconstruct, down to the last
detail, the shape of the chariot, its measurements, the materials from which it was
made, irs crew, horses, armame nt, and the way it was used in battle. .
Chariots in the 16th and 15th centuries were light. Th ey had two wheels, each
offour spokes. The body had a woo den frame partly covered with leather or some
other light material, and was harnessed to two horses. In order to understand the
changes in developm ent of the chariot during this period , it is well to give detailed
study t o this Canaanite-Egyptian type at the beginnin g of the period. A good
example for our study is the chario t found in Egypt and now in the Florence
Museum , from the Early XVlllth Dynasty in the 15th century (19 t) . It was
apparently made in Canaan and brought to Egypt either as war boo ry or as a gift.
Thi s chariot has three main elements: the body, the wheels, and the pole and
yoke. T he body has a woo den frame. From a side view the body looks like a
qu adrant, one radius forming the upright front , the other radius forming the
horizontal base with its rear resting on the axle, and the arc forming the back. Its
base is 1 met er WIde and i meter deep. It is 75 centimeters high in front-which



.. I


would cover about halfway up to the tlrighs ofthe charioteer. T he leather covering
has not been preserved, bur from wall paintings of rhe period. we see that the
whole of the front and the bottom part of the sides of the body were so covered.
Th e axle-rod is 6 centimeters thick at the center and its length betw een the wheels
is 1'23 mcrers-e-aj centim eters longer than the wid th of the body . so- that the
clearance of each wheel from the side of the body was II'S centimeters. Th e total
length of the axle-rod is 1'53 meters, for it extended beyond each wheel by IS centimeters. Making the axle- rod so much lon ger than the wid th of the body gave the
chariot greater stability on sharp turns. T he wheels had four spokes whose thickness near the cenrer reached 4 centimeters.
Th e chariot pole is 2'5 meters long. its hind end attached to the rear bar
of the body frame and running under the body. giving additional strength to an
otherwise frail structu re. It is 6' 7 centimeters at its thickest point. As it emerges
from rhc underside of the body, it is attached to the top part of the vehicle's front
by leather thongs. All wall paintings of chariots seem to make a point of showing
this (186, 187, 189). The yoke is shaped like a double-c onvex bow and is attached
to the forward end of the pole by nails. The yoke in all its detail is port rayed with
minute accuracy also on the Canaanite chariot depicted on the wall painting from
the tomb of Rekhmire in Th ebes showing Canaanites bearing gifts (189). The
Florence chariot reveals how much thought and effort went into the making of
a chariot and how each part required its own special wo od. Th e pole, for example,
was made ofelm , the tires of pine; the binding of the spokes and other partsof the
body was done with strips of birch. Everything was planned to make the vehicle
light. flexible, and stro ng. And, indeed, several illustrated monu ments depict giftbearers carrving a chariot on their back-which shows that it m ust have been
very light.
Th roughout most of the t yrh century the Egyptian chariot is still almost
identical with the Canaanite, and the axle-rod, though well to the rear, is not yet
flush with the rear of the body (190). Bur starting with the reign of T hutm ose IV,
at the end ofthe 15th celltury, the Egyptian chariot begins ro shake off' its Canaanite
influence and undergo considerable change.
Thutrnose N chariot's body bears ;eliefs on both sides (192- 193). From these
reliefs we sec clearly that the chariot is now heavier and its wheels have not four
bur eight spokes. This sudden doub ling of spokes was apparently an experiment
which was not successful. f or wit h the reign of Amenhotep lII, we fmd the
Egyptian chariot fitted with six-spoke wheels (t90, 210, z r t , 212, 213, 215, 216,
2]2,235, 240). So widespread and meticulo us is the delineation of ihe number of
whee spokes on chariots depicted on Egyptian monuments that they can be used
as J criterion for determini ng whether the monument is earlier or later than
'400 H.C .

Excellent examples from which we learn the trend ofchariot measurements in

the second half of the 14th century are those of T urankhamun, The vehicle is
1'25 meters high and I '02 meters wide. The axle-rod from wheel to wheel is 1'75
meters. Th e width of the body was thus four-sevenths of the length of the rod, and
this must have given ir great stability on turns. The diameter of the wh eels. is


The Hinuc chariots ill the Battle of

KdJesh U'O r the i l lJ WIfOCY (1f Jhis
Jrf1ll'''t~~ set' page 1}9. WI/om, where

tilt' II'/H'c'/S /'.1 1'( six spokesand

not eight)

9 2 centimeters and the len gth of the pole is 2' 56 ' m eters. The pole, as wi th
C anaani te and o ther Eg yptian chari ots, runs und er the bod y and gives it additional
support. This chari ot is depicted in action in the splendi d paint ings o n th e wood en
chest found in rhe tomb of T Ulank ham un (21 4-2 IS. 2. 1 ~2 17) ,
The E gy ptian chariot in the r jth century remains vi rt ually un changed , having
appa rently reached peak qua lity in the 14th. T his is evident from the superb relief
showing Rarnese s II chargin g th rou gh th e H itti te a'rm y, his bow at the dr aw
(24?-24 1) . T he singl e difference seems to be tha t in thi s century, the side of the
vehicle is fitte d w ith a special quiver for hurling j avelins (240) in addition to the
bow case and arr ow quiver. We can id enti fy th e type of the se javelins, of whi ch
w e shall hav e mo re to say when we come to the chap ter on Goliath.
In Ca naan itself the chariot, which m ade its im pact on th e Egyptian vehicl e,
developed in much the sam e way as th e Egypt ian . But fro m the XVIllth Dynasty,
when Eg y pt gain ed dominion over C an aan, the Canaanites ceased to be their o wn
ma sters in the m an ufacture of chariots , and a certa in decline set it. However, the
influ ence now seem s to be in the rev erse direction , with Canaanite chari ot s, beginning wi th the 14th cent ury, following the Egyptian patt ern . They beco m e heavier
and their wheels have six spo kes. O n the ot her hand , since they appare ndy did not
succeed in develo ping a light eno ug h bod y, the axle-ro d is positioned und er the
cente r and not at the rear ed ge of the bod y, so as no t to put too heavy a str ain on
th e hor ses (20~207 ) . As a result , the cha riot lost a good part ofits m aneuverabili ty
on the fast tum. This differen ce betw een the Canaani te and E gy ptia n chariots is
well un derlin ed in the T urankh am un pain ting (2 1 ~2 1 7) .
The Hittite char iot is known to us on ly from the Rarneses II reliefs portrayin g
the Batt le of Kadesh. It is difficult to be specific ab out it, for the Hit ti te for ces w ere
a coalition of several peoples . Th e reliefs sho w a n umber of cha riots whose axle-rod
passes und er the cente r of the body; o the rs sho w a m uch taller case. Bur in so me
cases (as in 239), th ere is no app arent disti nc tion between the Hi tti te and Egyptian
cha riots . Bo th have the rod at the rear edge of the bod y base. It is of co urse
impossible to determi ne the measure of accuracy of the Egy pt ian artists in this case.
For d ifferen ces are sho wn in the vario us shapes of H itt ite chariot portrayed
on o ther reliefs in va rio us tem ples. At all eve nt s. it w o uld see m that the Hit tite
chario t did ha ve the axle-rod under the cente r and not the rea r, for we kn ow that
it carried a crew of th ree, w hich w ould have ma de it too heavy for a rear axle.
In acti on , the Egyptian, Canaanite, and H itti te chariots we re harnessed to tw o
horses. Bur the proportion of horses to chario ts captu red in battle, which we see








1570 -1200 tl .L ,

quite often from the wri tten reco rds, w as th ree to one. This suggests th at the full
eumplem ent w as th ree ho rses per chari o t, two co mmitted and one in reserve ,
unharnessed. In a later period , in the 9th century. the th ird ho rse w as also occaSIOna lly harne ssed to the vehicle, as we shall see late r. T he hor se w as o ften prot ected
in bat tle by special armo r w hich cover ed its back .
The delicat e and precise struc ture of the chariot demanded special w orkshops
for its manufa cture. From E gyptian wa ll paintings (202) we see th e process,
w hich seem s to follow the assemb ly-line pa tte rn. One group makes the rim , ano ther
the spokes,another assembles the wheel. O the r groups are co nce rn ed wi th the wo oden
partS of the vehicle, so me making th e body, o thers the po le, o the rs the axle- rod .
Som e arc seen fitting th e leather and the accessories, like qui vers and bo w cases.
On e of the big probl em s was m aintenance. Th e chario t had to be kept in good
ro ud irio n on the march , in batt le, and afterwa rd . W heels and o ther part s o f th e
w hick would break . Th ey had to be ch ang ed , strengthened , o r repaired . T o meet
this need, special rep air wo rkshops were established , even alon g specific ro utes, and
eq uipment stores for spare partS were pur up at appropriate places. Thus w e read
in one of the letters sent to the Gov ernor of T a'anach in the 15th centu ry (acco rding to Albright' s translation) :
"I was ambushed in Gurra; so give me this day tw o chario t wheels and an
axle and two. , . , And when the making of the axle has been comp leted , send
it to I11C "

SeveralImportant documentswhich relate to the subject of maintenance we re

fmmd ill the royal archiv es of U garit. They record the nu mber of chariots br ought
into the workshops for repa ir , an d the state of their condi tio n: O ne , fo r exa mple,
says that eight chari o ts w ere brou ght in to fie King' 5 palace, complete wi th t heir
wheels, po les, and harness. But " two chariots are wi tho ut qui vers," The docu men t '
. goes <In to say that three pain of wheels and one pole were taken for repa ir to the
"dJ icl' artifi cer," nam ely,' to the perso n in charge of the w o rkshops. .
A rather amusing and int eresting chro nicle of the exper iences of an Eg ypt ian
co urier dn ving his chario t in the land of Cana an appears in one o f the Eg yp tian
pap yri. He starts wi th an account of ho w the knaves of J affa sabo taged hi s vehicl e
w hile he ' u s asleep :
" A cow ard steals thy bow, th y dagg er , and th y qu iver. T h y reins are cut in
the dark ness. Thy hor se is gone and statt s a cuna w ay ov er th e slippery ground, as
the road str etches o ur befor e him . He smashes th y chario t... . T h y wea pons have
fallen 10 the grou nd . .. ."
Aft er this co me s a descr ipt io n of the chario t- repair w o rksho p in J affa:
" T ho u art introduced int o the arm o ry, and wo rksho ps surro und thee. Craftsmen and leather w or kers are close bv thee, and thc v do all tha t thou hast desired .
Th ey take care of th y cha rio t. so that it ceases t~ be loose. Th y pole is new ly
trimm ed. its att achments are applied . T hey put bindings on th y coll ar- piece.. , .
They fix up thy yoke . . .. T hou goest forth quickl y to figh t, to acco mplish deeds
"f L" ro islll ."

I r 11::: l ' r:::l\ l V LJ

,-J r

i rr n


11'1 .l::: G Y I' I

Th ere were of course also mob ile wor kshops for rhe repai r of wea pons and
chariots on the march and in battle, O ne such workshop is depicted in the relief
sho wing the cam p of Ram eses II at the Battle of Kadesh (236-237). At the side
of the camp (236, to p panel) we see rhe artifi cer repairin g a chario t pole, assisted
by tw o apprentices.
\Ve mentioned earlier that different parts of the chariot we re mad e o f
different wood -cach suited to the fun ction of the part . Th e woods had therefore
to be bro ugh r fro m diflerent places, and the w ritten doc um ents specify geog raphic
regions (like the area of Beth-shan) in Palestine and Syria which we re known for
the qu aliry o f tree that was just right for a particular part .
Incident ally, chariots were not the on ly wheeled ve hicles used by rhe armies
o f this period . T hey also had rransport vehicles to carry equipment and supplies fo r
the fighring men. From the reliefs of the Bat tle of Kadesh, we sec rhar borh the
Hittite and the Egy prian arm ies had qu ite a nu mb er o f such wago ns hitched to
dr aft anim als. T he Hittite wago ns we re four-w heelers and were certainl y heavier
th an the two- wh eeled Egy ptian types (236- 237, center ). Th ey look like larg e
bo ilers with a ro unde d lid. Suppli es were also carr ied by pack asses.


The Fortificatiolls



MoS!of the cities of the Late Bronze period were:est. blished on the city sires
of the previous period. Where th e fortifi cation s of the earlier settlements we re
completely destro yed , new fort ificat ions we re bui lt. Where they had been only
pa rtially demolished . they were repaired and renova ted. W here rhey had rema ined
undamaged . they we re taken ove r for use in this later perio d. This is th e case, I
believe. wi th the celebrated.wall ofJericho, wirh its stone glacis, referr ed to earlier
- the very "walls ofJericho" menti oned in the Biblical descri ption of the conquest
by Joshu; . For altho ugh its bo tto m part is certainly Middl e Bronze, it was so solid
that if the wall had been damaged in the roth cent ury - that is, ar the end of Middle
Bronze II- only the " pper pari would have been afleeted , the part buil t of brick ,
and this was prob ably renovared in the Late Bron ze period . It w ou ld be idle ro go
on searching lor anot her wall from the tim e of Joshua. or to seck to ascribe its
absence to erosion. Thi s, I believe. is the wa ll of Joshua's J ericho .
W e lin d evidence in other cities of this period in Palestine, Egyp t, and Syria
thar earlier fortific at ions continued in use, eirher as they were or wi th partial
reconstruction. O ccasionally some serious change was' introduced . In Haza r, for
example, the earlier wall of the large lower city remained . Its gates were rebuilr
on rhc same sire and afrer the same parrern as the original. Th e chang e they may
have made is rhe constructio n in some places of stone walls or isolated lowers on
rop of the eart h ramparts w hich prot ected the city from the west and no rth. In
Megiddo , roo, the four-cham bcred city gate , built at the end of the Middl e Bronze
period . rem ained standin g.
,\Vh~r", . the earlier fcrrificatious..h adbeenruined.torwhere their design no
longer wet tj;~ ~~~ds oft he new Late Bronze city , nei, fortifications were built.

15 7 0 - [20 0 B , C .

An instructive example o f the im pressive fo rtifications o f this Late Bron ze period

in Palestine is the well-preserved "o ut er wall" of Gezer; It encom passes rhe entire
area of the rell and is buil r of huge stone bo ulders-Ir is 4 meters th ick and in sorne
I ocs it has rema ined srand ing to a h eight oht meters. It has severa l rectangular
bastions. which protrude both from the inner and exteri or surfaces of th e w a .
They arc m ore than JO meters long and their-corners are strengthened by q uarried ,
stone. Some were built at the some time as the wa ll, others were added later .
T he fort ress of Buhcn , whos e design in the Midd le Bronze period was
descnbed in detail earlier, also had its character chan ged in this later period, and
it now has walls with squote bastions .
But the ' finest example of Lore Bronze city forrifi carions are undoubtedly'
those of Hattussas, capital of the Hittites in Anatolia, now called Bo ghazkcy. Here
one can readily discern the innovations of the Late Bronze period , for this city W3S
builr anew in stages at th e rim e of the Hittite Empire over an incomparably greater '
area than it> predecessor .el rs system of fo rt ificatio ns is therefore o riginal, and is
clearly characteristic of the period . It is one of the large st cities of this time w ho se
fortifications are well preserved . It also offers an insight into the en gmeermg skills
of the period. For it is bui lt on hilly ground. with different sections at diflerent
levels, and the fort ification s had ro be suited to the prevailing topographic conditions. They show all the feat ures of a perfect system.
Tbe city at this period comprised three basic elements; (a) The acropolis or'
citadel, known in Turkish as Bliytik KaIe-"the .great citadel "~built on a hill
above the west bank of a deep rav ine. Its measurements are I SO by 250 meters.
(b) Th e lower city , lying northwest of the citadel, between two ravin es, measuring"
about r,ooo by 500 meters. ) T he large upper city, built to th e south of the '
citadel and lower city on grOlmd which rises steadily southward. It is 1 .400 by ~
1,100 meters ; The overall length of the city complex, lower and upper , from
north to south reaches 2 ,000 meters.
Tu understand the essent ial charac ter of the Hatt ussasf orrification s ir mus t be
remembered rhar the three comp onents of the ciry were no t bu ilt at the same time.
The oradd is the earliest, and was built largel y in the first half of the second
null ennium . The lower city forrifications belong mainly to the 15th century, The '
large upper city was bui lt at the beginning of the 14th century or later, and shows
the YOSt expansion of this settlemen t at a time when th e Hittit e . Em pire w as in
full blossom . It also shows the mi gh ty efforts of the Hittite kin g, Suppilulium as, ,
tu include 'wi thin the overall fortifications the commanding high ground to .
the south 'of the lower ciry. ,Th e fearur es of the terra in, the hills and the riverbeds, necessitated the construction of this new wall w hose perim eter appro ximated
to 4 kilome ters! Add 10 this the 2 kilom eters of outer wall round the lower city
and rhe citadel, and we have a total of 6 kilometers of wall which had to be
defend ed by the qth-I3th-eentury inhabitants of Hatrussas. '
The part of the lower city wall which has rem ained is mo stly the southern
sect ion. It is built on a high eart h ramp.rt and is a double wall , of the casemate
type, its outer "skin" being 3 meters thick. the inner skin 2 '7 m eters, and the space
between 2'1 meters, giving the wall an efiecrive thickness of some 8 m eters,


Planof Bog/laz koy- Halflw ,1S- the

capital ojthc Hittites. C,'wr"l right:

the citadel. Top Idi: the l,)wf?r city.
Below,' the tlpprrcity




,1Rectan gu lar bastions or rowers had been built on the o uter surface of the w all; >
som e small, con taining one chamber, and some large, up to ' 15 meters wi de,':
containin g two chambers. ..
At the foot of the rampart, six posterns had ~built leading in to the lower ..
city. Their length was the width o f the rampart fl:itli base-some 50 meters.',
Ce ilin g and wails Were of none, w hich had then in tfun been covered with earth. '
Wi th the construction of the upper city in the later period, these posterns served as .
useful throughw ays to it from the lower city and saved the inha bitants the need to
.usc the more distant main gates. B ut since the y had been bui lt before the up per
city, their main functio n mus t have been part of the fortification design of the
lo wer city . The suggestion ' has been m ade that th ey w ere conceived as hidden ,'
co rrido rs through wh ich a counterattack could be launched against an attacking ,
force. But this is hardly acceptable, for th e runnel exits co uld very we ll be seen by '
the enem y ; It is m ost pro bable that they wer e indeed used for actio n agains t an
assaulting group, bu t not to hid e their movem ent. Rather was it to enable the'
defenders to make sorties at the moment' when th.t enemy were beginning to
", /lIIp.!/;. or to ena ble them to en gage the enem y in o pen barrle o ut side the city
w alls w hile receiving stro ng cover ing fire from their comrades on the for mida ble
towers on both sides of each post ern gate.
These post erns w ere of course addition al weak spot s in the system of for tifications. B ut their co nsiderable lengt h, their nar row nessj and the protection afforded
by the flanking tow ers made the task of pcnerrarion by a hostile o utside for ce
excessively difficult .
Posterns are a typical featu re of the' fortificatio~ in Anatolia. One w as dis- '.,
cov ered in Alaca H irytik, belon ging to the MiddlejBr onze period, 50 mete rs
long. Here, too , its additional purpose was to afford ~ge to the inhabitants in 1.
Tht' King's G,ut' 4 B,'gha.z1.,:{l'y wilh
and out of the city at times of emergency when the gates w ere closed . It w as sited
Iht' li ly 11'0111and temples
betw een the tw o ciry gates w hich were 700 meters apar t. A superb pos tern was .,
discovered at U garir, belonging to th e Late Bronze peri od and certainly built on ,".
the pattern of the .Hittite tunnels, At Boghazkoy irse)f, a very large postern was, .
fo un d in the fortifications of the upper city>
T hese fortifications ofthe upper 14th-13th-eenrurr city are the most powerful
of the.entire complex.And though similar to those of the low er city , their plan and
th e quality of their co nstruction are mo re ad vanced. Here, too (225, bo ttom) , they
are bui lt on a very high and wide ramp art. T hey comprise two wails: the ma in,
w all. and , at a distance of 8' 5 meters, an outer wall. TJ#s o uter wall is also built on '
a rampart, and is 1 m eter thick. It is srren grhened
rectangular bastions, built ~;
at a distanc e of 30 ineters from each other and set ex:d:cly between the towers on > ,.
the main w all. Th is mai n w all, like the w all of the lower city. is a do uble-casemate ., ,
stru cture, its o uter skin 16 m eters thick, its inn er skin 1 ' 4 me ters, and the space
betw een them I ' 5 , gi\~n g it II ov eral l thi ckness of m ore than 4 meters. '
Irs f(lnnidabj~' qUJliri:' apm from th e (litter wa ll, deAved fr om the considerable '
number ;' f to wers (no t bastions ) built into it. T bet w ere 8 m eters wid e and "
protr uded outward som e 5'.5 meters. Its low er section, tOO, was fIlled with earth '
and stones between t he skins. And it w as upo n this flat!.llurf2ce tha t the upper waH




str ucture of brick was built, mos t prob ab ly with casemates. ,T he casema tes were
(0 0 narrow to serv e as storeho uses or dwel ling-chamb ers. Th ey wer e used as
paSS:l geways for the troo ps at the low em brasures which were cut into them , as
illustrated on the wall rd iefs (sec fig ure on r1iis page). Thro ugh these emb rasures.
the ,k f,'nd ers co uld engage those of the enemy who had succeeded in breachin g
the outer wall and had rcached th e area w hich wa s "d ead ground " to the soldiets
011 top of the m ain wa ll.
Th e top of the rampart, parti cularly in the tegion of the gates, was cove red
with Idtge po lygo nal stones. M ost im pressive were the tw o m ain city gates themsclves-i-rh e southeastern King', Gate (~4) and the southwestern Lions' Gate
(225. rop), Bot h w ere similar in plan. T hey fonned a " gate cita del" between the
main and outer wal ls which comprised two lon g towers, and en trance to the city
was th rough the passage between the rowers, Thi s passage had tw o gatew ays, a
douh ll' d oo r at each, an o uter one near the o uter wal l and an inne r on e near the
main \\".,11. Th e j amb s of each gateway we re hu ge va ulted stone pillars. T he o uter
da m s .rpparenrly o pened inward and the inner doors ou twa rd. The gate w as
r".Khnl by an o bliq ue sloping path or ram p w hich ex posed hostile users to fir e
{rolll the tow ers and bastions of the mai n an d ou ter wa lls. In fron t of the gate wa s
3 leveled open " sq uare."
The Lions ' Gate gets its name from the lion car ved in hig h relief on each of '. West Gal'

4 B,'ghazkdy (sw io,,)

15 7 0 -1 2 00 B . C .



Plan (Jf lho! gates of B,'ghazkciy.

~1 b ..)f>e:

The Kittg' j Gate

Below: T he Liom' Gat(






The postern at Yerleapu, Bogl/tJzkiiy.

A view ,"rough the poslfm. A section

the postern andthe walls

the two jam bs of its outer gatewa y- "the keepers of m e gate." The Ki ng's G.Jte; ~
is SO called toda y. because of the figure of the warriozor deity, whi ch was carved '!.'"
on the inner left jamb-from the point of view of J,meon e inside looking out. 4T his relief (222, to p) is now in the Hittite Mu seum inAnkara and is ther efore not
seen in the phot og raph on page 224.
Far the most int erestin g feature of the sou thern wall is th e fortification
arr an gem ents in th e m iddle of the area betw een the Lions' Gate and the Kin g's
Gate. T his is know n tod ay as Yerkapu - the Earth Gate (225, bottom ).
ln the main wall between these tw o city gates is a ~mall o pening for the use of
pedestr ians called the Sph inx Gate, because of the figures of a sphinx which
decor ated its j amb s. T he ram part at this point is q uite h igh- about I I meters. T o
gain access to the Sph inx Gate fro m o utside, tw o rows of steps we re cut in rhe
ramp art Some distance to its righr and to its left. At the to p of each stairway, a
small"wicket gate had been cut in the o uter wa ll w hich gave entry 10 the space
between the main and o uter walls throu gh which th e Sphinx Gate could be
At the foot of the rampart in front of the SphinxGate and midway between
th e tw o stairw ays, a postern had been constr ucted int o the rampart leadin g right
th ro ugh int o the city. Its length w as 80 meters- the width of the ram part at this
section-s -reaching , at its other end, a point J J m eters immediately beneath th e
Sph inx Gate. T his w as the Earth Postern , or Gate, and its purpose is believed to
have been both to save the inha bitants fro m the steep clim b up the tampart , and,
in attack , to ena ble so rties to be carried o ut against the enemy in certain cond ition s
o f battle. T his postern apparently had do o rs at both ends w hich cou ld be closed
duting siege.
T o co m plete the picture of the Boghazkoy forti fications, it should be added
th at the lo w er city also had a nu m ber o f innet defensive w alls w hich created a kind
of citadel wit hin a citadel. It is possible th at these inner walls we re the boundaries
of earlier cities and became " inner" only wi th the gro wt h and ex pansion of th e
settlement . But in the city's final phase, they certai nly add ed stren gth to the system
of fort iti cati ons. T he upp er city, too , was strengthened by several independent
citadels, built on roc k cliffs, w hich for m ed a cha in of fort ification s wi thin the city
Now here, neither in Boghazkoy nor in an y other' city in Syria , Pale stine, or'

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Egypt. has the re been any discovery of the upper parts of fo rtificauons. To find

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out wbar they looked like , we must have recourse to the illustrated monuments of
the peri od. Fortunately there are man y Egyptian reliefs which depict cities whicb ..
were attacked or co nquered by the pharaohs of the XIXth Dynasty . Incidenta lly, .
Seri I and Rarneses II fo ught much in Canaan, In these battl es, nuny cities certainly
suriered destruction. an occurrence which is substantiated by archae ological
excavations. A s a result, the fortifications of cities of the J j th cent ur y we re greatly
weakened. Where a city had been cap tur ed, no new fort ifications we re constr ucted. The earlier ones w ere either rep aired . often in a slapdash manne r, or
reJl1 ained un tou ched, in ruin. T his may exp lain w hy the tr ibes of Israel, und er the
leader ship of Joshua, were able to conque r some of th ese cities.
Th e pharaoh s never conq uered Hat tussas. And so there is no Egyptian relief
wh ich illustrates its fort ifications. But reliefs show ing o ther cities tell us much
abo u t the upp er struc tures of their fortificatio ns and arc also instructive, by
inference. abo ut cities like H artussas.
Most of the reliefs depict the captured cities in the stand ard for m , present ing
them as twa-stor y stru ctur es (228, 230, 2]2) . In the m ain, the intention is assured ly
to show an elevation vie w of the high inner citadel , or acropolis, and the main
w all. Sometimes the ar tist m anages to depict also the out er wall (229) , as in th e
Harrussas fortific ation s.
The reliefs suggest tha t the gates in Canaan were not vaulted, as in Hattussas,
but were rectangu lar. One can discern. in some of the reliefs, the embrasures and
win dows ill the wall (229). T his testifies to an uppe r structure of casemates. The
bal coni es on the tow ers and bastions, w ho se vital fun ction we have discussed
earlier. are sho w n w ith the utmost clarity in all the reliefs. And this is also tru e o f
the batrlcmen ts on th e outer wall, the main w all, and the bu ildin gs of the
acro po lis.

A special type of fortification of this period were the ",igJols. T hese were
sm all citadels built to guard such im portant military objectives as wells and
communications. They, roo . appear on some reliefs. A migdol of this rype w as
discove red in 1960 in Israel, not far hom Ashdod. It is squ are in plan . with rectangular bastions, and bas two sto ries-just as dep icted in the reliefi (sec figure on
page 97).
A wo rd abou t the for tified tem ples inside the city . Th ese arc the places to
wh ich th e citizens w ou ld flee afier their w all had been breached, as described in
the Hible in the slOry of the tower of Shcche rn du n n g th e period of th e J udges
(which we deal with later). T he principal str en gth of these tem ple forrificarions
lay in the thickness of their w alls, the tw o tow ers at the entrance, and certainly the
roof wi th its balconies and battleme nts.
In rhe plann ing of fortification s, one of the tou ghest pro blem s that dema nded Water Supply
solution was th e guatan tee of a teg ular supp ly of w ater ill tim e o f siege. In the under Siege
peno d un der review, ingenious devices we re introd uced to m eet this need ,
stagger ing in th e scale and qu ality of their skilled engine ering. T he most interesting
and form ida ble of all that have come ro light so far are those discove red at Megiddo. T he well which supp lied water to the city was in a natu ral cave at the


15 7 0 - 1 2 0 0B . C .

western foot of tbe teU-outside the bou ndaries of the 'city fortifi cations. The sole
methods of secur ing water from this source during siege were to pu mp it from the
we ll int o the city , or to devise som e appro ach system w hich wo uld give the
inhabitants access withou t having to venture beyond the walls. T he stratagem
conceived by the planners of the Megi ddo forti fications was at once sim ple and
RJ:glJt: The submissioJJ
a stro ke of genius. Within the city compound, at a p(>int not far from the well,
of a Syrian city as depicted
they sunk vertical sbah to the same depth as the\o;ell-30 meters. The first
011 Egyptianrcliifof
8 meters were fairly easy going, for they were diggini through the dust and ashes
Ramcses II
of earlier ruined settlements. But the next 22 meters had to be cut through solidv
rock , From the base of this shaft, they cut a ho rizon tal tunnel right through to the well-a distance of 67 meters, T he tunnel had an average height of
3' 5 me ters. T he floor of the tunn el was engineered with a slight gradient sloping
down toward the city , so that th ere was a gravity flow of water fro m the well
int o the city. O n com pletion of the engineerin g job, the well was sealed from the
outside by a thick wall. T he labor involved in this! excava tion and tunnel ing
project m ust have been enormo us. Bur it was vital forthe defense of the city.
O n occasion, these stratagems were apparently not unk no wn to the enemy.
And so from tim e to time, as the archaeological diggings show , the outside wall
sealing the well was breached or torn down , and another wall built in its place
later with the repair of the for tifications. T hese installations were until very
recent ly ascribed to the Late Bronze period. But our ~xcav ations at Megiddo in
1960 showed that the whole ente rprise sho uld actually be attri bute d to the reigns
o f Solom on or Ahab in the Israelite period. O n the o th~r hand , installations similar
in basic patterns to rhat of Megi ddo, but of inferior stat.dard, we re also discovered
in other Palestinian cities w hich belong to the Late Bron ze perio d .

Attack and Dei euse

T he conquest of fortified cities posed a grim problem in this period, too, for
the attacking arm y. O f the fIve meth ods of capturing a fortifi ed city mentioned in
o ur Introduct ion , we can, wi th the help of illust rated m onum ent s and w ritten
docum en ts, follow the use of only a few of rhem . One of the ' most remarkable ~
featu res of the m.ny detailed Egyptian reliefs and of the written documents of this
period is th at in no t one ofthem isthere a single sign of or reference to the batteringram, Some sch olars, it is true, have sought to recogn ize barrermg-ramsin the four

cover- ten ts dep icted in th e relief port rayin g the conquest of Deper (z2.9}. But the ,
derails of the reliefdo not sup po rt th is thesis, If these tent s we re indeed int ended as
battering-ram s, th e artist wou ld surely have given pro minence to the most im po rtant element of this weapon- the met al-headed beam. And th is does not appear at
all. It is tar more pr oba ble that these tents represent the camp of Pharaoh an d his
sons; set up near the city , as in the relief mowing the Ba ttle of Kades h (236-2 37).
T he absence of the battering- ram in th e E gyp tian armies of the New Kin gdom , w hen it was already in use in Canaan and Anatolia in the first half of the
second millennium , and indeed also in Egypt, may have several explanations: the ' '
considerable distance betw een the military bases in Egypt and the battleg rounds
in Canaan; whi ch no doubt proved a tough adm inistrative and technical obstacle .
for the movement of this heavy instrument; the con servatism of th e ancient
Egyptians; and, m ore parti cularly , th e firmness of the forrificaeions at the end of
the previous and the beginning of th is period. Th ese fortificatio ns w ere built
especially to withstand the batterin g-ram. And they succeeded in blunt ing its
etl,:ctiveness, for it was not as yet a perfect instr um ent , Thi s is a good exam ple of
one aspect of the chain reaction pr oduced by offensive and defensive devices.
Proficient counrer-measures, as w e can see, render obsolete, at least tem porari ly ,
the weapon or a part icular m odel of th e weapon against w hich they we re devised .
The most usual method of attack on a city was penetration abo," th e walls,
usingscaling-ladden. T his system is well illustrated in th e reliefs (228, 229). Under
heavy coveting fire from the archers, the assault tro ops would rush to scale the
walls and try to reach th e top. T he Egyptian shield , wi th the sho ulder- m ap attached
to its inner surface, was part icularl y suited to th is task. For the attacking soldier
could hang it over his back (228), and this left his hands free for the climb and
the fig hting.
A'second meth od, which paralleled the first, was penetr ation through the city
gates. The assault troops would sto rm the gate, th eir backs prot ected by shields, .'
and, armed with axes (228). the y would tr y and tear down the bolts and hing es.
Both opera tions dem and m uch coura ge. And thus does one of the prou d
soldiers of Thurm ose III deliver hims elf:
" His Majesty sent fort h every valian t man of his army, to breach the new wall
whi ch Kadesh had made. I wa s the one w ho breached it, being the first of every
valiant man."
Against such forms of attack, the defend ers respond ed with several measures. L
Th ey posted archers on the wall to give co unter-fire to the enemy 's bo ws (229) ,
while other !roops arm ed with spears attacked the assaulting so ldiers scaling the
ladders. 1\ number of the defenders hu rled stones upon the enemy below . Some of
the stones were large and heavy, requiring the lise of bath hands (229, top righr).
If at the beginning or dur ing th e barrie some of the defendin g units fightin g outside the wall fou nd th em selves compelled to fall back to rhe city, they we re hauled
up by their com rades at the top of the wall w ith rop e or with strips made of A .Higll0! guardillg a lI,dl ill rhe
clothing. This is sur ely the rep resentation by the artist of the two figures han gin g desert bcrwetlJ Egypt and Palc~,t it1 e .
to a tope on th e wall in the relief sho w n on page 229. End orsement of this as depicted 011 a r('li~f ~r SNi, I


interpretation is to be found in this description of the siege of Megiddo by Thurmose III which talks of the retreat of the enemy after their failure outside the city:
"They abandoned their horses and their chariots of gold and silver, so thar
someone might draw them up into this town by hoisting on their garments. Now
the people had shut rhis town against them, but they let down garments to hoist
them up into this town."
Attack by breaching the gate and scaling rhe wall involved the assault units
in very heavy casualries, and could be undertaken mostly against cities whose
fortification system was not of a high standard or whose troops were not the besr.
Ofren the invading army resorted to siege or infiltration stratagems.
And indeed we hear at the very beginning of this period of one of the most
prolonged sieges carried out at this time. The Egyptian documents record that
PharaohAhmose, founder of the XVIIIth Dynasty, in hi. campaign against the'
Hyksos armies. laid siege for three consecutive years to Sharuhen, a fortified city
in southern Palestine (also mentioned in Joshua 19: 6).
Thutrnosc III tried to follow up his celebrated success on the battlefield near
Megiddo by taking the city by storm. But his soldiers, instead of pursuing the
retreating troops who were retiring to entrench themselves behind their city
walls, tarried on the field of batrle to collect war booty. And when they reached
the city, they were repelled. Thutmose was therefore forced to put Megiddo under
siege for seven months, as recorded in one of the documents.
The siege operation, though less dangerous than breaching, was nevertheless
very difficult and complicated. For the besieging army had to encamp for a long
period in the open, set up encampments all round the city, and maintain vigilant
defense against sorties and raids by the troops under siege. There is a detailed
description in one of the Egyptian docnments of how these encampments were
"Orders were issued to the commander of the troops to provide for their
division and to inform each man of his place. Theymeasured this city, which W~S'
corralled with a moat, and enclosed with fresh timbers of ali their pleasant trees,
while His Majesty himself was in a fortress east of this.. town being watchful, .. '
People were appointed as sentries at the enclosure of His Majesty, and they were
told: 'Be steadfast! Be vigilant, be vigilant! ...'"
In these siege operations. they would cut down the trees in the area, as we see
from the above document, with which to build their encampments or forts. This,
too, is depicted in the Egyptian reliefs (346). A faithful description of this custom
appears in the Bible-Deuteronomy 20: 19-20:
"When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it .to take
it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou
mayest eat of them. and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is
man's life) to employ them iri the siege: Only the trees which thou knowest that
they be not trees for meat, thou shalr destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt
build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued."

1570-1200 B.C.

We have seen that the conquest of a fortified city was a very difficult opera- Strataocms
rion. It is not therefore to be wondered that side by side with the above methods
of warfare, the attacking army continuously sought means of entering the city by
cLUllling and stratagem. For all the solidity and strengrh of a city's fortifications,
rhcv had their weak spots. And since the defenses were all designed to meet attack
from the outside, oace me enemy had succeeded in penetrating one of the weak
points and entering the city, the rest of the fortifications were rendered valueless.
There were of course exceptions, as at Boghazkov, which had inner citadels and
wails. And this lessenedthe danger. Bur, in general, penetration of the fortifications
at one point was likely to cause a total collapse of the city's defenses.
There are many stories of celebrated stratagems whereby cities were entered
and captured. Many have about them the ring oflegend. Bur their very composition makes it evident that such devices were used. One of the most famous
dc'scriptions of a stratagem of this nature is undoubtedly that contained in the story
of rhc Trojan Horse, in the Bartle of Troy.

J AHA. But there is a legendary Egyptian tale. which predates the Trojan
bartle by several hundred years, which relates, in the style of Ali Baba, how the
city ofJalfa was captured by the forces of Thutrnose Ill. The Commandet of the
bc'sieging army, That, notified the Governor of Jaffa that he had decided to
surrender and that it was his intention to give himself up. together with his wife
and children:
"And he [That 1had the 200 baskets brought which he had made. and he had
soldiers get down into them. And their arms were filled with bonds and fetters.
and they were sealed up with seals. And they were given their sandals, as well as
their carrying poles and staves. And they had every good soldier carrying them,
totahng 500 men. And they were told: 'When you enter the city, you are to let
alit your companions and lay hold on all the people who are in the city and put
them in bonds immediately.' And they went out to tell the .charioteer of the
Eucmv ofJafra: 'Thus speaks your lord: "Go and tell your mistress [i.e., the wife
of the prince ofJalfa 1: 'Rejoice. for Seth the god has given us That, along with his
\\'Ifc' and his children I' See the vanguard of their tribute. You shall tell her about
these 200 baskets [which were filled with men with fetters and bonds ].''' Then he
went ahead of them to bring the good news to his mistress, saying: 'We have
captured That.' And they opened the locks of the city before the soldiers. And
rhcy entered the city and let alit their companions. And they laid hold on the city,
small and great, and put them in bonds and fetters immediately. So the mighty
arm of Pharaoh-life. prosperity, health-captured rhe city."

JE~ICIlO. The Biblical story of Joshua's conquest of Jericho apparently

describes another kind of stratagem whose military implications, however. have
been obscure. Its highlights, apart from the collapse of the walls. are to be found
in joshua 6: 3. 16.20:

"And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the
city once. Thus shalt thou do six days .... And it came to pass at the seventh time,



1570- 1200B.C.

when the priests blew with their trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, 'Shout'
for the Lord hath given you the city .. .' so that the people went up into the city.
every man straight before him, and they took the city."
It seems to me that this stratagem is explicable in the light of a later one
which is described in a Roman book of military ruses composed by Frontinus:
"When Dominus Calvinus was besieging Lueria, a town of the Lugerians
protected not only by its location and siegeworks but also by the superiority of its
defenders, he instituted the practice of marching frequently around the walls with
all his forces, and then marching back to camp. When the townspeople had been
induced by this routine to believe that the Roman commander did this for the
putpose of drill, and consequently took no precautions against his efforts, he
transformed this practice of parading into a sudden attack, and gaining possession
of the walls, forced the inhabitants to surrender."
A I. A simpler stratagem, and one easier to understand, is that described in the
Biblical story of the capture of the city of Ai. Its main purpose was to draw the
city's inhabitants away from the fortifications, and then enter. The plan is presented
simply and clearly in Joshua 8: 3-8:

" ... and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valor, and sent them
away by night. And he commanded them, saying, 'Behold, ye shall lie in wait
againsr the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all
ready: And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city:
and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will
flee before them, (For they will come out after us.) till we have drawn them from
the city; for they will say. "They flee before us, as at the first": therefore we will
flee before them, Then ye shall rise up from the ambush and seize upon the city:
for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. And it shall be, when ye have
taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire... .' "


Battle ill Cpcn Terrain

Before discussing the organization and services of the army in this period, it
may be found useful to describe two of the most celebrated battles that took place
at this time, which are depicted and described in detail in the Egyptian monuments.

The Battle of Meoiddo

The first is the battle of Thutmose III which led to the capture of Megiddo
at the beginning of the r yth century. This is, in fact, the earliest battle in human
history of which a detailed account exists. And it is the first of a series of battles
fought near Megiddo (244-245), each ofwhich was decisive, each determining the
fate of Palestine,
The strategic .importance of Megiddo lies in its position commanding the exit '
from Wadi Au. the narrow defile which links the coastal plain of Palestine with
rhe Valley ofjezreel through the hills south of the Carmel Mountains. This was the
route of the famous Via Maris, the great trunk road which served as the main
communications line between Egypt and the important empires of Mesopotamia,
Syria, and the uorrh.t Whocver controlled Megiddo controlled this
communications route, and, consequently, important areas of the Fertile Crescent.



This explains why the King of Kadesh on the Orontes, in the north, moved
southward with all his allies to Megiddo in an effort to bar the northward advance
ofThutmose II1.The defeat of the King of Kadesh in this battle at Megiddo, far as
he was from his main bases, apparently served as a "classic lesson" to the later
northern kings. For in the second battle, this time at Kadesh, some 200 years later,
against Rameses II, the Hittites apparently tried the opposite strategy, seeking to
draw the Egyptian forces as far northward as possible so that they would be far
from their bases, and this time they would suffer defeat. When we analyze these
two battles, we shall do well to bear in mind these two basic and diametrically
opposed strategic approaches of the northern king,-offensive strategy and defensive tactics in the Battle ofMegiddo, and defensive strategy and offensive tactics in
the Battle of Kadesh. These two approaches have in fact always been the two basic
Joctrines of warfare of the nations up to present times. Their application, when
there has been a failure to learn the lessons of the Megiddo and Kadesh battles, has
brought defeat in the most decisive campaigns. Perhaps the most interesting recent
parallel of the alternate use of these two doctrines occurred in the Second World
War, in the series of battles between the Allied Powers and the Germans in the
North African Campaign. But we must return to Megiddo.
In the spring of the year 14.68 B.C., Thutmose III set out from Egypt at the
head of his armies to campaign against the nations of Syria and Canaan who had
fortified themselves in the neighborhood of Megiddo under the leadership of the
King of Kadesh. Nine days later, he and his forces reached their base in Gaza,
having covered some 26 kilometers a dav.-Prom here he advanced northward to
the city of Yehem in the northern Sharon. He now took counsel to decide how
he' would advance on Megiddo, for he had the choice of three routes: the direct
route through the defile of Aruna (Iron, Wadi Ara); the northern route through
Dlcfti, which would bring him out north of Megiddo; or the southern route.
!clding to Ta'anach, a few kilometers south of Megiddo. The report of this council
of war, as transmitted by the royal scribes and recorded on the walls of the temples,
is most instructive, and points to the practice of the army staff conference before
the' commander made his decision. It is worth quoting.
The Pharaoh first briefs his commanders on the latest intelligence on the
enemy. as elucidated from spies; gives them his appreciation of enemy strength;
and informs them of the enemy decision to make a stand at Megiddo, or, in his

"For he says-so ir is reported-I shall wait here at Megiddo [to ftght against
the Pharaoh]."
The report records that the conference continued with the commanders
expressing their objections to an advance on Megiddo by the shortest and most
direct route. This is what they say:
"What is it like to go on this road which becomes so narrow? It is reported the foe is there, waiting on the outside, while they arc becoming more
numerous, will not horse have to go after horse, and the arlllY and the people
SImilarly? Will rhe vanguard of us be fighting while the rear guard is waiting here



1 5 7 0 - I 200 B . C .

Beto re the assault, and with his forces assembled. Thurm ose divi ded th em into
the southern flank . between rhe
Q ina brook an d the exit fro m W adi Ara; th e n orthern Bank. northwest of
M<.giddo ; and the cen ter , wh ere he hi mself w ould be. The assault was launched
ar dawn agamst th e enemy camp s near M egi dd o. It en ded wi th th e rou t o f rhe
C anaJnitcs. w ho start ed fleeing w ith their kings to w ard M cgidd o, an d, as we
noted earlier , rhey we re haul ed o ver th e w alls in to th e city by their garm en ts. And
no w ther e wa s an occurre nce w hich is typical of m an y undi scip lined and untrain ed
n oo ps. The cEgyptian arm y, ins tead o f adhering to the princi ple of mainten an ce
of aim and con tinuin g to destro y th e enemy and preven t hi. escape. fell np on his
poss<:ssiolti kft behin d in th e ca mp', co llectin g boory. As th e royal scri be p ut it .

in Aru na un ab le to fig hu N ow two o cher roads are here. One o f the roa ds-behold
ir is to [he ease o f us, so [hat ir co mes out ar T a' anach. The o che r- beho ld, it is to
the north side o f Dj ef[i. and we will co m e our [ 0 the nort h of Megiddo. Ler our
victo rio us lord pr oceed o n the one o f rhc m w hich is satisfacror y to his hea rt, b ut
do n o t m ake us go o n [hac difficult road !"


Acco rdi n g to the w ritten reco rd . th e Pharaoh decided fo r pr estige reasons to

choo se pr ecisely [he sh ort and difficu lt route:
" T hey w ill say . thes e ene mies w hom Re ab o rni na rcs: 'Has H is Maj esty set
SO th ey w ill speak ."

o u t on ano ther road because he has beco m e afraid of US 1' -

On th e o ther hand. his decision m ay wel l have been based o n his app reciatio n
of [he int ell igence repons. For .from the con tinuation ' o f the written record. it appea rs dut th e enemy expected the Egyptian Pha rao h to ad vance either north- .
wa rd o r sourhward>
T he sou the rn flan k o f the Canaanites wa s certain ly near Ta 'a nac h, and their
n orthern flan k was apparen tly near the exit o f th e Djefti route, N ear Megidd o
itself w as established [he m ain cam p of all the allied kings, w ith all th eir follow ing.
w h o h ad combined to resist Thutmose III. For [he city of M egiddo was too sm all
to con tain all this vast force.
W hen T hu trno se' s vanguard had reached the neighb orhood of the exit from
W adi Ar a and halt ed at the Qina bro o k (between M egiddo and Wadi Ara),
his rea[gu ard w as still at Acuna. And .n ow he listened to th e supplication of his
co m m an ders [0 wait until his rear unit s hav e caught up wi th th em :
"Then they said to His Maje sty : . . . 'B eho ld , Hi s Majes ty has come fo rt h
with his vic to rio us arm y. and th ey hav e filled th e valley. Lee o ur victorio us lor d
listen to us [his time, and Jet o ur lo rd guard for us the rear of his army and h is
peopl e. \V hen the rear o f [he arm y comes forth for us into [he o pen . th en we sha ll
fight against these for eigners. then we shall no t trouble o ur hea rts about the rear
o f an a rm y.' ''
This soun d adv ice by his command er s, w ho we re insistin g o n the con centration o f fo rce befo re the assault , w as accepted by the Pha raoh , and he set up camp
sou th o f Megiddo, on [he ban ks o f th e Q ina bro o k. This cam p was certainly
sim ilar to th e pro vision al cam p establi shed tw o cen tu ries late r by Ramescs II near
Kadesh, as we sha ll see later. In the even ing the army w as in formed of the plan to .
launch th.e. a t.eaek.uexe .morning:against the enemy near Megiddo , wh ose main
forces wer~' still some di stan ce a wa y near T a'a nach, in the so uth , and near the exit : .
of the Djefti route in th e north. The announcements declared : " Pre pare ye! Make
yo ur we apo ns rea d y; since one (th e Pha raoh ]. will engage in co m ba t wi th rhat :
w re:h;,(I enemy in th e morning."
.. This ap parent ly was the customary prepa rati on o f an arIll Y fo r bat tle. As
J oshu a J : I O- J I records:


" T hen J osh ua commanded th e officers o f the peo ple. sayin g, ' Pass through the
h ost, an d com m an d the people, saying, Pr epare yo u victuals: fo r w ithin thr ee days
y" sha ll pass over th is Jordan, to go in to po ssess th e lan d. . . .' ''

rhr ee groups and assign ed thei r areas o f operation :

with uuadorned simplicity :

" Now if on ly H is Maj esty's arm y had no t given up thei r hearts to cap tur in g
[he po ssessions of the enem y, they would ha ve capt ured Megiddo at thi s tim e."








And so the King of Kadesh and his allies ma naged to escape. Such is the iro ny
of fate th at zoo ye ars later, in the Battle of Kadesh, it was pr ecisely th e Eg yp tian
arrnv of l'haraol; Rameses II wh o were saved from certain annihil ation by th e same
circ~mstal\ces. w hen th e Hi tti te chariot force, which had storm ed his cam p,
jumped "If thei r cha riots to collec t th e Egyptian spoils instead of sticking to th e
job of destroymg the army. T he capaci ty of an officer to mak e his m en respect th e
principle " f"maintenance o f aim " is in dee d one of th e supr em e tests o f co m m an d.
Megid do was eventu ally captured after a seven- m ont hs' siege. T he high
importance of its co nq uest is w ell ex pressed in th e words of the Pharaoh to his
army :

" C apture ye effectivel y, m y victo rio us arm y ! Behold all the for eig n countries
have been pur III thi s to wn by th e co m m and o f Re o n this da y, inasmuch as every
prince " r every northern co un try is sh ut up within it. for th e cap tu rin g o f Me giddo
is th e cJpturing o f 3 thou sand towns !"
And 1I0 W, befor e su m m arizin g o ur co nclusions on th e m eth od s o f war fare in
this period , let lIS co nsider th e seco nd cele brated bartl e th at too k place so me 2 00
vc.irs later bet w een th e Ph araoh Ram cses II and [h e coa lirio n arm ies of H itrites an d
C an,u l1Ite's und er th e leadership o f the King of the Hitt ites. T his w as the Batt le o f

Kadcsh on the O rontes.

Thi s battl e is so we ll descr ibed and in such det ail in Eg ypt ian wr itt en do curn cnrs and so widely illus tr ated in man y reliefs. complete w ith ca ptio ns (see fig ure.
on ~l.l g(s l O t ff ) that it is possible to reconstruct it in JIl its minutiae, Thi s is
also the o nly bat tle in the per iod in w hich we have fu ll parti culars on the o rgan ization and tactical handl ing o f its cha rio t units.
Since this bat tle is so we ll document ed , let us begin w ith a few qu orari ons
from th e' narrati ve and co m pleme nt them la ter by the illustr ations in th e reliefs.

T he Battle of Kadeslt

Ramescs II set ou r fro m E gypt in the spring with fou r divisions, movi n g
no r th war d along the coa stal-route until he arrived south of Kad esh, on t he east
bauk of the River O ron tcs, He th en crossed over to the west bank:

The Mardi


The Baule of M./("jh as depicted in the

Ramesseum. A ll the wh((ls should

have six spokes and n OI eight. as it

by modem
artists ha c andwidely reproduced in

was nr o71lollJly copied

m""y books. C): F"g"

88, 2J9.

2 40- 2 4 1


.""",~ -""--' ~- - ._-- ----

" His Maj esty .. . cros sed the for d of the O rontes, wi th the first division of
Am on. , . . His Majesty reached the town of Kadesh.. , . Now the wretched foe "
belonging to Haiti, with the numerous foreign countries which w ere wi th him ,
"was wa iting hidden and read y on the northeast of the rown of Kadesh , while His
Majesty was alone by himself with his retinue. The divis ion of Amon was on the
march behind him; th e division of Re was crossin g the ford in a distric t sou th of
the to wn of Sha btuna , at the distance o f one iter (abo ut 2 kilometers] from the .,
place w here H is Majes ty was; the division ofPtah was on the south of the town of .
Arnaim; an d th e .divisi on of Seth was marchin g on the road. His Majesty had '
formed the firse raub of bart Ie ofall th e leaders of his army , while the y were still on me shore in the land of Amurru." .

T he S urprise Atta ck

1 4

" Beho ld, the w retched foe o f Hatri was station ed in the mids t of his infant ry
w hich w as w ith him , and he came not o ut to fight, for fear of His Maj esty, Then
he ma de to go the peop le of the chari otry, an exceedin gly nume ro us m ultitude
like the sand, being . three . people to each chances Now they had ma de their
com bin ation rhus : amo ng every tw o yo uths was one m an of th e wr etched foe of
Harti, eq uipped wi th ail the weapons of battle. Lo, the y had stationed them in
battle arr ay. concealed northeast qf the city of Kade sh. They came forth from the .
southern side of Kadesh , and they cut through the division of Re in its middle,
while they were marching without knowing and without being drawn up for

- - ---

battle, The infantry and chariorry of His Maj esty . . . retreated before them. N ow '
His Majesty had halted on the north of the city of Kad esh, on the western bank of
the Orontes. Then carne on e to tell it [i.e., the disaster] to His Maj esty."
" His Maj esty . . . shone like his father Montu w hen he took the adorn me nt s
of war, as he seized his coat of mail he was like Baal in his hou r. . . . H is Majesty
halrcd the rou t, then he charged into the foe, the vanq uished foe of Hatt i, being
alone by him self and non e other with him . When His M aj esty went to look behind
him he fo und 2 , 50 0 chariot ry sur ro undin g him, in his w ay o ut, being all the youth
of the wretched foe of Hatti, tog ethe r wit h its numero us allied co untries . .. being
three men ( 0 a span, acting in unison."



Befor e start ing o ur analysis of this battle, the first qu estion that springs to
mind is how co uld Ramescs II have adva nced o n Kadesh witho ut paying attention
to seem icy, and w ith the com plete assura nce that non e of the Hitti te enemy was in
the vicinity un til he was sudden ly taken by surp rise from the south! Th e docu m ent
fro m \\ hich the above qu otati ons arc taken is silen t on the subjec t. T his doc ument
is anarrative " poem" .on the battl e. B ut a more dera iled acco un t appeat s in the
" IEci,) docum en ts. And these show that Rameses was lulled into a false sense of
' <"um; by the King of Kadesh who used on e of the earliest kn own ruses to deceive
the <ncmy...

T he C ouuterattacle

10 5

l 5 7 0 -1 2 0 0 B .C.

foe' ofllarri. Th e)' wac cond ucted into the presence and His Maj esty said to them :
w h.H arc ye, Th ey said : 'A s for us the wr etched fo e of Harri has caused that we
dm uld com e to spy o ut w here H is Majesty is.' Said His Maj esty to them : ' He '
Where is he, the wre tched foe of H at ri e Beh old , I have heard saying : " He is in the
LltHI of Aleppo. " Said the y : 'See, the wr etched foe of Hatti is stationed tog ethe r
with many cou ntri es.. . . Th ey are eq uipped wit h infa nrry and chariot ry. bearin g
rhcir weapons , m ore nume ro us arc they than the sand of the shore. See, t hey are '
srandiug, drawn up for battle behi nd K adesh the deceitful.' '' ,

t t Battle of Ksdesh: Th, ma" h of

,h( l our Egyptidll Jh'is;(JtlS hefim!
,("ssing ,he OrOllU5,

015 reconunut ed

by Breasted



, "a.

,- " ";;; ::~::j;~:"': '~~{b :_~

' . .~ . '\ .:- ,
"" .. ~ ;~.-,~;.
,:.\i:. '~C<:\ O
- . ~':~,,~,~;;~>-"' 'fi}.f; ; " .""J
. '.,,,:


The tIlolmd of Kadesh- Tell Ncb;

.\find-sllrrounded by rivets and
",ater canols


__:.. ...





c-;:-';'- r

,i~' t~;'~~' _ /')::-:i

'~~;P;"" ~~' " ~ <

, .

T o link the follow ing description w ith th e prev ious, we go bac k a little in our
next qu ot ati on and start it just befor e the story of the dece ption:

"When His M ajesty appeared like the rising of Re, he assumed the ado rnment s of his father M ontu . When the king pr oceeded northward , and His Majesty
had arrived at the localit y so uth of the city of Shabtu na, there came two shan!
[Bed o uin] to speak to His Maj esty as fo llows : 'O ur brethren, who belong to the
gr eatest of the famil ies w ith the w retched foe of Harri, have made us co me to H is
Maj esty to say : " W e wi ll be subject s of Pharao h, , . and w e w ill flee fr om the
w retched foe of H au i w ho is in the land of Aleppo, on the north ot T un ip. H e fears
because of Pharaoh to co m e north w ard ;" N ow these Shasu spoke these words
w hich they spoke to His Majes ty falsely, for the w retched foe of H arti made them
to co me to spy whe re His Maj esty was, in ord er to cause the arm y of H is Majesty
no t to draw up for fighting him . to battle w irh the wretched foe of Hatti."
Bu t or rhe tim e, Rameses did no t perceive that they had co me o n a mission of
deceit. He sw allo wed their sto ry. and advanced to the neighborhoo d o f Kadesh,
fully con vinc ed that the H itt ite coalition fo rces were far to the north , near Aleppo .
He set up his cam p (depicted in reliefs on pages 236-23 7-see detailed descripti on
in the captions and figur es in the text) ro the west of Kadesh. And on ly then did he '
discover his gr im plight . as a result of the captute of tw o H itrire recon naissance



-'." . :~.?' /f.'t'1f.r- ~:~- : :. -.: o-~

" T hen , as His Maj esty sat up on a thr on e of gold, there arrived a sco ut who
was in the follow ing of His Majesty, and he bro ught tw o sco uts of the wretched

Ramcses W lt/ I'

Il ea l

depicted at tilt'

R ,ml(S~ 'II"'.

CIl lIIJ'iJf cJ

whit ril e

Kadcsh as
,,<1' / ('

to !'C

(.rtIlP as

represented in .-lbtl-S ill/llt" (page l OS ).

a//l! LIIX ,l ( (Jl<lgC J 09)

I 57 0 -1 20 0 B .C .

A bll-S imbcl (,( p.~~es 236-2J7)

" T he arrival of the scour of the Phar aoh . . . bringing the two scouts of the
wretched foe of Hatti into the presence of Pharaoh . T hey are beating them, to
make them tell w here the wretch ed foe of Hatri is!"
Bur for Rameses the information had come too late. He was already trapp ed.
At the mom ent when he was sending word ro alert his o ther divisions near
Shabtuna, the Hitti te chariots sprung their charge on the marc hin g divisions, as
described in the narra tive "poem." The bewi ldered division fled toward Pharaoh' s
camp, wi th the Hittites in hot pursu it an d eventually enci rcling the camp . The
Pharaoh then launche d a desperate counterattack, sligh tly checking the enemy
assaulting units, and striking against othe r Hittite units on his eastern flank, near
Kadesh, And now me Hittite assault charioteers began to plunder and pillage the '
Egyp tian camp . This turn ed the tide b tally again st them. ..f or whi le they we re
gathering their boot y, they were suddenly attacked by a fo rmation which had
been held in reserve and which had now arrived in the nick of time. These we re
the Na 'aro n troops, a crack Canaanite unit serving wit h the Egyptian forces. .
Na'c run means literal ly " young men." T hey were picked troops, who had
apparently been detailed to pr otect the distant western flank. N ow they fd l upon
the plun dering Hittit es and wiped them out.
T he Eg yptian defeat was thus turned into a local victory, while the Pharaoh
pressed his attack against the enemy in the east near Kadesh, dr iving them toward
the river. T he Hitti te King , wi th his infantry division num bering some 6, 000 men ,'
halted on the other side of the rive r. But he Wasnow powerless. fo r allhischariots .
had been com mitted and his infantrymen alone were inelfeetive against me assault
of'Rameseschariors, T he Hittites accordingly retired to Kadesh and fortified rhern- :
selves wit hin the city. 'T he battle ended in stalemate. Both sides had been badly
mauled, and they satisfied themselves with the signin g of a non-aggres sion pact.
Th is is the most detailed treaty of its kind which has been left to liS from this period .


ro 8

The methods of warfare and the prin ciples of strategy and tactics followed by
both sides are quite clear. The Hittite King purs ued a defensive strategy, and
succeeded in drawin g the Egyptian Pharaoh deep within his territo ry so that he

collid smite his flank at the proper mom ent in a surprise attack, wh ile he himself
W JS based on Kadesh and the O ronres, wh ich gave him both concealment and a
seCUfe shelter.
This battl e also o tte rs a splend id example of the me of me chariot unit as
a ,trikin g force , which carries out an assault up to h and-to-hand combat range. .
Th ese tactics matched the particular character of the Hittite chariot, wh ich was
"qui pped mainly w ith the spear, a sho rt- range weapon. The chario t crew of three ,
virt ually turned the Hittite chario ts into a transpor ted or mounted infantry umt, qualtfied also to engage in hand-t o-h and com bat at th~ end of ,t he
Th is kind o f maneuve r could, of course, succeed III o per.oo ns agamst an
enemy flank which was on the march and witho ut securi ty. But the weakness of the Hit tite ch ariot was imm ediately evident when the Egyp tian chariots , armed .
with the lon g-rang e co m posite bow, went over to the cou nte rattack . T he brilliant
man eu ver of the Hi ttit e King failed because he had given insufficient rho ughr to the
planning of the action he wo uld need to rake if his surprise attack ed. .,
Rameses, on the other hand . failed hop elessly in his strategic j udgments. And
he managed to extricate himself from utt er defeat onl y because of his keen leadership in battl e, recogni zing that attack is the best defense. His cOlll1 ter-?lfensive saved
him at the decisive moment.
Bur it seems that in his e. gerness to glorify the personal heroism of Rameses,
the roval scribe underrated his stra tegic ability too heavily. For the sudden fortuitou s arr ival of the Canaanite Na'arun for mation from the wes t, which saved the
day for Rarncses, find s, strangely enough, no ment ion in the general chronicles of
the battle. T he scribe may have considered that giving credit to the Na'arun unit
would derogate from the measure of his Pha raoh 's prowess. But to Rameses credit,
it may be claimed that w hen he raced north towa rd Kadesh without effective The (.:Imp in the Lu xor rdilj s



5 70- I 200


this period. The Anastasi PapyrtlS I contains the following interesting question
which is put to a military scribe to test his knowledge:

security, he must have taken into account the presence of this striking force on his
western flank, and he used it not only to secure a strategic flank, but also as a hidden
reserve to be rushed into action at a decisive moment.
The Battle of Kadesh offers us an insight into the military patterns of the
period, with its imperial armies of high standard, whose commanders are capable
of handling large formations of infantry and chariots in accordance with the
soundest principles of strategy followed to this day.

"Behold, the ambuscade is in a ravine 2,000 cubits deep, filled with boulders
and pebbles. Thou makest a detour as thou graspest the bow. Thou makest a feint
to thy left, that thou mightest make the chiefs to see, but their cyes are good and
thy hand falters. Thou perish like a lion, 0, good tnahar [swift military scribe]."

The description of the battle near Megiddo and especially the chronicle of the
Battle ofKadesh underline the high importance attached by the armies of the lands
of the Bible to the intelligence services. Operations like deceptive patrols and the
capture of Hittite scouts by Egyptian scouts point to the existence of a welldeveloped system of intelligence. The questions put by Ramescs to the Hittite
prisoners also show that the purpose of the interrogation was to secure precise
tactical information:

This type of ambush was carried out particularly in rugged areas of rough
broken ground, marked by ravines and dry riverbeds, which impeded the
maneuverability of the enemy's chariots. There is little doubt that this kind of
ambush is what the officers ofThutmose feared when they sought to dissuade him
from taking the direct route through the defile of the Aruna stream. The defile and
the hazard of ambush while moving through it are dramatically described in the
same Anastasi Papyrus:

What nations does the Hittite armies comprise I

What is the composition of the army-infantry, chariots I
3. Their weapons I
4. Their numbers?
5. Their exact location and the measures of their preparedness1.


This alertness to intelligence and the use of spies are stressed also in the
Biblical stories of Joshua's conquests. Spies were dispatched to Jericho and to Ai
before the military operations, and the intelligence they brought back on the spirit
and strength of the enemy served as the basis of the attack plan.
As opposed to this tactical intelligence, there is an eloquent example of
strategic intelligence in the instructions given by Moses to the twelve spies before
their departure for the land of Canaan. The points on which the espionage mission
is ordered to gain information ,are different from those sought by Rameses and
Joshua, and have a definite strategic character:

"The narrow valley is dangerous with Bedouin, hidden under the bushes.
Some of them are 4- or 5 cubits from their noses to the heel, and fierce of face.
Their hearts are not mild, and they do not listen to wheedling. Thou art alone;
there is no scribe with thee, no army behind thee. Thou findcst no scout, that he
might make thee a way crossing. Thou cornesr to a decision going forward,
although thou knowest not the road. Shuddering seizes thee, the hair of thy head
stands up, and thy soul lies in thy hand. Thy path is filled with boulders and with
reeds, thorns, brambles, and 'wolf paw.' The ravine is on one side of thee, and the
mountain rises on the other. Thou goest on jolting, with thy chariot on its side,
af",J to press thy horse liard. If it should be thrown toward the abyss, thy collarplc'CC would be left uncovered and thy girth would fall. Thou unfasten the yoke
in order to repair the collar-piece in the middle of the narrow valley. Thou art not
competent in the way to bind it; thou knowest not how to lash it. ... Thou
srarrcst to trot. The sky is opened. Then thou thinkest that the foe is behind
thtl' .. . .

"And sec the land, what it is...."

2. "And the people thar dwellerh therein, whether they be strong or weak, few
or many."
3. "And what the land is they dwell in, whether it be good or bad."
4-. "And what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in srrongholds."
5. "And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood
therein, or nor."



mid Night Fighting


The functioning of good intelligence service enabled small forces in particular

to undertake ambush as a regulat method of warfare. Tactically, the ambush is the
most murderous form of battle, which exploits the principle of surprise to its
maximum. ,
Apart from the ambush incidents included in the general battle operations
mentioned earlier, we have additional information on the use of the ambush in

The darkness of night necessary to the laying of an ambush, was also required

hI Irregular forces operating against a regular army, both to cover their advance
and to launch their attack. The book of Joshua describes how at times Joshua
would advance all through the night in order to surprise the enemy at dawn.
Smnlarly, one of the documents of Mursilis, the Hittite King, speaks of the special
','CUnty orders he gave to his forces lor his own safety when he was compelled to
nuke a night march. The same document echoes the wrath of the regular armies
ag,unst night attacks and night ambush by the irregulars:
"They [the irregulars] did not dare to attack me in the daylight, and preferred
to fIll on me during the night. In the night we will attack him."
The ambush was only a minor action among the operations of regular armies
-r!",ugh it was not so considered by its victims. The chronicles of war and the

Standard Formations


many illustrated monum ents show that in the imp osing battles in open terrain,
large military formations took parr, well organized in the phalanx, charging each
other in hand-t o-h and combat.
Thealliedarmy under the Hittite King at Kadesh is estimated at between
16 ,000 and men. In the chariot units were 7.500 men-each of the 2.500,
had a crew of rhree.s'T he rest were infantry, stationed behind Kadesh, who were
organized in phalanx battle formatio n.
The Egyptian anny had four divisions, each of 5,000 men . This estimate is
supported by the information conta ined in the Anastasi Papyrus, in another rest '
questiou put to a military scribe on the subject ofsupplies to an Eg yptian expeditionary force composed of Eg yptian troops and various mercenaries :
" T hou art sent on a mission to Djahi at [he head of [he victorious army, to
crush the rebels called Na arun. The bowm en of the arm y which is before thee
[i.e., the Egypt ian army ] amo unt to 1,900, the Sherden p o, the Qeh eq 1,600, the
M eshwesh 100, and the Negroes 880-tota15,000 in all no t counting their officers."
Similarly, the King of Byblos (Gebal) in the Tell el- Amama letters requests
the Pharaoh to send an expeditionary force of 5,000 men and 50 chariots to
save his city.

Army Orgmliz atioll

It is not easy to present with accuracy the structure of the smaller units which
went to mak e up the large formations. But from the various mon uments and also
from the Bible, it can be assumed that they were based on the decimal notation.
The -smallest unit , the section. apparently compris ed TO men, and the platoon
50 men . W e have no clear inform ation on the strength of the compa ny, but we
can infer from the Egyptian document> that it consisted of not more than four or
five pl.tOOllS-200 at 250 men. Between the comp.ny and the division (really a.
brigadej there w as certainly the battalion wh ose total strength was not fixed but
was com posed of several companies , four or five.
At all events, both the written docum ents and the reliefs clearly indicate that
these divisions not only marched together, arranged in a specially organi zed pattern
but that.they also fough t under the o rganization of the deep phalanx. made up of
straight ranks in close order. A poetic description of an arm y on the march in close
forma tion appears in one of the documents of Ugarit:

" T hey march in thousands serried and in myriads massed. After two, two
march, after three all of them ."

The reliefsof the Bartle ofK.adesh clearly portr.y the assault of ihe Na'arun

I II Auacl:


unit in phalanx formation, with a phalanx of ten ranks, line abreast, and the ten
men in each section for ming a file, one behind the oth er, one in each rank. Th e
Hittite infantry behind the city of Kadesh are depicted in the same w.y. But they
are shown before .rhe action , while their phalanx are still organized for the rnarch.:
So they are depicted as a column, and the ten-man section is converted from a file
into a .line-abr east rank, From the reliefs, it is easy to gather how the phalanx .
transformeclits pattern of organization for the march into its o rganization fot
attack. It can be best ex plained by diagram . '

I5 70 -I200B . C .

Th e allied arm y under the Hi ttite King at Kadesh had 2,500 chariots. We have Chariot Units
no breakdown of this figure whi ch would enable us to determine the size of the
chariot unit of each king . But since we know that this allied force comprised the
men of very many kings, we can assume that each unit was not larger than 300
chariots, and many were very m uch smaller.
The docu ments of Tell el-Amarna make frequent mention of units of 50 .
chariots. 30. and even 10. Similarly. we know of 100- and jo-chariot units in .
Anatolia, The documents of Nuzi mention units of 50 chariots under the command ofa "Captain of Fifry." And this is true also of Egypt. All this suggests that
the basic unit consisted of 10, and several such units wou ld make up a squadro n
of 30 or 50 chariots. Presumably the largest tactic. I unit consisted of 150.
These we re usually attached to infantry divisions of expeditionary forces.
It may be recorded that in this period , chario t units were still the only mobile
forma tions in the armies of the lands of the Bible, for the cavalry regiment did not
make its ap pearanccuntilthe end of the second millennium. In this period, we know
of the horseman being used only for isolated communications functio ns, such as
messengers (221). Let us add. as a piquant item, the followi ng extract from a letter
by the King of Byblos:
"The messenger of the king of Aceo is more heeded than my messenger,
because a horse was given to him ."
The employment of such large armies and their operation at such distances
from "their main bases naturally called for ramified milit ary administration. And,
indeed, the numerous written docum ents from Nuz i, Ugari t, Anarolia, and Egypt
clearly indicate the existence in this period of well-developed quarterma ster and
adj utan t services which maintai ned detailed records of the army form ations. their
equipment , the sums of money paid to them. and so on. W e also learn from these
records and from the illustrated mon uments that detailed lists were prepare d of
captured booty, categorized according to type.
The problem ofsupply to expediti onary forces was not easy. And the military
scribes and qwutermasrers under went special exercises to make them profi cient in
determining the battle rations requ ited by the various arm y corps. Here, fot
example, is a test question on the subject which appears furth er down in the
Anastasi Papyrus I which we quoted earlier in connexion with the 5.00Q-strong
Egyp tian expeditionary force:

lHi!irary A dmin istration

"There is brou ght thee a peace offering before thee; bread, cattle, and wine.
T he numbe r of men is too great for thee. W hereas the provisions arc too small for
them . . . . Th ou receive them . place them in camp . T he troops are ready and
prepared. Make them quickly int o portions, that of each man at his hand . . . .
Midday is com e. the camp is hot. Time to start ! Don' t let the troop commander
be angry ! Much marching isahead of us. What bread have we at all!, . .. So thou
art an experienced scribe. if thou canst approac h to give the provisions."
. This document. too. shows that an expeditionary force did not bring with it
all the supplies it wo uld need, but got much of its food from the produce of the



land through which it passed and from supplies and equipment provided by the
various enthralled local governots. From the narrative of the Battle of Megiddo
by Thunnose Hl, we learn that a good part of the food for his men and fodder for
his beasts came from the local produce. The' letters of Tell el-Amarna contain a
many notifications to the Egyptian Pharaoh from the kings of Canaan, assuring
him that they have prepared all the requisite supplies for his expeditionary army,
as requested in prior orders by the military scribes.
Those supplies which accompaniedan army were carried by pack ass and
ox-drawn wagons, The wagons bore the-collapsible parts of camps. as at Kadesh,
and sometimes.even boats needed for ferrying troops across a river, as we see from
the document of Thutmose Ill:


"When my Majesty crossed over to the marches of Asia, I had many ships of
cedar built on the mountain of God's land [the Middle East], near the Lady of
Byblos. They were placed on chariots with cattle drawing them. They journeyed
in front of my Majesty, in order to cross that great river which lies between this
foreign country and Naharin."
Thc military panorama of this lively period of history is one of formidable
fortifications encircling the key cities of the Middle East; of large, well-trained
armies, equipped with chariots and supply and engineering services, moving
between Egypt and Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Canaan; of ferocious battles
waged between mighty empires, involving high tactical skill and ingenious
stratagems. These military campaigns eventually drained the energy and resources
of most of these kingdoms and led to their downfall. And this opened the way to
new nations, like the Tribes of Israel from the east and the Sea Peoples from the
west andnorth, who conquered and settled large areas of Palestine over which the
mighty nations of earlier ages had fought for so long.



The bow. Two types emerge in the

fourth millennium-sThe Nimrod-like M esopotamian king (,)
in Mesopotamia,
depicted on the c.
comm emorative
stele on page
(upper left) holds an almo st
semicircula r single-arc wC3pon in the lower
a single-arc form;
hunti ng scene. In contrast, the bow
forms on both the cylinder SC'.JI (page
in Egypt, a doublemiddle) and me celebrated Hunt ers' Slate
Palette (lower left, and enlarged fragm eD(,
convex weapon
upper righ() show a do uble-convex instru3000 B.C.

II 8

I I !I.

ment in usc at the same orne. Huntin g figu res

on the palette also exhibit long, maces,
boom erangs, double-headed axes, and the
fork -h eaded arrow . Another instance of the
l.rsr is show n in the fragme ntary Egypt ian
carving at the lower right, in which J forkheaded arrow has pierced a warri or's body .
Page fI R: Up per left, granite stele from W arka, LICe Proto-L iterate. Baghdad Museum.
U Ll({ Om.

lI 8

Hunters" Slue Palette (including: C3H

of the upper righ t fragm enc). Late Pr eDyn.rsric. British M useum . M iddle, cylinder
SCJ I fro m Hicrakonpolis, Pre- Dynastic. Th e
Petr ie Colle ction. Page 1 19 . top ; O riginal
upper fragmt"nt of Hunt ers' Slate Palette.
Lou vre. Bon om : Slate fragme nt fro m Lower
Egypr. Pre-Dynastic. Mct~opolltan Museum
of Art.

1 19

The macekey weapon

for hand-to-hand
fighting until
the appearance
of the helmet
The maceheads shown here, all from the
period between 3500 and 2500 B.C., embrace
a variety of materials and shapes. The round
copper examples (upper left) art from excavations near Beer-sheba. Below them arc two
Mesopotamian limestone mace-heads, borh
poar...hapcd and fiured. Tho porphyry. diskshaped example (above) and the magnificent
ceremonial macehead of King Scorpion
(right) arc both Egyptian.


Above left: Marchcads from

Chalcolirhic. I Jcpartutenr of Antiquities,
r.rc1lJ.n)I\)~iClI Museum. Jerusalem. Below
lett: Macchc.ids from Tdl Agn,b. E,nly
Dynastic. Museum of the OriC11u} Institute,
Chi('agn. Above: E;ypti.1ll macehcad. Pre1);;11:15U':' Hrmsh l'v1USCUllL Richt: Kllltt
Scorpion Ill.lCdK'.1J from Hicr rkonpolis.
Late Prc-Dvn.istic. Ashmolean Museum, 0:-;:-




( 4000-2 100 B . C . )

King N arrn er
l eft: H en..-, on the reverse side of the Palette o f
King Na rmer , the King wears (he cro wn o f
U ppe r Egypt. Below him , ( W O ene mies lice
from stron ghol ds that are depicted in minia cure-c-one, J. rectangular bastioned cirv, w hich
may repr esent settlem ents west of 'jor dau : the
other, a kite-shaped encl osure, possibly symbolizing territ ory cast ofJ ordan. T he drawings
represent Tran s-j ordan ien kite- shaped enclosures similar to that sho wn on the palette .
Far left: Palett e of King N arm er. Left. abo ve :
Plan of a kite-shaped desert enclosure. Below :

Stone .~rqtfito from the Cairn of H.lIli'.

Safaitic period. Trans-jordan .

The mace in action

The famous slate palette on page 12 4 shows
the King stri kin g his ene my w ith a mace. Its
ha ndle is bound wi th cor d, prob ably to prevent
slipping. A similarly bound mace (c. 1 9 00 H.C. )
appe,us in use on an ivory plaque from AbyJ m
(up per righ t) comm em o rating the victo ry o f
King \V cdymu over the Semites, and inscribed
" First rime of smiting o f the East." T he
middle illustrati on nf .3cylinder sr ,ll from the
samc' P'..riod sho w) a bound captive blj ll ~
struck wi th J. mao- . Two fine E ~)' pti.ln m . ncher.Is [horh Co ~,)OO R.C.). enc of brccci.r rock
and rhc other of .rl duvcr, OOl J IH c m cJ w uh
'i a p.:n (~ md f tlulI n , .' ppl...u bclo v,.

12 4

Righ t. {dP t o bottom : Plaque from Abvd cs .

lsr Dyna sty. British Mu seum . Ivo ry cylinder
seal {rom Hicr akonpolis, Isr Dynas ty. Briti sh
Museum. Early Dvnasric macehccds. British

r u u 1'1, 1< 10 11 BEf OR E A B R A H A M ( 4000 - 2 100 II . C . )

T his socketed axehcad, fou nd in a cave in the

j udean desert in Israel berw eeu Ei C edi and
Massada in 1901, is par t of J. discovery th at
mak es revo lutionary imp act on accepted ideas
of the technical level and ethn ic character of
-c-an d contacts betwe en- the lands of the
Bible Juring this early period. T he more than
4 50 copper objects fou nd belong to the end of
the C halcolitbic and the beginn ing of the

of socketed piercing axes su~gests the moun raino us regions to the north and east of
Mesop otarnia-c-the area whi ch g.:we birth to,
or W.:lS domin ant in, the laun chin g of Surnerian culture. On the o ther hand , both the shape
and quantity of the m aceheads found indicate
close contact with Egypt , Palestine, and Syria.

Th e axcheads, like this one , reveal the high

technical ..randards that the period achieved .
Th ey are certainly not inferior to the Sumerian
socketed 4Xe-S of the: first half of the third
m illenn ium (see page:: I ] 7) which , pri or to the
196 1 judean discover y. were considered as a
standard of perfection for contemporary
metal-w ork.

Since access to the cave in which the cache was

located wa s very difficult, it is presumed that
the objects were brou gh t there by local resident s w ho were for ced [Q Hee befor e an
invadin g force. The possibility is tha t this outside force w as an Egyptlan arm y. for at the
en d of the four th millennium , and the begin ning of the third, the Egypt ians began to
und erta ke widespread military action (see
page 124) in the southern regions o f Palestine
and T rans-j ordan and even beyond .

Th e exact origin of the obj ecrs-e-w hich ineludes man y cult instru m ents-in the Jude an
find is unknown . The pres<,'nce among them

Socketed axehcad from Nahal Mishrnar

(c. 3100 B.C.). Dep artm ent of Antiquities,
Archaeological M useu m. Jerusalem.

Early Brcnze periods- c.

3 100 D. C.


An important cache of weapons

and cult objects

12 6

12 7

ru s


The four-wheeled battle chariot harnessed to

four equines, depicted on this Mesopotamian
vase, was capable of carrying two men.
Despite its early date (c. 2800 B,C.), it incorporates such features as milled (or studded)
wheels for improved traction,
Left: Two views of a vase from Khafajah,
Early Dynastic II. British Museum. Above:
Drawing of the vase panel depicting the
A lighter, two-wheeled Sumerian chariot
from the same period (c. 2800 B.C.), harnessed
to four onagers. Although not equipped with
arms like the javelin-carrying four-wheeled
chariot, these smaller chariots undoubtedly
served on the battlefield, at least for communications. This modem model, patterned
on an ancient j-inch copper miniature, reveals
characteristic details like the studded threeboard wheels md the rein ring, through which
passes the sin ~le pair of reins attached to .an
inside animal.
Facing page: Model, in Museum of the
Oriental Institute, Chicago, based on copper
miniature from Tell Agrab, Early Dynastic n.
Baghdad Museum,

Chariots-in widespread use in

Mesopotamia in the first half of
the third millennium E.c.
although unknown in Egypt
until more than r,ooo years later

12 9

T H E PE Hl O J) BCl OR E ABR A ll.\M ( .. 0 0 0

2 10 0

B. C . )

The legacy
of chariot illustration
is rich and varied

A lr,lgment of J lim eston e relief dn ed c. 2500

d early depicts the three-boarded rimmed


structure of the chariot wheel. The pole

eme rges from the body of this chariot in a
high curve, and, descends toward th e four

onagcrs. Th e reins pass through the rein ring

arcached to rhc p"ll'. Th is two-wheeled chari ot
is ,.. qu ipped tor b.ndc wi th q uiver of j avelins
and swo rds w ith crescen t-shaped pommels.
l eft : Th e crude (b y ruodcl of a two-wheeled
Sum er ian d l.lri.)(, J .lll'J C 2800--2700 B.C. has
n...,,) lrolcs fur ril l ' rein s carefully pierced in the

Above: Rchef from Ur , Early Dynastic m

(Isr I)yn nry (If Ur). Univ ersity of Pennsylv:mil M useum . Left: Model from Kish,
Eatl y D ~11 .lS [ i (. M useum of the O riental
Institute, Ch.ic.l:!.,.
T he MI.snrI )~.lm ioln chariot characteristically
made usc of a rein ring mo unted on the pole
to keep the rein s from snarling. T his silver rein
right (far right ), found in (he to mb of Que en
Shu bad o f U r and dated c. 2.500 B.C. , is de co rated with an onagcr of electrum, an alia)' of
silver and gold .
Right: A m uch lat er day cult model of a rwoB.C. ) is essentially the
same J5 the one foun d at Kish and illus trat ed
on this page.

wheeled cha rio t (c. 20C()

Far right : Rein ring from Ur , Early Dynastic

III, British M useum. Right: Model from

Lagash, N ee- Sume rian. Louvre,


The SUOd,lfJ ofUr war pmcl. 'JIlC of rbc two

most lDllitJry documents of thethird millennium H.C.
C"l'pa ~isfcr.


The Sumerian Kin~ [center},

hy the royal guard and Ins four-

wheeled W.1f ch rriot, receives a precession of

hound captives,

Afiddle(c'gisfCf, A phalanx of Sumerian soldiers,

armed wirh spears and wearing metal helmets
and studded capt.-'S, charges the enemy.
Lower rt'gi:-rcr, Four four-wheeled chariots in a

battle cllJrbt.~. which some authorities interpret

the- s.uuc chariot in successive stages of
motion. The type of chariot shown here has
room for two mcn------tlrivcr JuJ warrior-r-and
is equipped with quiver .md javelins. The rein
rin?" [most dearly shown at kft). although
undccor arcd. is similar to the silver example
shown on p3gC J 3 I.

Ah,lVC: Panel, encrusted with slnll.Iapis Iazuli,

and red limestone. E,irly Dynastic 1II (c. 2500
8.C.). Bnnsb Museum : A clay model of
a chcnor [rum Kish.

The Sumerian anny

fights and subdues its enerrues

The Kin g of Lagash

leads his troops
to battle

The ocher of the two most imp ort ant milita ry

documents of the third millennium e.c.c-the
Stele of Vultures .

Upper u g;Sft" , Eannatum , King of Lagash

(right), leads a heavily armed phalanx o f
soldiers in ;;I column of six Cues [indicated by
th e six tiers of ~PC.ln. and six mew studs 0 0 th e

shields). The troops. wearing meu l helmets

and heavy rectang ular shields. and armed wi th
heavy SJX.n~ wh ich th~~y hold with both hands,
charge ove r the bod ies of th eir fallen enemies.

in 1 chariot equ ipped

wit h qui ver , light jav elins, and a battlcaxe,
leads charg ing trO Op s we aring metal helm ets
-but without shields-s-and armed with long
spears and socketed axes. T he King ho lds 4lon g spear in his left hand , 1 sickle sword in
his right.
Lo wer feg isur. Eann arum,


Limestone stele from T elloh, Ea rly Dyn astic

1II (c. 25 00 B.C. ). Louvre. Righ t: Silver
javel in-head from Ur , Early Dynastic ill.

The sword that Emn.irum h(lids in the lower

resister of thc Stele of Vuhurcs (p:lgC I3 5)

:a.ppc:lr:i Jg.tin .rr the Icfr of this relicf, Jetted
c. 2500 B.C., anti in the vimil.uly dared conch
pl.cquc (rum Mari on p.q;(: 137. These three
instances JrguL' th.u the sickle sword lud made
its debut in the Sumerian period. Here the
sword-bearer with J. shield tJCL"S a warrior
armed with a
Above: Relief on J circular column b.rsc from
Lagash, Early Dvn.istic JII, Louvre. Rurht:
Socketed axchcad from Klut"Jj_th, EJrly
Dynastic III. Museum of the Oricnr allnstnutc.


for hand-to-hand fighting

lhc socketed .rcc W,,$ IJIle ,)f the

rcm.irknblc tc~'lHlit'JI .a chievements.
Bbdl'~ like the c')ppn one shown on p.lW t jo
(c 1500 n.c.] were c.cp.ihlc of picrcin~ sturdy
metal helmets by virtue of a long, narrow

!ut"t, emb,)dlcs the s.rlrcnt fc.imrcs. Above: .J\

mcr.d-hchnctc-! warrior (shown on ,I .undl
pLqUl' fr.uu rjn- s.imc p~'ri,)J) c.rrrrcs ,ISIKkl:tt.'J
lXC ,1l1J .1

WClpnl1 rb.n has been ilklltlflt'l{

:1::; .1

sickle sword.

profile and firm anchoring on handles that

could be swung with force. The royal axe
shown here (also c. 2500 B,C.), a ceremonial
object with gold bands around the wooden

Left: Axe from Ur, Early Dynastic III. British

Museum. Above: Conch plaque from temple
of Ishtar at Mar i, Early Dynastic III. Louvre.





The sword
lagged behind the
mace and the axe
as a decisive
weapon of warfare

The swords that appeared in the third millennium were more like daggers---designcd

mainly f,)r stabbing. I-jilts. like the lapis lazuli

one shown at left, were secured to the blade
with nails, an atr.ichmcnt too weak to permit

a downward swing. A crescent hilt, like the

nne: on the iron sword (left, above) definircly
[iuritcc] usc to a t()[w,lrd thrust.

Left: Gold sword .md gold-decorated openwork sheath from the Royal Cemetery at Ur.
The plain back of the sheath has two vertical
slits to allow it to be attached to the belt. Early
Dynastic III (c. 2500 B.C.). Baghdad Museum.
Left, above: Iron sword with gold-covered
crescent hilt from the royal tomb at Abc.
HUyUk, Anatolia (c. 2500 B.C.). Hittite



. .: .. -

.' ....-.....

~ !

. ,




The sword was one

of the earliest objects
made of iron
An atolian armorers were experimenting w ith
iron b b ~k s ;1$ lOJ rly as the third mi llenni um in
orde r to prod uce :l longer and stro nge r
\\'cap~)n . At h:tl 0 11 this page. an iron swo rd
from the royal treasure llt D orak , w ith c bsnlian porumc ] cud hill studded wi th gold and
amber, is 75 f ms. lollg. Th e hronre swo rd be~
side it [also from D orak] has J, stained iv ory
hand le cove red wi th go ld and J po mmel of

Pour addino nal swo rds from D or.ik, show n

on' 144. inco rpo rate (k ti: r right) a
bron ze blade bon -h ead pom mel of cock cr ystal wi th eves .,f lr pis 11I 111i; J srlvcr b lade
anda gold rcn ~ r ll\C and a lion-bead 1")lU nu-l of pJ.k hlue "t. ' IlC with ncphntc riv..ts; .1

bronze bbJc. :-:.olJ lulr .l ll t l l .q-is lazuh pommel: and a '1k n 1,1.1.., d t"Cn r lf,d wi rh . 1 hoar
m ou f silver hdf ll c ( n U h.'d with"!! ,.,I, j d ol ph inv.

This drawing of a limestone relief (above)

from the 24m CL'11tury B.C shows Egyptian
troops armed with shallow axes in open battle
with long-haired Semites. At the right, in the
earliest known depiction of siege activities,
the Egyptians raise a scaling-ladder against the
walls of their enemies' fortified ciry and.
below, usc battering-poles to breach the gate
of the city, which is flanked by semicircular
bastions, like the other bastions of the city.

The late-third-millennium shallow axehcad

(below right), of the same type as those depicted in the siege scene. is pierced with holt'S
for securing it to J haft. The scene of Egyptian
archers (below left) was discovered at Lislu in
the vicinity of the pyramid of Amcncmbvr I,
the founder of the XIIth Dynasty. T .ikcn by
him from earlier buildings, such fr J~lllcnts
wac used as fill for his own tomb. TillSpiece
probably came from structures connected with

the Great Pyramid of Cheeps, which have

almost entirely disappeared as a result of such

Above: Relief in the tomb of Anta, Desha-she,

Upper Egypt, Late Vrh Dynasty. Below
right: Axehead. British Museum. Below
lcfi: Relief from the reign of Cheeps, IVth



lll!e~ "

The Egyptians besiege and attack a fortified city

A wall painting from a z jrd-century B.C.
tomb shows another Egyptian siege. here
involving a unique mobile scaling-ladder. The
attacking army uses axes with semicircular
heads like the one shown at right.
Above: Wall painting from the tomb of
Kaemhescr, Saqqarah. Vlrh Dvnastv. Righr:
Axehcad, larc third millennium KC. Metropolitan Museum of Art.



ru s


The earliest known

representation of
the composite bow

Thl' composite bow m,ly have been the deersivc t.rctor in Acc.rdun vicrorv over the In the detail {above) from .1 comm, mor.uivc jtJ~ found .ir SllSJ, the victorious

riulir lund. Above .u ri~ht, the c. 2-000 B.C.

Ilusluulia (thc' ruler <It Eshuuma} shows a
simil.irlv victorious J.nJ helmeted dl'ity (Tishpolk) armed with an epsilon axe.

Kill::: Nar am-Sin, shown trampling hi'>

enemies, holds what seems to be the first
recorded example of this effective w~apol1.
The- King wears a homed helmet-a symbol
of dcific'ation-c-and also carries a narrowbladed .1XC on his left arm, an arrow in his

Above lefr: Sandstone stele from Susa, z j rd

century a.c. Louvre, Right: Impression of a
seal from Tell el-AS013.r, Nee-Sumerian
period. Museum of the Oriental Institute,

Facing page. left: A fragment of another

Accadian stele shows the composite bow in
action, Right, a second Accadion fr.l~l1lent
shows bou~d captives before a soldier ~rmt:d
with a bartleaxc.
Facing page. lefr: Limestone stele fr.lgmen[
from Lagash, period of Sargon or Naram-SinLouvre. Right: Diorite stele fragment trom
Susa, Accadian period, Louvre.