Oxen and Cart

2000–1800 BCE
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General Description

This bronze cart drawn by a pair of long-horned oxen is one of many examples of an artistic type well known from the early second millennium B.C.E. Such models were probably votive offerings, to be left in shrines, sacred caches, or tombs. They reflect the distinctive moment when men first used domesticated horses or cattle to draw wheeled vehicles, creating the beginning of powered transport on land. Although drawings of wheeled vehicles occur all over Eurasia, this seminal development in human culture probably originated in Mesopotamia or the Russian Steppes in the late third millennium B.C.E. Models similar to this one occur in Syria and and in the eastern part of Anatolia.

Both the combination of cold hammering and lost-wax casting used to make the piece, and the new technology of wheeled transport, represent the leading edge of civilization in the eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. The models show both farm carts for carrying produce and war chariots. This example is a formally dazzling work that shapes the little wagon with its high railings and the oxen with their great, outflung horns to a linear design in three dimensions. Like a tracery in space, the clean-cut cart moves forward, a paradigm of intelligent craftsmanship.

Adapted from

Anne Bromberg, "Oxen and cart," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 22.