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Building Pharaoh's Chariot

series: Nova

air date: 2/08/13 3:00 AM

Around 3,600 years ago, reliefs in Egyptian tombs and temples depicted pharaohs and warriors proudly riding into battle on horse-drawn chariots. Some historians claim that the chariot launched a technological and strategic revolution, and was the secret weapon behind Egypt's greatest era of conquest known as the New Kingdom. But was the Egyptian chariot really a revolutionary design? How decisive a role did it play in the bloody battles of the ancient world? In this film, a team of archaeologists, engineers, woodworkers and horse trainers join forces to build and test two highly accurate replicas of Egyptian royal chariots. They discover astonishingly advanced features, including spoked wheels, springs, shock absorbers, anti-roll bars and even a convex shaped rear mirror, leading one of them to compare the level of design to the engineering standards of 1930's-era Buicks! By driving our pair of replicas to their limits in the desert outside Cairo, NOVA's experts test the claim that the chariot marks a crucial turning point in ancient military history.

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