Biblical Archaeology Review 37:4, July/August 2011

Strata: What Is It?

A. Byzantine toilet paper roller

B. Canaanite horse bit

C. Urartian rotisserie spit

D. Axle from Assyrian toy chariot

E. Egyptian spool

Answer: B) Canaanite horse bit

Metal bits, such as this slightly bent, 10-inch-long example from the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.E.) site of Tell el-Ajjul near Gaza, were essential components of the bridles used by Canaanite charioteers to control and direct their horses. The long metal rod was placed in the horse’s mouth, while the pointed studs of the bit’s two circular pieces would press against the horse’s cheeks, enforcing the directional commands given by the reins of the chariot driver. The reins were attached to the bridle using metal rings that were inserted through small holes in the knobby ends of the bit.

Even in a purely functional object like this bronze horse bit, however, Canaanite metalworkers still found ways to add subtle decorative touches. The bit’s cheekpieces, for example, are depicted as the spoked wheels of a Canaanite war chariot, while even the spokes themselves were molded in the shape of lotus blossoms.

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