Kartusche von Ramses II.

Horses for
the Pharao

Horses played an important role in Pi-Ramesse. They were mainly used as draft animals for wagons. Archaeological evidence of their particular importance can be found in various areas of the city.

Small horses, great efforts

Horses were probably first brought to Egypt from Western Asia during the period of the Hyksos, who ruled Egypt’s north from 1700 to 1550 BCE. The animals are not only attested in pictorial and textual sources, but archaeologically too, because stables and burials have been excavated.

During the New Kingdom, Egyptian horses were relatively small, with a size comparable to modern mules. They were primarily used to pull chariots, because horse riding was comparatively uncommon.

Skelett einer 5-jährigen Stute, die im Thronsaal des Königspalastes von Tell el-Dab‘a bestattet wurde. Der Fund gilt als einer der frühesten Nachweise für Pferde in Ägypten. © ÖAW-ÖAI.
The skeleton of a five-year-old mare, buried in the throne room of the royal palace at Tell el-Dab'a. This find is presumed to be one of the earliest pieces of evidence for horses in Egypt. 16th century BC. © ÖAW-ÖAI.
Soldaten mit Streitwagengespann, ein Stallbursche lehnt sich auf eines der Pferde. Relief aus dem Grab des Haremhab in Saqqara. Neues Reich, 18. Dynastie. Foto: Alexandra Verbovsek.
Soldiers with a chariot team. A groom is leaning against one of the horses. Relief from the tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara. New Kingdom. 18th Dynasty. © Photo: Alexandra Verbovsek.
Reitender Nubier. Relief aus dem Grab des Haremhab in Saqqara. Neues Reich, 18. Dynastie. Bologna, Museo Civico (1889). © Courtesy: Bologna Museo Civico Archeologico, Archivio fotografico.
A Nubian horse rider. Relief from the tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara. New Kingdom. 18th Dynasty. © Courtesy: Bologna Museo Civico Archeologico, Archivio fotografico.

Toilets for Horses

Portable chariots

Bronze Age high-tech

Darstellung der sog. Kadesch-Schlacht im Großen Tempel Ramses‘ II. in Abu Simbel. Der bogenschießende König auf dem Streitwagen. © Olaf Tausch, lizenziert unter CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Depiction of the so-called Battle of Kadesh in the Great Temple of Ramesses II in Abu Simbel. The king on the chariot is shooting with a bow. © Olaf Tausch, licensed under CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Nachbau eines ägyptischen Streitwagens des Neuen Reiches im Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim. Foto: Sharouk Shalchi.
Reproduction of a New Kingdom Egyptian chariot in the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim. Photo: Sharouk Shalchi.
Ägyptische Streitwagentruppen. © MUDIRA Bilddatenbank. Bild ID: U086_23, Institut für Ägyptologie der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Foto: Margret Beer.
Egyptian chariot troops. © MUDIRA Image Database, Image ID: U086_23; Institute of Egyptology at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich; Photographer: Margret Beer.

Chariot troops represented the elite unit of the army throughout the New Kingdom. The king himself was often depicted as a victorious commander on a chariot, so it's no wonder that chariots made their way into the burial equipment of King Tutankhamun. Their complex design required a variety of precious raw materials, such as exotic wood, metal, and leather.

Weighing only around 30 kg, Egyptian chariots were extremely light – people or animals could even carry them on their backs when travelling over rugged terrain. During battle, chariots were ridden by at least two people: a charioteer and an archer. In contrast, Hittite chariots were much more massive and carried a team of three people: the charioteer, a person holding a shield, and one further soldier.

Horses for the pharaoh’s victory

Excavations in the Storeroom:
A Door Lintel from the Royal Horse Stables

Many of the objects found during the excavations in Qantir/Pi-Ramesse are first put into the storerooms, where they are kept safe and examined. Prof. Dr. Alexandra Verbovsek, Director of the Qantir/Pi-Ramesse Project, presents a fragmented door lintel from the royal horse stables, which will be reconstructed and published.

3000-year-old hoofprints

Exerzierhof. Rekonstruktion: Edgar B. Pusch. © Qantir/Pi-Ramesse-Projekt.
Exercise courtyard. Reconstruction: Edgar B. Pusch. © Qantir/Pi-Ramesse Project.

Another find throws even more light on how horses were kept at Pi-Ramesse. Not far from the workshops, horses ran around freely in a courtyard.

About 3,300 years ago, after a rain shower, these horses left hoofprints in the soft soil. To dry the ground, a layer of sand was put on top of the muddy soil, causing the prints to be preserved.

Hufabdrücke auf dem Boden des Exerzierhofes. Foto: Norbert Böer. © Qantir/Pi-Ramesse-Projekt.
Hoof imprints on the pavement of the exercise courtyard. Photo: Norbert Böer. © Qantir/Pi-Ramesse Project.

Pharaoh’s Horse Stables in LEGO Bricks

The Roemer- and Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim displays a model of a horse stable, which was designed based on a royal stable excavated in Pi-Ramesse. Using the model, Prof. Regine Schulz, the museum's scientific director, shows how we can imagine life with horses at Pharaoh’s court.



Bauherr Ramses II.


Chronik einer Stadt


Stadt der Technologien


Pferde für den Pharao