Moreover, scenes on standardized construction blocks or Talatat show Nefertiti and Akhenaten together on a chariot or Nefertiti accompanied by a charioteer on a chariot. On other blocks, pairs of ladies-in-waiting appear, driven by a male.
A very unusual scene in the tomb of Huy from the time of Tutankhamun (1333-1323 BCE) depicts a Nubian princess on a chariot accompanied by a chariot driver. The scene is not only uncommon because of the woman, but because the chariot is drawn by oxen instead of horses. Moreover, there is textual evidence from three inscriptions on the chariots B and C from the tomb of Tutankhamun, in which his wife Ankhesenamun is mentioned. She is interpreted as a "co-user" of the chariots and the inscriptions as a textual counterpart to the aforementioned Amarna-era representations, which show the king and the queen with their daughters on a family outing with chariots.
In the literary text of the "Tale of the two Brothers" from Dynasty 19 (1292-1186 BCE) a woman driving a chariot is mentioned. On an ostracon from Dynasty 20, a woman with her driver is even depicted in a martial context. She is armed with bow and arrow and represented firing arrows at a man on a chariot who drives towards her. She is interpreted as a queen, possibly Tausret, or the goddess Astarte.
After the end of the New Kingdom, the evidence for chariots per se decreases significantly. A unique example of a woman on a chariot is shown in the Edfu temple from Ptolemaic times, depicting a leonine headed goddess standing on a chariot, resembling Sekhmet, yet identified as Astarte by the accompanying inscriptions.
The iconographic and textual evidence of women on chariots reveals they are almost all of a "private" nature; except for the scene on the ostracon, they do not show a martial context. In contrast, most representations most male chariot users are shown in a military context. Women on chariots use the typical means of transport for their social class in the New Kingdom. The use of the chariot was apparently not gender-specific. This contrasts for example with the European Middle Ages, when travelling in a wagon was considered as inappropriate for men and reserved for women, while men travelled on horseback. In Egypt, there were apparently no gender-related restrictions on the use of chariots. The iconographic and textual evidence for women on chariots is certainly an exception, but only in terms of their rarity, not because of the choice of means of transport.
As mentioned above, the iconographic and textual evidence of women on chariots accumulates drastically in the Amarna Period. Nefertiti is pictured on a chariot either alone or with one or two companions. She is therefore the earliest known woman represented alone on a chariot, and until the Greco-Roman Period she remains the only woman and queen to have been shown alone on a chariot in a civil context.
The ladies-in-waiting and princesses are always portrayed riding in pairs on the chariot. While the princesses could also act as a driver, ladies-in-waiting are always accompanied by a charioteer. Moreover, the ladies-in-waiting appear in connection with the royal family's outings on a chariot, never in other scenes. The conspicuous increase of evidence in the Amarna Period is directly related to the special position of royal women at this time. In particular the outstanding position of Nefertiti, appearing alone on the chariot, shows her as Akhenaten's counterpart, as is also known from numerous ritual scenes and textual evidence of this period.
Heidi Köpp-Junk is on the staff of the Federal State Museum for Prehistory Halle/Saale.
For further reading:
Köpp-Junk, Heidi. "The chariot as a mode of locomotion in civil contexts," in Veldmeijer, A., Ikram, S. (eds.) Chasing Chariots. Proceedings of the first international chariot conference (Cairo 2012). Leiden 2013, 131-142.
Köpp-Junk, Heidi. "Wagons and carts and their significance in Ancient Egypt," Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 9 (June 2016), 14-58.