Mike driving through the London rush-hour in an Iron Age Chariot

Mike has been fortunate to drive many different types of chariot in a variety of situations. He has twice driven a replica of King Tut’s chariot across the sands in front of the Great Pyramid. Like the Pharaohs, he tied the reins around his waist and shot his bow at targets. It is surprising how much the team can be steered by movements from the hips. He has also driven replicas of Egyptian chariots and shot from them as an archer on English beaches. Most usually a driver accompanies a chariot archer. In Jordan, Mike undertook experiments to see how many arrows he could land in a target zone during a wheeling charge. He managed 10 – five on the approach, one as he slewed round on the turn and four on the gallop out. The oblong circuit took 30 seconds, with a straight line of approach of around 250 metres.

In Turkey he experimented with both two horse and four horse Assyrian chariots and by sheer fluke won a chariot race around the village of Harran, although his wheel disintegrated as he slid round a corner when the scene was filmed again for cutaways.

Again in Turkey, he drove and shot from both Mycenaean and Hittite style chariots on the plains of Troy itself. Here he shot rubber tipped arrows at a shield protected companion galloping away on a second chariot and experimented with chariot jousting – there is a Mycenaean wall painting which shows a chariot born warrior with what could be interpreted as a lance.

In Britain he led a team to reconstruct a replica of an Iron Age British chariot. The chariot was built by Robert Hurford and is an object of great beauty and splendour. The project was undertaken for a BBC Meet The Ancestors special called “Chariot Queen”. The BBC gave the chariot to The British Museum and to publicise the event, Mike drove it through the streets of London from the museum to Hyde Park Corner, during the rush hour. A revised version of that chariot was made by Robert Hurford some years later and Mike drove it in trials for BBC’s series The Celts in 2015.

The pinnacle of Mike chariot driving experiences, however, came in 2018 when he drove both two-horse and four-horse versions of Roman racing chariots. These stripped down racing machines have a perilously low rail and are very exciting to drive.

In this talk Mike gives an overview of the chariot in various cultures and discusses the obstacles faced when reconstructing authentic replicas today. Ancient harness systems were entirely different to those used today and explaining this to the horses can be quite a challenge.


Mike wrote an abbreviated account of the project for the BBC history website

For those wishing to read the full account of this project CLICK HERE (PDF document 1.2MB)