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Nature volume 130, pages 404406 (10 September 1932) | Download Citation

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Cars of the Gods.—The ceremonial car in prehistoric times and its modern survivals are fully illustrated and studied by Dr. R. Forrer in Préhistoire, No. 1. In tracing its various forms and analogies, the author propounds a new theory of the origin of the wheeled cart. According to his view, it was derived from the conceptions of the character and qualities of the sun held by man at the beginning of the age of metal. The sun was then regarded as a revolving disc, which was imitated for magical purposes by a wheel or disc. This wheel was made to revolve first by being thrown in the air, then by being attached to a forked stick, which was used to wheel it about. From this developed the two, three, and four or six-wheeled vehicle, which was used for religious processionals and was afterwards put to secular uses. The theory is supported by illustrative examples drawrTfrom rock-paintings, grave furniture, vase paintings, and other material. In the course of time, the solar car of the spring festival was associated with models or miniatures. The occupants of the sacred car take various forms, not only that of deities, but also of symbols, such as the sacred pillar, which appears in an early cuneiform inscription from Boghazkeui, or a sacred bird or animal. There are examples in which the car bears a cauldron, which served as both a fertility and a rain charm. These developments appear in the Bronze Age, and by the Iron Age had spread all over Europe and even beyond. By the Hallstadt period, the ceremonial car was gradually disappearing in Europe, no doubt owing to the spread of other religious ideas. It would appear that it was the car rather than the deity that brought benefit to mankind, and it is the important element in the rite. As, however, the idea of anthropomorphism developed, the divinity assumed first place. The importance of the car wanes, while its secular uses extend.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/130404a0

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