|14 May 2012
Did ancient Germans steal the pharaoh's chair design?
Roughly 3,500 years ago, folding chairs remarkably similar to ones found in Egypt suddenly became must-have items in parts of northern Europe.
The simple design consists of two movable wooden frames connected to each other with pins, and with an animal hide stretched between. Such chairs were already being used in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. The oldest depictions are found on 4,500-year-old Mesopotamian seals.
Some 20 Nordic folding stools have been discovered so far, most of them north of the Elbe River in Germany. The only complete specimen was found in 1891 in Guldhoj (Golden Hill) near Kolding on the Jutland peninsula - now mainland Denmark. The chair was found lying in a tree-trunk coffin, and dated to 1389 BCE.
The fact that the design reached so far north led many scholars to posit that northern Europeans developed it independently, but that view has now been challenged. "The design and dimensions of the chairs are too similar," says Bettina Pfaff, an archaeologist from Nebra, near the eastern German city of Halle, who specialises in prehistory.
Scholars are also determining the dates of such knowledge transfers. Egypt became a major power under Thutmose III (1479 to 1426 BCE), whose armies reached the borders of modern-day Turkey. Starting in 1400 BCE, the stools began being made in the far north and abruptly became fashionable.
Many speculate that the furniture belonged to clan leaders, but not all find this theory convincing. The objects were often discovered in "poorly furnished graves," explains Pfaff. She believes the furniture belonged to a "spiritual elite" such as healers and magicians.
Edited from Spiegel Online International (3 May 2012)
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