I’ve complained before about the poor quality of Ron Wyatt’s “research” (loosely defined) before. While he may have been well-intentioned (his aim was to defend the Bible’s content), there is no excuse for the kind of paleobabble he has become notorious for. What follows is a simple but telling example (though to be fair, this one comes from Mary Nell Wyatt, whom I presume is Wyatt’s wife).
Wyatt’s name is well known on the internet for touting the Nuweiba location for the crossing the Red (Reed) Sea. It was in conjunction with this investigation that Wyatt allegedly found Egyptian chariot wheels under water in support of his theory.
Did Wyatt ever bring one of these out of the water? The link below claims so, but (as is so common with paleobabble), no independent peer-reviewed examination by archaeologists and other specialists (to see if they were merely coral formations) was ever conducted and published. But aside from that, there are the obvious logic problems: If it was a chariot wheel, how would one know it was Egyptian? If Egyptian, how would one know it was related to the exodus event? And if it was from that event, didn’t anyone notice the incongruity of the sea floor *not* being littered with these wheels?
Wyatt and his defenders — including Nell Wyatt — eventually put forth the idea that chariot wheels (their size, number of spokes) were reliable chronological indicators. Specifically, Wyatt wanted to argue this chariot wheel (if that’s what it was – again, completely absent of context) was only used prior to 1400 BC, a datum which fits with a 1446 BC date for the exodus, the date arrived at by a literal biblical chronology. The Pharaoh of the exodus in that dating scenario is an 18th dynasty pharaoh. Mary Wyatt defends this idea on the “Wyatt Newsletters” site here. I’d like to draw your attention to a few selections in particular:
The significance of these wheels is of extreme importance to the dating of the Exodus and determining which dynasty was involved. Back in the late 70’s, Ron actually retrieved a hub of a wheel which had the remains of 8 spokes radiating outward from it. He took this to Cairo, to the office of Nassif Mohammed Hassan, the director of Antiquities whom Ron had been working with. Mr. Hassan examined it and immediately pronounced it to be of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. When Ron asked him how he knew this so readily, Mr. Hassan explained that the 8-spoked wheel was only used during the 18th Dynasty. This certainly narrowed the date. We began to thoroughly research the Egyptian chariot and soon discovered that the fact that Ron and the boys found 4, 6 and 8 spoked wheels places the Exodus in the 18th Dynasty according to numerous sources, such as the following: “Egyptian literary references to chariots occur as early as the reigns of Kamose, the 17th Dynasty king who took the first steps in freeing Egypt from the Hyksos, and Ahmose, the founder of the 18th Dynasty. Pictorial representations, however, do not appear until slightly later in the 18th Dynasty….” (From “Observations on the Evolving Chariot Wheel in the 18th Dynasty” by James K. Hoffmeier, JARCE #13, 1976)
The author [Hoffmeier] goes on to explain how it was only during the 18th Dynasty that the 4, 6 and 8 spoked wheels are used- and that monuments can actually be dated by the number of spokes in the wheel: “Professor Yigael Yadin maintains that during the earlier part of the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian chariot was `exactly like the Canaanite chariot:’ both were constructed of light flexible wood, with leather straps wrapped around the wood to strengthen it, and both utilized wheels with four spokes. In Yadin’s eyes, the four-spoked wheel is diagnostic for dating purposes; it is restricted to the early part of the 18th Dynasty. It remained in vogue, he says, until the reign of Thutmoses IV, when `the Egyptian chariot begins to shake off its Canaanite influence and undergo considerable change.’ Yadin believes that the eight-spoked wheel, which is seen on the body of Thutmoses IV’s chariot, was an experiment by the Egyptian wheelwrights, who, when it proved unsuccessful, settled thereafter for the six-spoked wheel. So widespread and meticulous is the delineation of the number of wheel spokes on chariots depicted on Egyptian monuments that they can be used as a criterion for determining whether the monument is earlier or later than 1400 BC.” (Quoted from the same article as above.)
Sounds credible, doesn’t it? Sure … until you actually read Hoffmeier’s article for yourself. Those who do will discover that Mary Wyatt misquotes the article. She cannot follow the argument or (more likely in my view) cherry-picks the article for what will help her point. Here are Hoffmeier’s words, beginning with the portion Wyatt utilizes (numbers at end of lines indicate footnotes in the original article):
Professor Yigael Yadin maintains that during the earlier part of the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian chariot was “exactly like the Canaanite chariot :”6 both were constructed of light flexible wood, with leather straps wrapped around the wood to strengthen it, and both utilized wheels with four spokes. In Yadin’s eyes the four-spoked wheel is diagnostic for dating purposes; it is restricted to the early period of the 18th Dynasty. It remained in vogue, he says, until the reign of Thutmose IV, when “the Egyptian chariot begins to shake off its Canaanite influence and undergo considerable change.”7 Yadin believes that the eight-spoked wheel, which is seen on the body of Thutmose IV’s chariot,8 was an experiment by the Egyptian wheelwrights, who, when it proved unsuccessful, settled thereafter for the six-spoked wheel. In short, “So widespread and meticulous is the delineation of the number of wheel spokes on chariots depicted on Egyptian monuments that they can be used as a criterion for determining whether the monument is earlier or later than 1400 B.C.”9
Hoffmeier does not stop there, though Mary Wyatt’s citation does — suggesting Hoffmeier is in agreement with Yadin. He isn’t. Hoffmeier goes on to question, critique, and overturn Yadin’s thesis:
Yadin’s observations raise two questions. First, is the number of spokes in the wheel of the chariot as reliable a dating tool as he suggests? Secondly, what prompted the change from the four- to six-spoked wheel? Was it purely a way to “shake off Canaanite influences,” or was there a more practical motivation for the shift?
A chariot scene from the tomb of Ken-Amun10 (dated to the reign of Amenhotep II) shows a partially obliterated chariot. Four-spoked wheels are invariably depicted with the spokes in a 12, 6, 3, and 9 o’clock position, but in this scene the two visible spokes point toward 12 and 4 o’clock; this indicates a six-spoked wheel.
The introduction of the six-spoked wheel did not herald the immediate end of the four-spoked wheel, for Amenhotep II himself is shown driving a chariot of the older type on the red granite block discovered by M. H. Chevrier,11 as is Userhet, an official in his court.12 Subsequently we find Thutmose IV riding a chariot with eight-spoked wheels in the scene which for Yadin marked the beginning of the shift away from the four-spoked wheel.13 As we have seen, however, there is evidence of a wheel with six spokes in the preceeding reign, and we conclude that the shift began before 1400 B.C. Possibly the chariot of Thutmose IV was produced in a period when experimentation was still in progress, or alternatively, the chariot was custom made according to the king’s specifications. Either explanation might seem plausible, since until recently no other 18th Dynasty Egyptian chariot wheels with eight spokes had come to light. However, while browsing through some of the assembled talatat scenes in the Akhenaton Temple Project office in Cairo, the writer came across a processional scene in which Akhenaton is shown riding in a chariot that had eight spokes in its wheels. This scene tends to support the hypothesis that the Thutmose IV chariot was a custom- made vehicle, as Akhenaton’s would have been.
Another pictorial source from the reign of Thutmose IV is the workshop scene from the tomb of Hepu.15 Here wheelwrights are working on wheels that are supported by four spokes. This suggests that the four-spoked wheel remained in use for a limited time after 1400 B.C. Thereafter, for the remainder of the 18th Dynasty, the chariot wheel is regularly represented with six spokes,16 the single exception being the eight-spoked wheel of Akhenaton mentioned above. In the 19th and 20th Dynasties, the chariot wheels, for the most part, continue to have six spokes.
We see them, for example, on the royal chariots of Seti I,17 Ramesses II,18 and Ramesses III.19 Admittedly, for the reigns of Ramesses II20 and Ramesses III,21 one can cite scenes depicting four- spoked wheels, but, in each instance, the chariots are driven by foreign warriors. Again, chariot wheels with eight spokes are found in the Ramesside era, but they are limited to a few chariots driven by Hittites. The Hittite chariots normally had six spokes in each wheel. According to the evidence presented here, the six-spoked wheel is regularly portrayed in the chariots used by monarchs after Thutmose IV, the sole exception being the talatat scene from the Amarna period mentioned above. However, contrary to Yadin’s position, the six-spoked wheel is found before 1400 B.C. But he is basically correct in stating that the six-spoked wheel is consistently shown on chariots after 1400 B.C. Yadin’s explanation for the shift in the number of wheel spokes is hardly convincing.
The Egyptians were certainly jingoistic, but it is stretching the point to believe that they would alter the number of wheel spokes merely to “shake off Canaanite influences,” and thereby assert their nationalistic identity. They were eminently practical, and we must seek a practical reason for the change.
There’s really no excuse for this sort of stilted research. It’s simply not honest to hack a scholar’s article for what you want to say, leaving readers in the dark as to the contrary information, thus misrepresenting your source’s actual viewpoint.