I blame Cecil B.Demille. Somewhat less to blame are Moses Heston and Ramesses Brynner, but then I question the acting ability of the pair of them. Cecil remains the major culprit however, say what you will, that boy knew how to film an epic. And it is an Epic, ‘The Ten Commandments,’ in glorious “technicolor.” That’s pretty much just “colour” to us, but in 1956 Cecil was radical, and in one respect I agree, it's glorious.
The colours are vibrant, and we are shown Hollywood Ancient Egypt in all its US accented detail. Nobody ever explains why the Pharaoh speaks with a Russian accent of course! Hollywood biblical architecture was created on back lots, with wood and paper, no CGI, and a fortune spent on extras. But Cecil achieves “the look.”
Some of my preconceptions about Bronze Age terrain are then firmly the fault of old Cecil. In wargaming what I need is “the look.” I can adopt some of his “Epic” for my tabletop Bronze Age Near East. But only for Egypt I'm afraid. In Egypt small villages and isolated dwellings would have spread along the Nile, but further North into Canaan walled cities of 10000 population become more the norm, and that would be where a lot of my wargames would be set.
In “The Ancient Near East: History, Society and Economy” Mario Liverani postulates that a few fortified building settlements with smaller populations would spread into uplands, but that the overarching pattern would remain the Bronze Age city. Small settlements such as isolated farms or villages are rare or just don't happen. This will affect my project terrain, no “raiding the village” games.
Wilkinson, in “Archaeological Landscapes of the Near East,” points out that these nucleated Bronze Age settlements were focused on plains or rocky outcrops adjacent to the plains, a defensible city site, and a cultivated area. The city would have a chariot force that could defend its cultivated area from nomadic raiders, who would strike from the hills or the sea.
|Moses Heston brandishes a pair of the latest tablets.|
The image is one redolent of the Bible, Habiru tribes subsisting in the hills, enviously eyeing the ‘promised land’ of the city states on the plains below.
The population growth of the early Iron Age would drastically alter this pattern as regions hitherto unsettled were expanded into, and these too would have relied on fortified buildings. As Flag Fen and other European Bronze and Iron Age sites seem to attest the city state was a phenomenon of the Near East and its endemic culture of warfare.
|There are commercial models available.|
More peaceful Egypt could afford to use a different settlement pattern, one focused on food production and the nile, rather than almost solely on defence.
This then gives me a basis for my project terrain. A desert landscape, rocky hills, a walled city, some Egyptian features and cultivated areas.
Terrain list for my Bronze Age Wargaming project.
City walls 6” high in 3 x 10 inch sections. Great gate 9 inches high towers. Corner tower 8” high. Will double as an Egyptian Fort, or coastal town.
A couple of town houses, and Perry Miniatures do a great one.
Plinth for the city to raise it higher still making it a classic Bronze Age city on a mound. Plinth to be recessed to hold the wall sections in place.
Rocky area templates, x 6, of different shapes, built up to 1” high. To include a burning bush!
Tented camp, for nomads or for a siege encampment.
Egyptian Statuary in various degree of ruin, made with Das.
Broken down stone wall in the desert. 1” high.
Sea Peoples ship based on the template if the 15mm Essex ship.
|"Behold, a bush that can act."|
Lastly of course I will need a burning bush, appearing randomly among any rocky areas on the tabletop, to remind me of one of my favourite moments from Cecil’s movie, where Moses Heston is out acted by a bush.
(In the interests of balance I would just point out that he is also out acted by a golden calf, two stone tablets and his own walking stick, which parts the Red Sea almost without his help. In later movies in his illustrious career he was out acted by monkeys, and the Statue of Liberty. Indeed so decisively did Madam Liberty outshine him that he ended that movie in a proper huff beating the sand and cursing the American viewing public.)