Zvezda are fond of stating dates on their boxes, but precise years are really only possible for sets from the early modern period onwards. Older subjects get whole centuries mentioned, which is fine, so it was with some surprise that we saw this set is dated to 2000 BCE. So, what happened in that year? Well nothing much actually. Indeed modern scholars are far from certain on exactly how the Egyptian calendar corresponds to that of the modern age, but leaving that aside this year was early in what is now called the Middle Kingdom. The Old Kingdom had dissolved into a time of chaos and civil war known as the First Intermediate Period, but the country was finally reunited by the early rulers of the 11th dynasty, heralding the start of the Middle Kingdom, which saw relative peace and prosperity under a strong central government. Egypt benefited greatly by being on the periphery of the ancient world, far enough away from any other major power to be neither potential threat nor target, so such military action as there was was confined to civil wars and actions against their less sophisticated near neighbours – Nubians and Libyans mostly.
The lack of any serious external threat meant Egyptian military technology hardly developed at all over many centuries. At this date edged weapons were made of copper, but use was still being made of flint for arrows and spear points. The men wore no more than a simple kilt and carried a shield of modest proportions (apart from missile troops, who lacked this too). Looking at the figures in this set they are certainly very Egyptian-looking, but something isn’t right here. Several have basic linen cuirasses and some have the large stiffened groin protectors, while we also see several with the now-familiar stripped headcloth. All these items appeared long after the stated date, with the headcloth being introduced during the 19th dynasty. Spears, javelins and bows are fine, but one man wields the famous khopesh sword, which Egyptian troops first adopted during the New Kingdom centuries later. The smaller epsilon axe is OK, but we are doubtful about the larger two-handed version for this date (held by the last figure in row one). Ancient sources are never ideal for describing such things, but with Egypt we have a fair amount of information (not least from the famous models of soldiers found in the tomb of Mesehti at Asyut), and from these we can say that much of what is on offer here is only suitable for the New Kingdom, centuries after the date on the box.
The poses are pretty good, with the usual abundance of action and life that we might expect from Zvezda. The two spearmen make good troops for regular formations while others work better for one-on-one combat. We thought all were very nicely posed, with the two-handed axe being particularly effective, although the archers are also so much more interesting and imaginative then the archers we normally have to review on this site. The bottom four single figures begin with a "royal guard" followed by a drummer, which is fine. The standard bearer carries a fan and lion standard which is identified in one source as suitable for marines (again for the New Kingdom), although whether that was exclusively for such units we will probably never know now. Finally we find the pharaoh himself, resplendent in his kilt and scale crossbelts, but here again the timeline is confused as he wears the blue Khepresh or war crown, which dates only from the 18th dynasty, centuries after the date stated by Zvezda.
If you have bought Zvezda products before then you would not be surprised by the very high standard of production here. Detail everywhere is crisp and sharp and musculature is all very well done. Some weapons and shields are separate, but all fit the figure perfectly with no need for glue. Flash is impossible to find and there is no excess plastic, even on the axe man, thanks to separate parts. Sadly there is a problem, however, and it is that these figures are all about 26 mm in height, which equates to 1.87 metres. That is taller than the average man in the modern developed world, so while some could certainly attain that height in ancient Egypt it is a nonsense to suggest that was an average for a Bronze Age society such as this.
The Egyptian war machine of the Middle Kingdom was quite a simple affair, because it did not need to be anything more until the coming of the Hyksos much later. Swords, axes and spears were used along with bows, slings and throwsticks, and neither of the last two are represented in this set at all. Clearly the designer has consulted books on New Kingdom Egypt, and the result is pretty much a set of New Kingdom Egyptians, with the simpler figures being usable as light infantry perhaps. So why did Zvezda claim 2000 BCE? All we can think is it is a nice round number, and perhaps they think the centuries of Egyptian civilisation pretty much all merge together with no development. Certainly this set looks great, and very Egyptian, and if you don’t know your Khufu from your Ramesses then perhaps that is enough. But for those that know their history the use of the set should be carefully considered, and the date on the box completely ignored (however we must score the set badly for accuracy as this is the claimed date). That apart, these men are giants, which really spoils things, and unlike the date, which is no more than a printing error on the box, their bad size severely limits their usefulness, particularly when placed alongside products from other manufacturers that have better quality control, as can be seen in the figure comparison.