Ancient History of Swords in the Bronze Age

Apa type swords, 17th century BC.

A sword is a neat bladed melee weapon mostly intended for thrusting or cutting longer than a dagger or knife, comprising a long blade connected to a handle—the exact definition of the term changes with the geographic region and the historical epoch under discussion. The blade can be curved or straight. Thrusting swords have a sharp tip on the blade and tend to be more explicit; slashing swords have a stropped cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade and are likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both slashing and thrusting.

Bronze Age Sword

The first weapons that can be characterized as “swords” date to around 3300 BCE. They have been discovered in Arslantepe, Turkey, are made from clean arsenical bronze, and are about 24 in (60 cm) long. Some of them are decorated with silver.

The sword developed from the dagged or knife. A knife is unlike a dagger in that a normal knife has only one sharp cutting surface, while a dagger has two cutting exteriors. Development of longer blades became feasible during the 3rd millennium BCE in the Middle East, initially in arsenic copper and later in tin-bronze.

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Blades longer than 24 in (60 cm ) were not widely available and impractical until the later stages of the Bronze Age because Young’s modulus (stiffness) of bronze is relatively low. Consequently, longer blades would bend easily. The sword’s development out of the dagger was slow; the first weapons that can be categorized as swords without any ambiguity are those discovered in Minoan Crete, dated to about 1700 BCE, reaching a total length of more than 39 in ) 100 cm). These are the “type A” weapons of the Aegean Bronze Age.

One of the most powerful and longest-lasting swords of the European Bronze Age was the mysterious Naue II type (named for Julius Naue, technically who first recorded them), also known as Griffzungenschwert (which literarily means. “grip-tongue sword”). This type first arrives in c. the 13th century BCE in Northern Italy (or a common Urnfield background) and remains well into the Iron Age, with a life-span of over 700+ years. During its lifetime, metallurgy developed from bronze to iron, but not its primary design.

Naue II swords were vividly shipped from Europe to the Aegean and as far afield as Ugarit, beginning about 1200 BCE, i.e., just a few decades before the palace’s ultimate collapse in the Bronze Age destruction. Naue II swords could really be as long as 90 cm, but most specimens fall into the 55 to 75 cm range. Robert Drews associated the Naue Type II Swords, which developed from Southern Europe into the Mediterranean with the Bronze Age collapse.

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Naue II swords, along with Nordic full-hilted blades, were made with aesthetics and functionality in mind. These swords’ hilts were beautifully crafted and often included false rivets to make the blade more visually appealing. Blades coming from northern Germany and northern Denmark usually had three or more fake hooks in the hilt.

Ancient China’s Sword production is recovered from the Bronze Age Shang Dynasty. The technology for bronze swords reached its elevated point during the Warring States era and Qin Dynasty. Amongst the Warring States period swords, Ancient Chinese artisans used some unique technologies, such as hurling high tin edges over lower, softened tin cores, or the application of diamond-shaped patterns on the sword. Also unique for Chinese bronzes is the regular use of high tin bronze (15–25% tin), which is extremely hard and ultimately breaks if stressed too far, whereas other places preferred lower tin bronze (usually 8%), which ends up bending if stressed too far. Although Ancient Chinese made iron swords alongside bronze, it was not until the early Han period that iron totally replaced bronze.

In the Indian subcontinent, archeologists discovered the earliest available Bronze age swords of copper in the Indus Valley Civilization sites (Sindh-India) in South Asia’s northwestern regions. Swords have been collected in archaeological discoveries throughout the Ganges-Jamuna Doab region of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of bronze but more commonly copper. Diverse specimens have been exclusively discovered in Fatehgarh, where there are several varieties of the hilt.

These swords have been variously recorded to times between 1700 BCE–1400 BCE but were used more in the opening centuries of the 1st millennium BCE.

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