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When the ancient Egyptian civilization began to coalesce, weaponry became more sophisticated and began to include horn bows and stone-tipped arrows. Obsidian was used for arrow tips because of its glass-like properties that allow it to achieve a finely honed and razor-sharp edge.
© Ashley van Haeften - Knife with a gold handle
Gradually, the composite bow took precedence over the horn bow and weaponry became standardized. The pharaohs began to accumulate weaponry stockpiles in order to conquer other lands and to protect themselves from being conquered.
The Khopesh – An Egyptian Sickle-Sword
Ancient Egypt, along with the Khopesh, has been vital in shaping modern civilization. For a long time, Egypt has set a place in the Western imagination as a land full of mystery and wisdom. And this also goes for the Egyptian military and technology.
The Khopesh is a curved sword utilized during the Bronze Age in Egypt. It is a weapon representing the classic sword style in North Africa and the Near East. This sword was also the piece that forged the Ancient Empire of Egypt.
Origins of the Khopesh and its Early History
The Khopesh is always linked to Egypt despite not originating from there. The earliest form of the sword came from Mesopotamia around the start of the 2nd millennium BC. The Steele of the Vultures, 2500 BC, shows the Sumerian king, Eanatum, using a sickle-like sword. The sword may be a prototype of the Khopesh.
After its development in Mesopotamia, the Khopesh was introduced to different places. Such places included Syria, while the others where Canaanite city-states. It came to Egypt from Mesopotamia after 1500 BC which was around the New Kingdom era.
It is said to have originated in Canaan. While an early version came from Lagash, dating back to the late 3rd millennium. Located in other areas, the Khopesh was present at Schechem and Byblos as well.
The early samples of the Khopesh have a full tang with a grip fasted with rivets or a type of glue. The later types featured a flanged hilt that has organic inlays like bone, ivory, timber, etc. for its grip.
It is basically a curved blade adopted by the Egyptians all the way from the Hyksos. They invaded and ruled portions of Egypt in the 2nd middle era of history. The Hyksos also introduced items like composite bows, horse-drawn chariots, and scale armor.
Appearance and Features of the Khopesh
A regular Khopesh is 50 to 60 centimeters long but there are much smaller samples to this. Plus, the blunt edge of its tip worked as an efficient bludgeon and hook. The weapons soon changed from bronze to iron during the New Kingdom era.
The sword has a curved blade where its cutting edge usually appears on the convex edge of the sword. It has a sickle-like shape so part of the blade that’s opposite the grip has a small hook. This is the reason why some scholars refer to the Khopesh as a sickle-sword. It is a type of sword from across the Nile valley, Middle East, East Africa, and India.
For the blade and hilt of the Khopesh, these are cast in a single piece, making the weapon more durable. Its length is usually 500-650. Most of the surviving samples are heavyweight and have a cross-section that is fairly thick. However, it is not certain that all of the weapons were used for combat since some ladies are unsharpened.
When it comes to the blade of the Khopesh, only the outer part of the curved edge is not needed. The sword evolved from the Epsilon or the axes in crescent shapes for warfare. It went out of use in 1300 BCE.
The Khopesh is an exotic weapon. It was similar to an intermediate between a sword and an axe. The blade and its hilt are both completely made of metal. The blade sweeps out into a cutting edge with a curved design. Some consider this as an ancestor of the Falchion which is a heavy sword for chopping. The Falcata and Kopis are early examples of the different versions of the Khopesh.
The Development of the Khopesh
The first metal weapons were copper axes. Before the widespread use of the Khopesh, people owned and used these weapons before the Bronze Age. However, copper was not strong enough to withstand metallurgical processing. During the Bronze Age, people used bronze weapons more often. Over the centuries, the Khopesh was finally developed.
The Khopesh in the New Kingdom Period
In the New Kingdom period, the Khopesh became a common military weapon. It was famous for its slashing ability in enclosed areas. However, there are examples of unsharpened Khopesh. These have either dull edges or were never intended to be sharp.
The Khopesh also had ceremonial uses and ancient art usually display these images. Two examples show the royal grave of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, who was entombed and had two sickle swords of various sizes. At some point during the 12th century BCE, people abandoned the Khopesh as a combat weapon. This was because they favored another weapon over it. Despite that, the Khopesh is still one of the most popular weapons of Ancient Egypt.
The Khopesh and Egyptian Military Supremacy During the Bronze Age
During the Bronze Age, the Egyptian Empire held high power in their domain. They were powerful throughout the period and were able to repel the sea people. Unlike Canaan that was less successful, the Egyptian Empire was successful at it. Since they had an advanced military and efficient weapons which include the Khopesh, the Egyptians managed to maintain their sovereignty.
Influence of the Khopesh in other Cultures
Around the 6th century BCE, the Greeks started using the Kopis or Machaira. Some scholars think that the Kopis may have been a word that originates from the term Khopesh. Egypt’s sworn rivals during the Bronze Age, the Hittites, also used the Khopesh. Until today, it is not clear whether they directly inherited the Mesopotamian Khopesh or if they copied the Egyptian style.
In the eastern and central Africa, there are also pieces of evidences of the existence of the Khopesh. Regions that contain modern Burundi and Rwanda had daggers that appeared like a sickle. The blades were comparable to the Khopesh. Until today, it is not clear whether the Africans directly inherited the design from the far southern part of Mesopotamia or if they copied the Egyptian weapons.
Uses of the Khopesh
The sword was one of the first weapons that were exclusively for battle. It was not like the spear or the axe that had noncombatant uses before being weapons. Since the Khopesh is a curved sword, its primary use was for cutting, chopping, and slashing. It was efficient and useful before warriors used body armor to protect themselves against slashes of this weapon.
Aside from chopping and slashing, the Khopesh was useful for thrusting as well. This would have been useful against armor. The hook that is close to the blade’s tip can rip an enemy’s shield. It was a versatile weapon that people feared. It’s role was similar to that of the maces that Egyptian art display.
The sodegarami, meaning &ldquosleeve entangler,&rdquo was a weapon of the Edo-era Japanese police. Often used by a pair of officers, the sodegarami was a spiked pole they would slide into an opponent&rsquos kimono. A quick twist would entangle the fabric and allow officers to bring the offender down without causing (too much) injury.  Often, one officer would attack from the front and another from behind, working together to pin the criminal to the ground by their neck. Having two sodegarami tangled up in your kimono made it almost impossible to escape.
It was an important tool for arresting samurai, who by law could only be killed by other samurai. Once an offending samurai drew his katana, an officer would slip his sleeve grabber up the samurai&rsquos kimono to entangle him. He would then bring the samurai down non-lethally to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
Origin of the Khopesh Sword
The earliest known description of the khopesh comes from the Stele of Vultures a monument that came from Mesopotamia’s early dynasty III era, celebrating the victory and achievement of Lagash over Umma.
Create Your Custom Samurai Sword
The Stele of Vultures illustrated the Lagash’s king carrying the khopesh which dates the weapon to about 2500 BC. Numerous pharaohs have been linked to the khopesh and these weapons have been located in royal graves.
The khopesh was certainly an import and had its origins in ancient Mesopotamia – a number of examples have been found that date from the very beginning of the second millennium BC.
From there, it was adopted very quickly by the city-states of Syria and Canaan and only later, after the Hyksos interregnum, by the Egyptians.
These early antecedents were composed of a handgrip to which was attached a long bronze blade with a mid-rib. The final half of the blade curved out in the form of a C this eventually evolved and had changed throughout history.
The origin of the weapon can be traced all the way back to the 3rd millennium Sumer and the khopesh sword was generally utilized against the Egyptian soldiers in war.
However, when the Egyptian kingdom began improving its trade relations with other neighboring kingdoms, it eventually adopted the khopesh and began utilizing it during battles as well.
The weapon became most popular and highly noted during the New Kingdom which was under the rule of united Egypt. Ramses II was known to be the very first pharaoh to have utilized the khopesh in battle.
Although silver is not regarded as a magical metal, it is considered sacred to Artemis (and used by the Hunters of Artemis) and is the only known weapon able to harm lycanthropes (werewolves). It is unknown whether Stygian Iron can also harm them, because, although as a metal of the Underworld it should work against all monsters, demigods, gods, and mortals, Nico was discouraged from using it against Lycaon.
Notable Silver Weapons
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Avebury: The Biography of a Landscape by Joshua Pollard and Andrew Reynolds (Tempus Books, 2002)
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Understanding the Neolithic by Julian Thomas (Routledge, London, 1999)
Ancestral Geographies of the Neolithic: Landscapes, Monuments and Memory by Mark Edmonds (Routledge, London, 1999)
The Significance of Monuments by Richard Bradley (Routledge, London, 1998)
The Passage of Arms: An Archaeological Analysis of Prehistoric Hoards and Votive Deposits by Richard Bradley (Cambridge University Press, 1990)
What Weapons Did the Babylonians Use?
The ancient Babylonians used sharpened weapons such as sickle swords, socketed axes, spears, and the Egyptian-derived bladed mace, as well as clubs and staffs, and projectiles flung from war slings. The Babylonians were a Bronze Age people, so the bladed weapons they used were made of a softer metal than later civilization's iron and steel. This made them less effective in battle than iron and iron-alloy based weapons, as iron is harder and harder blades can take a sharper point.
At the time, though, bronze was top-of-the-line technology, and the Babylonians were so good at empire building that later armies modeled their weapons after Babylonian designs.
They did not possess bows neither the long bow nor the cross bow have been found at excavations. Enemies such as the Akkadians did possess bows, so this weapon was not unknown to the Babylonian state. Babylonian warfare relied upon armored foot soldiers, instead of massive projectile fire or charging horsemen.
Babylonian armor was constructed out of heavy leather studded with copper and bronze. They wore breastplates made of bronze because the top of the torso is a large target and contains vital organs that need extra protection. Helmets were made out of copper to reduce weight on the head and increase comfort during battle. Fighting on foot requires a combination of heavy protection and mobility, and this was an area where the Babylonians decided to trade off defense for agility.
Hand and Half Swords
The term hand-and-a-half is more a modern designation for a range of sword types that featured tapered blades longer than the standard shorter arming swords of the time but without the double-hand grips of larger, heavier war-swords. Many different swords fall into this category, and many of them are as maneuverable as they are surprisingly sturdy. Hand-and-a-half swords roughly fall into two categories. The first tends to have approximately six-inch grips with the blades generally between 34–36 inches. The second type is known as “bastard” swords with grips around five inches or so, and blades 30–34 inches long. Both are light enough to use one handed but allow for two handed use by gripping the base of the pommel. Blade shapes varied to the changes from the mail to full plate armor, but remained of a size that made them effective from horseback.
Museum Replicas houses a collection of hand-and-a-half swords which includes arguably the most famous of all medieval blades – the longsword. We also offer other traditional swords of the period – the bastard sword and the war-sword. Just like our other swords, Museum Replicas’ hand-and-a-half swords are aesthetically pleasing and works of excellent craftsmanship. Check them out now!
10 of History’s Most Terrifying Swords
Humans have always been cooking up brand new ways to slice, dice, hack, and stab. You definitely wouldn’t want to tangle with any of the historical swords in this gallery—especially the last one.
1. The Khopesh
Believed to have evolved from either battle axes or farm implements, this intimidating weapon was used in ancient Egypt. Only the outer edge of the curved blade was sharp. The weapon was a symbol of authority, and several Pharaohs owned Khopeshes—including Ramses II and Tutankhamun, who was entombed with his.
2. The Ulfbehrt Sword
Strong, lightweight, and flexible, Viking Ulfberht blades were forged with astonishingly pure metal called Crucible Steel. Even today’s best blacksmiths have had a hard time reproducing this material, which is much better than what's found in average medieval swords. How did Viking warriors develop such an advanced sword? The jury’s still out—though Middle Eastern trade might have helped them pick up a few technical pointers.
3. The Khanda
This weapon's tip was blunt, so it would have been bad at skewering your enemies. But India’s Khanda (introduced somewhere between 300 and 600 CE) didn’t need to: Its heavy construction made it a perfect chopping device, and some swordsmen upped the ante by giving the weapon serrated edges.
4. The Ngombe Executioner’s Sword
Back in the 19 th and 20 th centuries, European explorers made numerous sketches of tribal Congo residents decapitating prisoners with this ferocious-looking weapon. The extent to which their dramatizations reflect reality is debatable.
5. The Flammard
Wavy-bladed rapiers were a Renaissance staple. Flammard fanciers mistakenly believed that this undulating design could inflict deadlier wounds. The shape did provide one genuine dueling advantage, though: When an opponent’s sword ran across one, those curves would slow it down.
6. The Chinese Hook Sword
Double trouble! These weapons not only feature curved tips, but sharp, hand-protecting guards as well. The weapons were commonly handled in pairs, and, according to a 1985 issue of Black Belt magazine, "When put together, two hook swords could easily tear apart an opponent." Yikes.
7. The Kilij
The first Kilij appeared in Turkey around 400 CE. A perfect choice for horsemen, this style of saber went through several variations over the next 1400 years. In a skilled rider’s hands, this sword could mutilate those with their feet on the ground with devastating efficiency.
8. The Estoc
Armor doesn’t always guarantee safety. Renaissance swordsmen could split through the links with the estoc, a dull-edged thrusting sword designed specifically for this purpose.
9. The Zweihander
Zweihander means “two hand,” and these weapons were so large that swordsmen did indeed need two hands to wield them. According to one tale, the swords were so powerful that they could behead up to seven victims with a single stroke.
10. The Urumi
The best bladed weapons are at least somewhat flexible—but the urumi is downright floppy. When swung, it acts like a whip. A metal whip. A metal whip with two sharp edges. If that description doesn’t scare you, this demo reel should do the trick:
Invented during India’s Mauryan Dynasty (circa 350-150 BCE), urumis have undergone plenty of variations over the centuries. Today, several blades are often attached to the same grip for added effectiveness. The constant risk of accidentally slicing yourself up makes the urumi anything but user-friendly.