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Early Sword History Bronze And Iron Ages

Author : Steve Efren

Submitted : 2010-04-12 12:18:36    Word Count : 523    Popularity:   33

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The development of the long edged weapon known as the sword was already well underway by the Bronze Age. In fact, rudimentary swords were developed even before metals, though of course these had very crude blades (made of flint, bone, or similar materials) and were not nearly as sharp as any metal weapons that would follow them. Plus, the stone and other materials used for the blade were very brittle, and would crack or break easily. The first bladed weapons appeared as early as the thirteenth century B.C. in multiple locations around the globe.

During the Bronze Age, the first metal blades were introduced, and bladed weapons grew from the dagger to the longer weapon now known as a sword because newly discovered metals were strong enough to allow the construction of longer blades. The oldest metal sword like weapons were crafted of arsenic copper (from around 3700BC), and later in tin bronze, from the late third millennium BC in the Middle East. The oldest such weapon found to date was unearthed in Turkey and dated to around 3300 BC, though this is considered a long dagger, not a sword. Bronze Age swords made of copper were unearthed in India and dated back to 2300 BC.

Swords longer than about 24 inches were simply not possible during the Bronze Age because the bronze and other metals then in use lacked the strength, so longer weapons would bend too easily. These swords, made of a much softer metal than later versions, would need frequent sharpening. Copper tin and other alloys were a bit stronger than bronze, though they would have still required much more sharpening than we would expect of modern blades. As stronger alloys and heat treatment processes were used, longer swords gradually became practical. During both the Bronze and Iron ages, multiple materials were used as the swords’ creators experimented with different alloys and construction techniques.

Swords constructed of iron were, at first, produced alongside copper swords during the Bronze Age, beginning around 3000 BC. Swords made of iron became increasingly common, and soon overtook the production of bronze swords. The Hittites and the Mycenaean Greeks were both early users of iron swords. Because the iron was more widely available, more swords can be produced of this material than those crafted of earlier metals. Harder and more durable than earlier blade weapons, they would require much less maintenance and sharpening.

Still, the quality was incomparable to later blades, especially those made of steel. The iron of this era was not very hard, and according to some accounts, was actually quite comparable in strength and hardness to earlier Bronze Age swords. These swords were known to bend during use, but for the first time entire armies could be equipped with swords and similar bladed weapons. Both the Greek and Roman empires were equipped with iron swords. In the late Roman Empire, the longer spartha sword was commonly carried; it would provide the basis for the Medieval and Renaissance ‘longsword.’ Swords of this period typically measured 24 to 30 inches long.

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