The earliest arms differed little from hunting weapons and craftsmen’s tools. Bows, knives, and axes were sufficient enough to halt any local rebellion or conquer a neighboring area along Egypt’s border. However, as Egypt expanded its influence, Egyptians started to arm their military with maces, daggers, throw sticks, and spears. In addition, infantries were armed with bows and arrows made of reed and copper tips. Unfortunately, these particular bows were difficult to draw, and the arrows were not very accurate. At best, they were only good for close range. Yet, they were efficient enough for continued use through the Middle Kingdom.
Copper blades and slicing axes were developed during the Middle Kingdom. By this time, a typical solder would have been equipped with a sword, shield, dagger, and spear. No helmets or armor. Toward the end of the Middle Kingdom, Egypt’s government became weak, and the Hyksos, a people of mixed Semitic and Asian descent, gained a permanent foothold in Lower Egypt. With them, the Hyksos brought knowledge of horse-drawn chariots and the khepesh, a sword with a curved blade cast in bronze. New composite bows and the battle axes were also developed and were more effective.
However, it wasn’t until the New Kingdom that the design and quality of weapons improved with the help of iron. After the Battle of Kadesh (1274 B.C.), shields, swords, and armor were made from the new material. The only down side being that these weapons couldn’t be made in great quantity. Therefore, tin bronze swords were used in battle against the Libyans and Sea People.
Weapons description list:
- Axes: one of the most commonly used weapons. During the New Kingdom, the head was cast in copper and semi-circular in shape as the slicing axe. During the Middle Kingdom, the axe developed a longer copper or bronze blade as the battle axe. Another type was the scalloped or tanged axe head, which was attached to the wooden haft with three tangs.
- Arrows and arrowheads: hard-stemmed reeds, fletched with three feathers, tipped with flint, bone, ebony, or ivory points. These were replaced with copper and bronze tips during the Middle Kingdom.
- Bows: simple bows of wood and twisted gut were used during the Dynastic Period and later replaced with the recurved bow. The composite bow was introduced during the New Kingdom.
- Daggers and knives: originally crafted from flint, later casted in copper or bronze. In the New Kingdom, a new form of dagger was developed with a long, narrow blade and tang cast as one piece.
- Khepesh: specialized form of sword or dagger which is scimitar-like. The bronze blade is curved, much like a scythe.
- Mace: wooden handle inserted into a stone head. Simplest weapon and most popular during Predynastic and Protodynastic Periods.
- Throw stick: a curved blade. Predynastic Period.
- Shields: from the late Predynastic Period to the Middle Kingdom, the shield was 3-5 feet long. Made of cowhide stretched over a wooden frame with a handle at the back.
- Mark, J (2016). Weapons in Ancient Egypt. https://www.ancient.eu/article/1035/weapons-in-ancient-egypt/
- Rathbone, D. (2009) The Grammar of the Ancient World. New York, New York: Fall River Press.
- Strudwick, H. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York, New York: Metro Books.
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