Question: Should we expect to find ancient swords in either the Old World or the New World?

Table of Contents

Question: Should we expect to find ancient swords in either the Old World or the New World?

For an archaeologist to find swords or other weapons in the Old World (the ancient Near East) is very unusual

Macuhitl sword from Richard F. Burton, Book of the Sword (London: Chatto & Windus, 1884). Public domain image (copyright expired.) Originally obtained from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Macahuitl.png. Caption from original work reads: "Mexican sword of the fifteenth century, of Iron Wood, with Ten Blades of Black Obsidian Fixed Into the Wood (This weapon is twenty-five inches long.)"

For an archaeologist to find swords or other weapons in the Old World (the ancient Near East) is very unusual.

As a matter of fact although hundreds of times as much archaeological digging has been done in the Near East as in Mesoamerica, finds of Near Eastern weapons of any type are rarely made. The obvious reason for that is that the kinds of places archaeologists excavate (e.g., temples, elite houses, public buildings) are not where weapons were kept or left anciently.

As a matter of fact, there was little or no reason to intentionally leave a perfectly good weapon anywhere. It would be passed on to another person/warrior, or if left unintentionally it would be salvaged by the first person to find it.

The same would be true in Mesoamerica (where metals were even more rare than in the ancient Near East), or anywhere else.

How we learn the most about weapons in antiquity is from art—if the artist happened to depict a battle scene or armed warriors.

At present, no archaeological evidence for swords of steel (or any other metal) exists in America from Pre-Columbian times. There is now evidence for steel swords in the ancient Near East (something that critics long denied).[1] So, even in the ancient Near East—where the conditions are more suited to preserving artifacts, and much more archaeological work has been done—the identification of steel weapons is recent.

Notes

  1. Anonymous, "Out of the Dust: Ancient Steel Sword Unearthed," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 14/2 (2005): 64–64. off-site wiki