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Armed with the power of HITTITE IRON, reedy doctor Sinuhe breaks general Horemhab’s sword! From scene 12 of Sinuhe: The Egyptian (Michael Curtiz director, 1954)

Most people interested in ancient weapons know that early iron swords were not any better than bronze ones. But they don’t always know where the idea comes from, or how we know about the properties of early edged weapons. If you want to find out, the article is available in Ancient Warfare XI.6 (The Decelean War) from Karwansaray.

But in a little magazine article, I was not able to include all the references which I wanted. So what if you want to learn more?

A steel bookcase full of hardcovers bound in blue cloth

Yes, we do have a whole bookcase of Prähistorische Bronzefunde-volumes, why do you ask?

If you want overviews:

  • Vagn Fabritius Buchwald, Iron and steel in ancient times (Copenhagen: Kong. Danske Videnskab. Selskab, 2005)
  • P.R.S. Moorey, Ancient Mesopotamian Materials and Industries: The Archaeological Evidence. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1999. {pp. 278-291 cover ferrous metals/parzillu}
  • J. E. Rehder, “Iron Versus Bronze for Edge Tools and Weapons: A Metallurgical View,” JOM 44.8 (August 1992) pp. 42-46

If you want metallurgical reports on specific objects:

  • Imma Kilian-Dirlmeier, Die Schwerter in Griechenland (ausserhalb der Peloponnes), Bulgarien und Albanien. Prähistorische Bronzefunde IV.12. Franz Steiner Verlag: Stuttgart, 1993.
  • Effi Photos, “Metallographic Investigation of Iron Artefacts from EIA Cemetery at Vergina,” Prähistorische Zeitschrift (Berlin) 64 (1989) pp. 146-149 {study of three swords and two knives}
  • Mariya Masubuchi, “A Metallographic Study on Iron and Steel Arrowheads from Kaman-Kalehöyük Stratum II,” Anatolian Archaeological Studies XVII (2008) pp. 281-293 http://www.jiaa-kaman.org/en/aas_index.html
  • Cyril Stanley Smith, “The Techniques of the Luristan Smith,” in R.H. Brill (ed.), Science and Archaeology (MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1971) pp. 32-52 {studies of four early iron edged weapons from Iran}

If you want experiments and historical parallels:

  • James R. Mathieu and Daniel A. Meyer, “Comparing Axe Heads of Stone, Bronze, and Steel: Studies in Experimental Archaeology,” Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 333-351
  • Kelly DeVries, “Catapults are Not Atomic Bombs: Towards a Redefinition of `Effectiveness’ in Premodern Military Technology,” War In History 4.4 (1997) pp. 454-470

Now, that is quite a few books and articles, and tracking them all down would be slow and expensive. If you just want the good parts, check out my article!