Ancient Egyptians developed their own weaponry as well as adapting the technology of trade partners and invaders over the course of their civilization. Materials for weaponry advanced from pre-dynastic use of stone to copper and bronze, and finally iron.
The Dawn of Weaponry
Weapons in pre-dynastic Egypt (before 3100 B.C.) utilized stone in the form of maces, and spears tipped with flint or obsidian. Other basic hand weapons included clubs, slings and throwing sticks. Soldiers typically used shields to defend against enemy spears or arrows, and the Egyptian desert climate discouraged the use of armor. Many of these earliest weapons maintained ceremonial significance despite the advent of copper and bronze, and are often depicted in later Egyptian artwork of conquering pharaohs.
Ancient Egyptians axes and swords were made of bronze in the Old Kingdom period (roughly 2700 to 2180 B.C.) and featured distinctly Egyptian designs. The iconic khopesh -- a sickle-shaped sword -- featured a heavy curved blade for slashing. The outer edge of the crescent was sharpened, while the inner curve was used to tear an adversary's hand-held shield away. Pointed versions of the weapon allowed for stabbing and brutal, eviscerating wounds. The early Egyptian battle axe consisted of a crescent-shaped blade embedded into a groove in a long handle. The joining of blade and handle was not as sturdy as that of axes of their enemies, which threaded the handle through the head itself, and they ultimately abandoned the design for others taken from other cultures further advanced in metallurgy, casting and design.
The Resilient Bow
The bow remained a mainstay of Egyptian weaponry throughout the reign of the pharaohs, with arrowheads made of bronze by around 2000 B.C. and iron near 1000 B.C. Early bows of antelope horn were replaced by more advanced wooden recurved bows from 3100 B.C. to 2686 B.C. When the Hyksos (an Asiatic people migrating into Africa) invaded Egypt around 1700 B.C., their composite bow of wood and horn was among the superior weapons they used to overpower the Egyptians. In addition to being lighter and smaller, their bow outdistanced the Egyptians' curved bows of the time by 200 yards. The Hyksos remained in control of most of Egypt for about 200 years, and much of their military technology was adopted by the Egyptians they conquered.
Riding the Chariot to Victory
Chariots were also introduced to Egypt by Hyksos invaders. The Egyptians revolted and eventually forced out the Hyksos, and a key part of their success was learning the use of the chariot and improving upon it. The Egyptians made their chariots of leather and flexible wood to increase strength and speed, and shifted the axle's placement to the rear of the platform, thus improving stability and maneuvering. Chariots were manned by pairs equipped with bows and spears, creating a highly mobile unit capable of defending infantry from enemy chariot attacks. While not a weapon in itself, the chariot served as a fast, mobile weapons platform and gave its users a strong tactical advantage. The pharaohs of the New Kingdom (1555 to 1090 B.C.) grew to rely on elite chariot units for continued military conquest and defense.
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