Military Weapons of Ancient Egypt

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Fragment of a New Kingdom wall relief depicting archers with their bows

The armies of Ancient Egypt basically used three types of offensive weapons and their defensive equipment to oppose the enemies of Pharaoh.

Not all the armament appeared at the same time; the most basic- slings, maces and even battle axes – can be dated back to the Old Kingdom, while others appeared as technology advanced. Many of the weapons most common identified with the Egyptians, had foreign origin.

For many years, the Egyptian Army, involved mainly in domestic events, was small and ill equipped. But, during the territorial expansion periods of the New Kingdom, modern technology was used to arm the soldiers of Pharaoh.

The weapons of the Egyptian army can be categorized as impact, edged weapons, projectile and defensive armaments

Impact Weapons

These were the oldest and most basic. They were the club and the mace.

The club was just a stick with a heavier end. Easily made from readily available wood, clubs took many forms and lights.

The mace was an improvement on the club, with a stone being attached at the impact end of the club. Eventually, the mace stone head was replaced with copper, bronze and iron heads, make it more lethal. The Egyptians used it for fighting or from horseback. Both, the stone head and the metal head mace have been proven to be formidable weapons capable of smashing through most helmets of the period.

Edged Weapons

Battle axes, spears, swords and knives were the edged armament used by the ancient Egyptians.

The battle ax was an out grow of the civilian ax, indeed, for many years it had the same design. It replaced the mace as a close quarter weapon.

Like most similar weapons of the time, the spear had a wooden handle and a metal, sharpened head. It was an inexpensive to produce and easy to use. It was used both as a thrusting weapon and a missile.

Various types of swords, many with straight or curved blades were used. The most notorious, however, was the Khopesh or Canaanite sickle sword, which was about two feet long with a partially curved blade. The Khopesh, it appears, came to Egypt via Syria. Egyptian also carried many types of scimitars and daggers.

Projectiles

Simple sticks, bows and arrows, spears and slings were the main projectile arms used by the Egyptians.

Arrows and spears were made of wooden shafts with metal points through most of the period covered by Ancient Egypt. The bows on the other hand evolved from single curvature, wood implements, to composite bows that copied and improved on the Asiatic Hykos‘design.

Eventually the sling became secondary to the bow and arrow as a hurling weapon, but it was used from the earliest time. One major disadvantage of the sling was that enemy slingers could use the same stones hurled at them to return fire.

Defensive Equipment

Most Egyptian soldiers wore no armor, even though there is indication of some linen covers, crocodile leather and even scale metal breast plates. Only Pharaoh and high ranking officers regularly dressed in armor that protected considerably.

A wicker of wooden shield covered in leather or with pieces of metal, and, during the New Kingdom, a helmet of Syrian origin, were the troops main defensive equipment.