Amihai Mazar and Shmuel Aḥituv discuss the discovery of a 10th century BC iron sword in Israel.

Amihai Mazar

Amihai Mazar and Shmuel Aḥituv, “Tel Rehov in the Assyrian Period: Squatters, Burials, and a Hebrew Seal,” in The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin, ed. Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na'aman (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 273

Shmuel Aḥituv, Amihai Mazar
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An Iron Sword

An iron sword was found standing vertically near the right side of the skull in Burial 8200. The sword (Fig. 7) was badly corroded and is reconstructed from two fragments as being ca. 74 cm long. It has flat handle ending in a wide, rounded and protruding upper part. No rivets or any other traces of a wooden handle were found.

Very few long iron swords are known from Israel. The earliest is a sword of similar dimensions found in Family Tomb 1 at Achzib, Phase 1, which was dated to the 10th century B.C.E. (E. Mazar 2004: 117, 122; Fig. 29:8). It recalls our sword in its length, the fact that the handle and blade were made as one unit, and the rounded widening of the handle’s end. However, at Achzib the handle has two protrusions probably intended to hold wooden parts in place. Two swords are mentioned as being found at Ḥorvat Rosh Zayit (Gal and Alexandre 2000: 129), but were not illustrated. The largest Iron Age sword in Israel is the one found at Vered Jericho, south of Jericho, in a late 7th century B.C.E. context (Eitan 1994). It is 1.04 m long; the blade and hilt are made of iron as one unit, the 6 cm wide blade is double-edged, and the 2–4 cm wide hilt ends in a crescent-shaped top, 6 cm wide. Compare a few iron swords of similar length to ours from Cyprus, appearing from the 11th century B.C.E. onwards (Snodgrass 1981). The simple shape of our sword has almost no parallels among the few iron swords known from the Levant and Cyprus. The long and straight sword is often depicted on Assyrian reliefs as a standard weapon of Assyrian soldiers (Yadin 1963: 388–461, with numerous examples appearing in most of the reliefs). The Assyrian swords shown in the reliefs usually have a distinct pommel and appear to be more elaborate than our example.

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