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Battle-Axe with Handle

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art


As early as the Predynastic Period, Egyptian foot soldiers relied on fearsome battle-axes and sharp daggers to crush their opponents in hand-to-hand combat, and employed the bow and arrow from a distance.

Originally there was no difference in design between the battle-axe and the woodworker’s axe; both featured a semicircular blade tied to a wooden handle by cords. In the Middle Kingdom, toolsmiths developed a more effective weapon that had a long blade with convex sides narrowing to a curved edge.

Most daggers, which resembled short swords, had double-edged blades riveted to ivory or bone handles and reinforced by a vertical rib.

The bow and arrow remained an Egyptian’s most effective weapon. (Unfortunately, the Brooklyn Museum does not have a complete example.) Archers shot from a stationary position or from the cab of a moving chariot as a skilled driver spurred on the horses. Reconstruction
MEDIUM Bronze, wood, animal hide, plant material
  • Reportedly From: Thebes, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1539-1292 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 18
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS Blade: 3 15/16 × 5 5/16 × 3/8 in. (10 × 13.5 × 1 cm) Handle: 20 3/16 × 3 1/16 × 1 9/16 in. (51.3 × 7.8 × 4 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Battle axe with bronze blade and wooden handle. The blade is long with convexly curved cutting edge. From the ends of the cutting edge the top and bottom edges of the blade curve concavely terminating in two laterally projecting spurs for the lashing to bear against. The blade is lenticular in section. The wooden handle is curves slightly towards the blade. At the head end the underside of the handle is rabetted to take the straight back of the axe blade. The blade is secured to the handle by intricately plaited rawhide lashing. The flaring bottom of the handle is made of a separate piece of wood. Condition: Blade is incrusted in spots; Lashing partially preserved and darkened with resin (?); area of rabbet only partially preserved.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Battle-Axe with Handle, ca. 1539-1292 B.C.E. Bronze, wood, animal hide, plant material, Blade: 3 15/16 × 5 5/16 × 3/8 in. (10 × 13.5 × 1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.282Ea-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CONS.37.282E_1997_xrs_detail01.jpg)
    IMAGE detail, CONS.37.282E_1997_xrs_detail01.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 1997
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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