The Physics/Metallurgy Of Weapons

I'm currently working on the Egyptian/Near Eastern chapter of my PhD thesis on grappling throughout the ages. I'm hoping to analyse how certain aspects of Egyptian life would have related to the use of grappling as a battlefield/self-defence art (clothing, weapons, tactics etc.).

The Egyptians used clubs/maces and axes a lot. Obviously these are weapons which usually require a bit of a swing to be effective, and therefore could be neutralised by grappling more easily than certain other weapons.

Anyway, I'd like to be able to determine from archaeological evidence how much room certain weapons required to be used effectively. Eg. You take the weight of a mace, the length of the shaft, and the weight/physiology of the average Egyptian from a given period, and then use that science stuff to work out how much force could be produced at different ranges. I've not done any of the three sciences since GCSE, but I'm pretty sure they have formulae for that kind of thing. Also, I'd like to be able to work out the same thing about bladed weapons, based on the types of metal they used. Eg. For a long time they relied on copper for weapons. So, maybe there's some kind of way of saying exactly how sharp copper weapons were, and therefore how much swing/thrust would be needed to cause an effective wound.

Apparently one of the lecturers in the department is an expert on Egyptian physiology, so that side of things won't be too much of a problem (she can tell me where the bodies are buried, so to speak). However, I'm not too sure where to turn about the exact properties of their weapons. I guess I could contact museums, but I don't know how willing they would be to measure and weigh their objects for me...

Anyway, I was thinking that someone might be able to recommend me some useful books. Is there any good stuff on kinetics, metallurgy etc., as they relate to the use of ancient weapons?


Hmm... this sounds very interesting. The specifics of ancient Egyptian weapons is out of my scope of knowledge, especially since I have never handled any period pieces.

I do know that Egyptian weapons and armor changed after the Hyksos invasion, and that bronze was also used extensively. Supposedly, Egypt had no natural iron deposits, and also resisted change into the iron age.

It would be interesting to note how the weapons and tactics changed after the introduction of iron.

IBI, most museums I know of keep pretty detailed records about the weapons in their possesion, such as measurements and weights, and would be happy to share that information with you if you explain why you need it.

As far as the effective range of those weapons, they would naturally be most effective (in terms of force at least) when maximum range is beeing utilized, which is not that hard to measure. But one of the advantages to using a club or an axe is that you can slip your hand further up the shaft (hmmm, sounds kinda dirty, but you know what I mean) to use more effectively at shorter range. This will make for quicker, but less powerful strikes, as far as I can imagine.


Fascinating. Please keep us informed.

IBI- I'm finishing up my 2nd year in Kinesiology. I will assume you understand basic mechanics. Assuming your university has a Kin/Exercise Science program, it will have some basic books.

I'd say start with Biomechanics of Sport and Exercise
by Peter M. McGinnis for an introduction into biomechanics. Almost any intro text will do but this one is particullary good if you do not have the anamtomy background. After that, you'd have to find some papers/books that deal specifically with racket sports. If for example, you find the general equation for power transfer for an elite badminton player through the racket and the eqs. for tennis, golf, squash- you can come up with a similar eq. for using a mace/war hammer.


Thanks, guys.

Passing along:

As for museums:


At the moment I'm rewriting the Egypt chapter. My supervisor thinks I should go into the sources in more detail. So, I'm going to completely analyse every piece of artwork, taking all the Beni Hasan (etc.) wrestlers pair by pair and saying what's going on in each instance. There are hundreds of them, so that will take some time.

Then I'll start researching the weapons and kinetics etc.

ttt- any news?

I've been somewhat lax in my PhD writing, due to various distractions. At the moment I'm still writing the descriptions for some of the Beni Hasan wrestlers. The chapter is currently 203 pages long.


This is a bit dated reference but it may be usefull. The Book of The Sword by Sir Richard Burton has a section on Egyptian Metallurgy. It starts on page 79 of the Dover softcover edition, but of course your edition may vary.

Thanks, I'll check it out.

Well, I've catalogued all the wrestlers, and redone my interpretation of the pictorial evidence. The chapter is now 259 pages long (only 24,323 words, however, since the images take up most of the space), and weighs in at exactly 40 Megs.

I'd be happy to send a copy to anyone with an insanely large mail capacity. :-)

Now I need to do the kinetics research mentioned above, and see if I can learn anything useful.

Post it in your briefcase. I would like to read it.

My Yahoo Briefcase can only hold 30 Megs in total, and no individual file can be bigger than 5 Megs.

Don't suppose anyone has somewhere I could upload it to, where anyone interested can then download it from?

Actually, I could try making it into a Torrent file, and sharing it via Bittorrent. Ye Old Lunatic, do you use Bittorrent at all?

No, unfortunately I don't.

Some guy hosted Slygirl's 35 meg video on the OG. Hopefully he would be kind enough to host your file in the name of research and history.

Okay, I'll post a message on the UG, and see if anyone can help.

My thread sunk like a stone, without any offers of help.

Are you sure you're not interested in trying Bittorrent? It's very simple to use, and a great way to download stuff. Plus I don't think it contains any spyware, unlike Kazaa.