Damascus steel

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Damascus steel was a term used by several Western cultures from the Medieval period onward to describe a type of steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking from about 1100 to 1700 AD. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. Such blades were reputed to be not only tough and resistant to shattering, but capable of being honed to a sharp and resilient edge.

The original method of producing Damascus steel is not known. Due to differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques, modern attempts to duplicate the metal have failed. Today, the term is conventionally used to describe steel that mimics the appearance and performance of Damascus steel, usually that which is produced by the techniques of crucible forging or pattern welding.

The reputation and historicity of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as the ability to cut through rifle barrels. No evidence exists to support such claims.

Contents

Etymology

Several theories on the origins of the term "Damascus steel" exists, but none of them may be confirmed definitively. Damascus may refer to:

  • The swords forged in Damascus. For instance, al-Kindi, refers to swords made in Damascus as Damascene. This word has often been employed as an epithet in Eastern European legends (Sabya Damaskinya or Sablja Dimiskija meaning "Damascene saber"), including the Serbian and Bulgarian legends of Prince Marko, a historical figure of the late 14th century in what is currently the Republic of Macedonia.
  • The name of the swordsmith. For instance, the author al-Beruni refers to swords made by a man he names Damashqi.
  • The comparison of the patterns found on the swords to Damask fabrics woven in the Byzantine empire.

History

It is believed by many that the material used to produce the original damascus was ingots of Wootz steel, which originated in India and Sri Lanka[1] and later spread to Persia.[2] From the 3rd century to the 17th century, India was shipping steel ingots to the Middle East for use in Damascus steel.[3]

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