When we think of weapons in
antiquity we tend to think of warriors armed with daggers at their
waists; swords hanging from leather scabbards; and perhaps spears
slung over their shoulders. But our images of warriors are heavily
influenced by what we know of peoples such as the Assyrians and
Persians, peoples whose armament represents a high point in the
evolution of weaponry. There is no justification for assuming that
all three categories of personal weaponry - daggers, swords and
spears - appeared simultaneously, and indeed the archaeological
evidence from excavations in the Emirates suggests that daggers
appeared first, in the early third millennium BC, followed by spears
in the late third millennium, and finally swords in the early to
mid-second millennium BC Each category of weaponry underwent some
degree of technological evolution over time, which we can see in
changing shapes and sizes, but no new weapons of note were introduced
until the advent of firearms much later in history.
were often made of a single piece of metal. In other words, the
blade and tang - that part of the weapon which was inserted into
the handle or wrapped with something to provide a grip - consisted
of one piece of copper or bronze. Generally the tang had a hole
through it. Through this hole ran a rivet which attached some sort
of perishable material - wood, horn, bone, ivory, etc - which formed
the daggers grip. Spear heads were, for the most part, socketed.
In other words, the butt end was not formed of a solid tang, but
was rather a bit of metal wrapped around to form a hollow socket
into which the wooden spear shaft could be inserted. Swords ranged
from short, thrusting weapons no more than c. 30 cms long, to much
longer slashing and cutting weapons, often 1 m long. Changes in
sword length reflect changes in sword use and fighting tactics.
Long swords are often reserved for mounted soldiers, fighting from
horseback, whereas short, thrusting swords, used in conjunction
with a shield, are usually the favoured weapon of foot soldiers.
At Persepolis, the capital of the Persian empire, and at Naqsh-i
Rustam, the site of burial for several Persian emperors, sculptured
reliefs depict inhabitants of Maka,
as our region was known, wearing a short sword slung over the shoulder
on a belt, rather than being hung at the waist in a scabbard.
Weapons are most often found
in graves, and hundreds of daggers, spearheads and swords have been
recovered at sites in the UAE. Does this mean that the ancient society
of the UAE was a warlike one? Examples abound elsewhere in the world
of societies in which weapons were only deposited in graves during
times of peace (when they were not actually needed for defence).When
people are busy fighting they need their weapons too much to take
them out of circulation by putting them into a burial. Perhaps,
then, the ancient land of the Emirates was more peaceful than the
large number of weapons found might at first glance suggest?