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W504 is on the left and W505 is on the right.

Axes such as these date to around 1700 to 1600 BC. It is believed that such axes developed to pierce body armour which had become more prevalent around this time. Yadin (1963, 60) for example states that they were intended to penetrate the helmets of the time. However, it also argued that there were few such helmets at the time (Philip 2006, 139). They replace the battle axes with wide, slashing blades. Such weapons are found in Palestine and seem to have come to Egypt through Palestinian influence (Philip 1995a, 71). Indeed, these two examples are probably Palestinian rather than Egyptian, though examples found in Egypt are in a similar style (Philip 1995a). A metallurgical analysis might also help establish the geographical and chronological source (Shalev et al). 

Examples have been found at Tell el Dab’a (Philip 2006) where they seem to have been especially selected as suitable for the grave (Philip 1995a, 71). Indeed, there is some other evidence that they may have had a ritual purpose (Philip 2006, 141).

Axes like this are sometimes called ‘eye’ axes or ‘shafthole’ axes.


Further reading 

Davies, W.V. 1987, Catalogue of Egyptian Antiquities in the British Museum. VII Tools and Weapons I Axes. London: British Museum Publications.

Miron, E., 1992, Axes and adzes from Canaan, Praehistorische Bronzefunde IX, 19, Stuttgart.

Philip, G., 1995a, Tell el-Dab`a metalwork patterns and purpose, in Egypt, the Aegean and the Levant (eds. W. V. Davies and L. Schofield), London: British Museum Press, 66–68.

Philip, G. 1995b, The same but different: a comparison of Middle Bronze Age metalwork from Jericho and Tell el Dab’a, Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordon, 5, 523–30.

Philip, G., 2006, Tell el-Dab`a XV: metalwork and metalworking evidence of the Late Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien.

Shalev, S., Caspi, E.N., Shilstein, S., Paradowska, A.M., Kockelmann, W., Kan-Kipor Meron, T. and Levy, Y. 2014, Middle Bronze Age II Battle Axes from Lezion, Israel: Archaeology and Metallurgy. Archaeometry 56(2), 279–295.

Yadin, Y. 1963. The Art of Warfare in Bilblical Lands. Jerusalem.


Other weapons in the Egypt Centre

Other Second Intermediate Period items