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18th century BC khopesh found in Shechem, West Bank; the blade is decorated with electrum inlays.
Type Sword
Place of origin Egypt
Service history
In service ca. 3rd millennium BCE - 1300 BCE
Used by New Kingdom of Egypt
Wars Battle of Kadesh
Length avg. 50–60 cm (20–24 in)
in hieroglyphs

Khopesh (ḫpš; also vocalized khepesh) is an Egyptian sickle-sword that evolved from battle axes.[1]

A typical khopesh is 50–60 cm (20–24 inches) in length, though smaller examples do also exist. This blade was designed for hooking an opponent's shield or disarming them.[citation needed] These weapons changed from bronze to iron in the late period.[citation needed]

The blade is only sharpened on the outside portion of the curved end. The khopesh evolved from the epsilon or similar crescent shaped axes that were used in warfare.[1] Note, however, that the khopesh is not an axe. Unlike an axe, the khopesh did not make push-cuts, but rather slashes, like a sabre. The khopesh went out of use around 1300 BC. However, in the 196 BC Rosetta Stone it is referenced as the "sword" determinative in a hieroglyphic block, with the spelled letters of kh, p, and sh to say:

Shall be set up a statue..., the Avenger of Baq-t-(Egypt), the interpretation whereof is 'Ptolemy, the strong one of Kam-t'-(Egypt), and a statue of the god of the city, giving to him a sword royal of victory, ...[2]

Various pharaohs are depicted with a khopesh, and some have been found in royal graves, such as the two examples found with Tutankhamun.

Although some examples are clearly sharpened, many examples have dull edges which apparently were never intended to be sharp. It may therefore be possible that some khopeshes found in high status graves were ceremonial variants.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hamblin, 2006. Warfare in the Ancient Near East, pp. 66–71.
  2. Budge, 1989, (1929). The Rosetta Stone, p. 155–156. (Rosetta line 6)
  • Budge, 1989, (1929). The Rosetta Stone, E.A.Wallace Budge, (Dover Publications), c 1929, Dover edition (unabridged), 1989. (softcover, ISBN 0-486-26163-8)
  • Hamblin, 2006. Warfare in the Ancient Near East, William J. Hamblin, Routledge (softcover, ISBN 0-415-25589-9)
  • Wernick, 2004, A Khepesh Sword in the University of Liverpool Museum in JSSEA 31, 151–155

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