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The sword developed from the dagger when the construction of longer blades became possible, from the late 3rd millennium BC in the Middle East, first in arsenic copper, then in tin-bronze. The oldest sword-like weapons are found at Arslantepe, Turkey, and date to around 3300 BC.However, it is generally considered that these are longer daggers, and not the first ancestors of swords. Sword blades longer than 60 cm (24 in) were rare and not practical until the late Bronze Age because at longer lengths, the tensile strength of bronze starts to decrease radically, and consequently longer blades would bend easily. It was not until the development of stronger alloys such as steel, and improvedheat treatment processes that longswords became practical for combat. They were also used as decorations.
The hilt, either from organic materials or bronze (the latter often highly decorated with spiral patterns, for example), at first simply allowed a firm grip and prevented the hand from slipping onto the blade when executing a thrust or the sword slipping out of the hand in a cut. Some of the early swords typically had small and slender blades intended for thrusting. Later swords were broader and were both cutting and thrusting weapons. A typical variant for European swords is the leaf-shaped blade, which was most common in North-West Europe at the end of the Bronze Age, in the British Isles and Ireland in particular. Robert Drews linked the Naue Type II Swords, which spread from Southern Europe into the Mediterranean, with the Late Bronze Age collapse.
Sword production in China is attested from the Bronze Age Shang Dynasty. The technology for bronze swords reached its high point during the Warring States period and Qin Dynasty. Amongst the Warring States period swords, some unique technologies were used, such as casting high tin edges over softer, lower tin cores, or the application of diamond shaped patterns on the blade (see sword of Goujian). Also unique for Chinese bronzes is the consistent use of high tin bronze (17–21% tin) which is very hard and breaks if stressed too far, whereas other cultures preferred lower tin bronze (usually 10%), which bends if stressed too far. Although iron swords were made alongside bronze, it was not until the early Han period that iron completely replaced bronze.
In South Asia earliest available Bronze age swords of copper were discovered in the Harappan sites, in present-day Pakistan, and date back to 2300 BC. Swords have been recovered in archaeological findings throughout the Ganges-Jamuna Doab region of Bangladesh, consisting of bronze but more commonly copper. Diverse specimens have been discovered inFatehgarh, where there are several varieties of hilt. These swords have been variously dated to times between 1700–1400 BC, but were probably used more notably in the opening centuries of the 1st millennium BC.
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