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

Khopesh (ḫpš; also vocalized khepesh) is an Egyptian sickle-sword that evolved from battle axes.[1][2]

A typical khopesh is 50–60 cm (20–24 inches) in length, though smaller examples do also exist. The blunted edge of the weapon's tip also served as an effective bludgeon, as well as a hook. These weapons changed from bronze to iron in the New Kingdom period.[3] The earliest known depiction of a khopesh is from the Stele of Vultures, depicting King Eannatum of Lagash wielding the weapon; this would date the khopesh to at least 2500 BC.[4]

The word 'khopesh' may have derived from 'leg', as in 'leg of beef', because of their similarity in shape. The hieroglyph for ḫpš ('leg') is found as early as during the time of the Coffin Texts (the First Intermediate Period).[5]

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. 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, ...[6]

Various pharaohs are depicted with a khopesh, and some have been found in royal graves, such as the two examples found with Tutankhamun.[4]

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.[4]

See also


  1. 1 2 Hamblin, 2006. Warfare in the Ancient Near East, pp. 66–71.
  2. Wise, Terence (1981). Ancient Armies of the Middle East. Osprey Publishing. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0-85045-384-3.
  3. Howard, Dan (2011). Bronze Age Military Equipment. Casemate Publishers. pp. 31–34. ISBN 978-1-84884-293-9.
  4. 1 2 3 Mike Loades (2010). Swords and Swordsmen. Pen & Sword Military. pp. 1–21. ISBN 978-1-84884-133-8.
  5. Coffin Texts: CT V, 9c, B1C
  6. Budge, 1989, (1929). The Rosetta Stone, p. 155–156. (Rosetta line 6)


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