Encyclopedia of Things We Lost Forever – Day 23: Damascus Steel

Banksy for the Wimp: Encyclopedia of Things We Lost Forever


Damascus steel, named after the Syrian city Damascus, was used to manufacture the legendary blades that were reputed to even split a hair, from wootz steel ingots. (These ingots were probably also used to create the Ulfbert swords of the Vikings.) The worked steel showed a characteristic pattern that reminded of flowing water. It was at the same time very strong and elastic and thus for its time a magnificent accomplishment in metallurgy that spoke of the excellent understanding of the science behind it and skill in building the necessary appliances. The steel was far advanced to anything known and produced in Europe at this time. And even while some steels outperform Damascus steel today it still meets our highest standards.

Damascus steel was produced from the 3rd to the 17th century. The method to create Damascus steel is lost today due to the breakdown of trade route, the suppression of the wootz steel industry by the British Empire, and the secrecy around the creation.