Ancient, News

World’s Oldest Swords Found in Turkey

Archaeologists in Turkey have discovered what may be the very first swords ever made by human hands.

A Stunning Discovery

The ancient city of Arslantepe, or “Lion Hill,” dates back to the 6th millennium BC and is one of the earliest surviving examples of civilization.

 Read More: Found: 1,600 Year Old Sword That Belonged to a Roman Soldier

According to archaeologists, the city’s ancient citizens were crafty metallurgists, exceptionally skilled in the art of weapon forgery.

First swords of the World.
Some say they the swords were status symbols. Some say not. Either way the haul was impressive.

In addition, Arslantepe was continuously populated from the 6th millennium BC all the way through to medieval times. Throughout these millennia, the city continued to specialize in the art of weapon-making. As the Bronze Age progressed, archaeologists tracked the use of a newer, more rigid material called arsenical bronze in the city’s metalwork.


This material could be forged into durable weaponry. Moreover, evidence suggests that the Hittites — an expansive empire that owed much of their might to their military strength — may have learned the art of weapon-making from the citizens of Arslantepe.

Read More: Medieval Sword Found in Poland

Since its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021, the ruins of Arslantepe have seen a massive increase in local and international tourists. The director of the Malatya Museum, Samet Erol, says Arslantepe has an important place in world history. “Arslantepe is important in terms of the first swords known in the world, the first drainage system, and the first statehood,” he said.

Aslantepe sword
The swords have a blade, guard, grip, and pommel-like shape.

A UN agency report echoes this sentiment. “Exceptional metal objects and weapons have been excavated at the site. Among them, the earliest swords known in the world, which suggests the beginning of organised combat as the prerogative of an elite, who exhibited them as instruments of their new political power,” says the report.

The History of Arslantepe

Arslantepe was an ancient city on the Tohma River tributary of the Euphrates. It is based in Malatya, Turkey. The Arslantepe Mound is a 30-meter-tall archaeological site with its earliest layers hailing from the Late Chalcolithic 1-2 period.

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The site’s most prosperous period was the Royal Complex.

The ruins of Arslantepe demonstrate the gradual evolution of state society in the Near East, characterized by a sophisticated bureaucratic system that predates writing. As previously stated, exceptional metalwork and weaponry have been excavated at Arslantepe, suggesting the beginning of organized combat in the region. The ancient city’s elites would have enjoyed demonstrating these pieces as symbols of wealth and power. 

What do These Swords Tell us About History?

When Marcella Frangipane’s team at Rome University discovered a cache of nine swords and daggers dating to 3300 BCE in the 1980s, it was a magnificent discovery. The nine swords from the Early Bronze Age period attested to the first use of modern weaponry in the entire world.

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Arslantepe is considered the birthplace of the modern sword. The swords discovered here have a blade, guard, grip, and pommel-like shape. They are made of an arsenic/copper alloy, and three of the nine swords have delicate silver inlays. The blades range between 45-60 cm in length. The length may speak to the limitations of metallurgical technology at the time.

5000-year-old swords.
One of the swords found at the Malatya Arslantepe Mound in Turkey. (Photo: Malatya)

There is plenty of discussion over the purpose of these pieces. Were the swords merely status symbols? Or did they also serve a practical purpose? Of course, we know that blades have been used for both functions since their very inception.

However, evidence suggests that their use was limited to the elites. Such swords were not common to own for anyone outside of a particular class. This theory is further supported by the beautiful silver inlay found around the grip and pommel – something only the rich could afford.

A Hittite lion
A Hittite lion from the Neo-Hittite era guards the entrance to Arslantepe in Turkey.

What purpose could these swords have served?

A comparison of these ancient sword prototypes to modern specialisations like the rapier and scimitar is interesting. The swords at Arslantepe have heavy pommels, but their blades are light, allowing for quick, whip-like movements.

Modern swords with much broader and heavier blades are designed for sword-to-sword combat. However, the Arslantepe design suggests the blacksmiths were trying to fend off spears rather than a blade’s edge. 

Either way, these are indeed of great historical interest.