My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Fighting Knife Through the Ages


In the picture above, we see two daggers that were entombed with King Tut (1341 BC – 1323 BC). The top has a blade of what is called "hardened gold," presumably gold alloyed with copper or some other metal, and the lower one has a blade made of iron, which appears to have held up quite well over the millennia. A detailed description of the gold dagger can be found here. The overall length of the gold dagger is 31.9 centimeters (12.5 inches), with the blade being 20.1 centimeters, or just shy of eight inches.

My friend Bob Dickerson sent me the link and observed how similar in design these daggers, over 3,400 years old, are to knives sold today. For example, compare the shape of the gold dagger to the coffin-handled dagger made by Elk Ridge:
Elk Ridge Dagger

And compare the iron dagger to a Randall #2 Fighting Stiletto:

Randall #2 Fighting Stiletto

Granted, the Randall has a crossguard and a more ergonomically shaped handle, but the wound it creates is going to be substantially the same.

Though the topic of "who invented the bowie knife" is much discussed, the fact is that there is no element of its design that cannot be found on earlier knives, particularly the Spanish navaja. An interesting article by J. O. Dyer, titled “Truer Story of the Bowie Knife,” was published in the Galveston Daily News in 1920. Dyer wrote:
Men have made knives from the time when primeval man first scratched his roast with a piece of sharp flint; and since the Stone Age knives of stone and of bone have successively been superseded by those, of bronze, iron and steel. Possibly by the time that James Bowie first looked upon the stormy turmoil of this world, all kinds of slashing, cutting, stabbing instruments had been invented, from the metal cutting disk of the Greeks to the razor; from the dagger to the butcher knife, from a pen knife to a machete. Therefore it is rather doubtful if James invented anything new as to shape or size in the carver line. Now in the preceding part of this sketch stress has been laid on the murderous quality of the blade, endowed by a particular grade in its temper, when rather the temper of the fighter should be considered.

Given a blade sharp enough to cut; long enough to penetrate; strong enough not to break readily; given also a hand strong enough to dexterously wield such a simple weapon, and it requires no Bowie record; such a one in the hands of a madman has often wreaked terrible execution.

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