ety of "damascus" steel

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 19 01:56:07 UTC 2013

"Teardrops" might be a touch heavy-handed.

Modern interpretation of "Damascus steel" almost makes it worse as
almost any "moiré"-type pattern (made famous by After Dark screensaver
for Macs, then for PCs, years ago) on metal (and not just...) passes for
"Damascus steel". Note the legend with the second image above--no
mention of the Crusades, but pretty heavy on "Damascus, Syria".

I'm also somewhat befuddled by the original reference to the name
"Damasqui". Does this not imply "someone from Damasc[us]". And might
this not suggest Damascus origin as well, however indirectly?


On 4/18/2013 9:13 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
> The following sentence in the posting below caught my attention:
> "The word for water in Arabic is damas (Sachse, 1994, 13) and Damascus blades are
> often described as exhibiting a water-pattern on their surface"
> Are we sure that "damas" can mean "water" in Arabic? I checked an Arabic-English dictionary and for "damas" find only the meaning "bury". And a  large German-Arabic dictionary (under "Wasser") gives the standard Arabic word for water, viz. "ma'" (root: M - 'Alif).
> But the Arabic-English dictionary also presents "dam'" (root: D-M-'Alif) in the meaning "tears" (from the eyes), and "dam'at" "tears, teardrops".
> Could the Arabic words for "tears" or "tear-drops" (vs. "water") be what was intended in the message below?
> Is anyone in ads-l with a knowledge of Arabic able to clarify this?
> Gerald Cohen
> ________________________________________
>   Amy West [medievalist at W-STS.COM], Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:24 PM, wrote:
> From
> It’s not, as Donald LaRocca, the current curator of arms and armor at
> The Met, confirmed. “Some writers will use Damascus steel, watered
> steel, or wootz steel interchangeably,” LaRocca sighed. “The term
> Damascus is used pretty loosely.” Pleading his limited expertise in this
> area, LaRocca suggested I speak to Ann Feuerbach, who has a Ph.D. in
> Archaeological Science and has written extensively about wootz and other
> types of crucible steels.
> “There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding crucible
> Damascus steel (aka wootz, pulad, hinduwani),” Feuerbach says.
> “Basically, don’t believe any of it.” Feuerbach has spent much of her
> career trying to pin down the terminology. For example, in a 2005 post
> at, much of which was used in a subsequent article for
> the May 2006 issue of JOM, the technical journal of The Minerals, Metals
> & Materials Society, she wrote about the origins of the word Damascus:
> “If there’s blood on the sword and you start polishing it, the sword
> bleeds.”
> “The origin of the name Damascus steel is frequently attributed to the
> crusaders, who, as the legend goes, were introduced to these blades in
> Damascus and brought the word and the legend of the steel back with them
> upon their return to Europe (e.g. Sherby and Wadsworth, 1985, 112).
> Although this assertion is common, no reference to crusaders having used
> the term has ever been reported in any of the literature. There are more
> credible roots for the origin of sword names. The Islamic writers
> al-Kindi and al-Beruni name swords based on surface appearance, place of
> production or forging, or the name of the smith. There are three likely
> sources for the term Damascus in the context of swords. The word for
> water in Arabic is, damas (Sachse, 1994, 13) and Damascus blades are
> often described as exhibiting a water-pattern on their surface. Al-Kindi
> called swords produced and forged in Damascus as Damascene (al-Hassan,
> 1978, 35). Additionally, al-Beruni mentions a sword-smith called
> Damasqui who made swords of crucible steel (Said, 1989, 219-220).”
> So, according to Dr. Feuerbach, Damascus steel was not named for the
> city where Westerners are thought to have first encountered it. Not only
> is Damascus steel not wootz, it isn’t even named after Damascus. I like
> the water explanation best since it dovetails nicely with terms like
> watered steel—I’m going with that.
> ------------------
> I have not checked to see if the OED etymologist blog has addressed this
> yet. But I note that the OED entry for Damascus, n. is unrevised. . . .
> ---Amy West

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