ety of "damascus" steel

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Apr 19 11:21:22 UTC 2013

At 4/18/2013 09:56 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>"Teardrops" might be a touch heavy-handed.

Definitely teardrop-shaped in the image
above.  Not seen in the one below, but I suspect
one has to hold the blade at a particular angle to eye and light.

What was the word for "water-mark" in Damascus?

(Also see below.)

>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?

And W. Brewer wrote:
>Hence Damascus steel would involve <a sword from Water Town> ??? ;^)

Beat your swords into water-wheels?

Right now, however, in Watertown not swords but
explosives, handguns, assault weapons, and SWAT
teams.  The "epicenter" is less than 5 miles from
my home.  About 1 mile from a close friend in
Belmont, who received a reverse 911 call around
5:30 this morning, telling her to stay inside.


>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:
>>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
>>“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
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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