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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

History and Evolution of the Dagger

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From ancient times, warriors came to the conclusion that they needed some short stabbing weapon that they could always carry around, and that is convenient to use in situations where it is not possible to move with a sword, club or spear. A popular opinion is that the first daggers were made of wood and bone. Originally the unprocessed horns of animals were used as daggers.

With the transition to metallurgy daggers became more popular and widely produced. Unlike wood and bone, the copper daggers became more effective and deadlier. They appeared in almost every ancient civilization as they were used for war, ceremonies and also as basic tools.


The eastern dagger by the curve of its blade, is an obvious imitation of the cow’s horn. This makes us think that the primitive daggers were nothing more than real horns – a hypothesis reinforced by the fact that in the sediments of the Paleolithic epoch (in France) branches of deer horns, decorated in the form of a dagger were found. Horns served as weapons. This could be traced in the later ages. One example being India where in the 19th century weapons of two sharp horns, connected by their bases and covered with a round metal plaque for the protection of their hands were used.

In the Neolithic era, straight daggers were made of flint, sometimes even with a distinct grip, all from one piece of flint. The flint daggers were, apparently, the prototype of copper, many of which were found in Siberia.

In Western Europe, among the antiquities of the Bronze Age, daggers almost never took their full effect. They were instantly replaced by swords, adapted to stab, not chop. However, the distinction between a sword and a dagger isn’t always simple. One example being a short sword and a long dagger. The sword, however, is worn on the thigh while the dagger is on the front (at the waist or behind the belt). Typical daggers are peculiar, mainly, to the East, from India to Turkey; here they represent the greatest variety of forms and names. Some types of daggers originate from weapons with a concave blade (like a sickle).


As mentioned above, daggers were often used as a spare weapon for situations where the main weapon was difficult to use, because of its size. In this capacity, daggers were used in many armies throughout history.

The daggers used as offensive weapons were longer, but they were not suitable for a slashing strike. Actions in tight construction limited even the length of the weapon. It should be easily removed from the sheath in the ranks, not to get underfoot, and not to cling to the equipment of other fighters. The “big sword” was as heavy as it turned out to be, and as long as it was permissible.

Daggers, as the main offensive weapon, were also used by many barbarian warriors, among those who fought in the ranks. For example, one can cite the traditional Saxon weapon – “sramaxax” , or simply “seax” – a dagger weighing 0.6-0.7 kg with a one-sided blade of 45 cm long.

However, during the Middle Ages, the daggers passed into the category of self-defense weapon. Medieval combat changed over time and focused more on armor and cavalry making the dagger less effective. But the pikemen and crossbowmen took some kind of backup weapon of light weight and suitable for carrying in the ranks of dimensions.

The most common reason why a dagger could be worn was the frequent inability to obtain other bladed weapons. In comparison, making a dagger required less iron. For a blacksmith who owns welding tools, a dagger up to 40 cm in length was one of the simplest products. On the other hand, wearing a dagger with a bow was not difficult and prudent. He could also fit in for household needs.

For Asia in general, the high role of daggers was just an exception. The battle in tight constructions by the Asian infantry was almost never practiced, respectively, and no special weapons were required for it. In Asia, daggers were used almost exclusively as civilian weapons.

In modern armed conflicts, combat daggers are used mainly as an auxiliary type of weapon designed to solve special tasks (neutralizing the sentry, eliminating the enemy in places where the use of firearms is not possible), or as a “last resort weapon”.


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