"Will the Ax Boast Against the One Who Cuts with It?" The Use of Axes and Pickaxes in Iron Age Warfare

Bibliographic Information: 

Rodriquez, Seth M. "'Will the Ax Boast Against the One Who Cuts with It?' The Use of Axes and Pickaxes in Iron Age Warfare." Pages 266-287 in To Explore the Land of Canaan: Studies in Honor of Jeffrey R. Chadwick. Edited by Aren M. Maeir and George A. Pierce. Archaeology of the Biblical Worlds 4 Berlin: De Gruyter, 2022.

Literary and artistic evidence from the ancient Near East attest to the use of axes by Iron Age armies during military campaigns. The evidence suggests that axes were sometimes used to inflict injury on an enemy, yet more often they were used as tools on the battlefield, not as weapons in hand-to-hand combat. This study gathers together information from the HB, the artwork of ancient Egypt and Assyria, and the archaeological record of the Southern Levant in order to clarify what axes looked like in the Iron Age and how they were used. The passages in the HB related to this topic (Judg 9:48; Jer 46:22–23; Ps 74:5–6; Isa 10:15; Ezek 26:9) portray Iron Age armies using axes and pickaxes to cut down trees and demolish buildings. The Egyptian reliefs from the New Kingdom period suggest that Egyptian soldiers used axes for both hand-to-hand combat and demolition, but the neo-Assyrian reliefs from the 9th to 7th centuries B.C.E. portray axes predominantly being used for demolition. Excavations within the Southern Levant have yielded a modest number of ax and pickax heads made from bronze and iron, including both lugged and socketed examples.

De Gruyter