What influence did India's smelting of 'wootz steel' and forging of the 'Damascus Sword' have on the world in 300BC and Crusades ?
Wootz steel was smelted from iron ingots and traded to Damascus around 300BC. Damascus blacksmiths forged the steel ingot into swords that contained swirling patterns in the steel blades and were stronger than any other steel of the time. The Crusaders found that their steel blades were no match for the Islamic Damascus blades in Europe.
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Damascus steel was a type of steel, made from purified iron, that was used in swordmaking in the Middle East from 300 to 1700 BCE. This production technique has been mostly lost, and modern attempts to duplicate it have not been successful, so you can imagine how revolutionary this production method was in the 2nd century BCE was.
The strength and sharpness of this blade was legendary, and several myths sprung up about swords being able to split rifle barrels and hairs.
Wootz is higly refined iron with extremely low carbon contnet (1.5%) that was imported from India and was refined into patterned Damascus steel. It was the distance involved in this trade that led to the end of production.
When European Crusaders came face to face with the sword, the intimidation factor must have been high. There was no metal in Europe that could compare to Damascus steel, and several accounts of Islamic swords splitting European blades survive today. European blacksmiths actually tried to replicate the process without success, then made mock Damascus steel blades through engraving when they failed to penetrate the secrets of the Wootz process.
This quest for the secrets of Damascus steel led to the modern age of materials science in Europe. Metallurgy was born out of the search for this blades, as well as modernizations in refining techniques throughout the Christian and Islamic world. Recently, scholars at the University of Dresden believe they have found the secret to producing Damascus blades through the science of nanotechnology. Could the blacksmiths of Islam stumbled on the secrets of high science without knowing it?
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