18th century BC khopesh found in Nablus; the blade is decorated with electrum inlays.
Place of originAncient Egypt
Service history
In servicec. 3000–1300 BC
Used by
Lengthavg. 50–60 cm (20–24 in)

Blade typeCurved
(Coffin Texts)
ḫpš ('leg')

in hieroglyphs

The khopesh (ḫpš; also vocalized khepesh) is an Egyptian sickle-shaped sword that developed from battle axes.[1][2]


A typical khopesh is 50–60 cm (20–24 inches) in length, though smaller examples also exist. The inside curve of the weapon could be used to trap an opponent's arm, or to pull an opponent's shield out of the way. These weapons changed from bronze to iron in the New Kingdom period.[3] The earliest known depiction of a khopesh is from the Stele of the Vultures, depicting King Eannatum of Lagash wielding the weapon; this would date the khopesh to at least 2500 BC.[4]

The blade is only sharpened on the outside portion of the curved end. The khopesh evolved from the epsilon or similar crescent-shaped axes that were used in warfare.[2]


The khopesh fell out of use around 1300 BC. However, on the 196 BC Rosetta Stone, it is referenced as the "sword" determinative in a hieroglyph block, with the spelled letters of kh, p, and sh to say:

Shall be set up a statue ..., the Avenger of Baq-t-(Egypt), the interpretation whereof is 'Ptolemy, the strong one of Kam-t'-(Egypt), and a statue of the god of the city, giving to him a sword royal of victory, ...[5]

Various pharaohs are depicted with a khopesh, and some have been found in royal graves, such as the two examples found with Tutankhamun.[4]

Although some examples have clearly sharpened edges, many examples have dull edges that apparently were never intended to be sharp. It may therefore be possible that some khopeshes found in high-status graves were ceremonial variants.[4]


The word khopesh may have been derived from "leg", as in "leg of beef", because of their similarity in shape. The hieroglyph for ḫpš ('leg') is found as early as during the time of the Coffin Texts (the First Intermediate Period).[6]

In media

See also

  • Celurit – Indonesian sickle
  • Falcata – Ancient Iberian single-edged sword
  • Falx – Ancient bladed weapon
  • Harpe – Type of sword featuring a sickle-like protuberance
  • Kopis – Greek curved knife or sword
  • Makraka – African hybrid knife/axe
  • Shotel – Type of curved sword originating in Ethiopia


  1. ^ Wise, Terence (1981). Ancient Armies of the Middle East. Osprey Publishing. pp. 23–25. ISBN 978-0-85045-384-3.
  2. ^ a b
    Hamblin, W.J. (2006). Warfare in the Ancient Near East (softcover ed.). Routledge. pp. 66–71. ISBN 0-415-25589-9.
  3. ^ Howard, Dan (2011). Bronze Age Military Equipment. Casemate Publishers. pp. 31–34. ISBN 978-1-84884-293-9.
  4. ^ a b c
    Loades, Mike (2010). Swords and Swordsmen. Pen & Sword Military. pp. 1–21. ISBN 978-1-84884-133-8.
  5. ^ Budge, E.A.W. (1989) [1929]. "Rosetta line 6". The Rosetta Stone (unabridged, softcover, reprint ed.). Dover Publications. pp. 155–156. ISBN 0-486-26163-8.
  6. ^ Coffin Texts: CT V, 9c, B1C