Besides the beautiful decor and the impeccable construction, Damascus swords were famous for their strength, durability, and elasticity. They were the pride of the city of Damascus, Syria, due to their exceptional qualities mainly because of the so-called Damascus steel; a type of steel whose main ingredient was a wootz steel imported from India. A simple way to recognize a genuine Damascus blade is by its distinctive patterns of banding and mottling which resemble a flowing water.
Through the ages, Damascus swords have become legendary. Many stories speak of their tremendous strength, sharpness, and flexibility. One such story talks about a meeting between Richard the Lion-Hearted and Saladin. Richard wanted to impress Saladin by cutting a thick iron bar with his broadsword. Saladin was not impressed, he took his Damascus saber, threw a silk pillow and sliced it into small pieces before it fell to the ground. Another legend says that a Damascene blade was so flexible that a warrior could take the hilt in one hand, the blade in the other and bend the whole sword around his body. Then, after he released it, the sword would return to its original shape. In some other tales, a Damascus blade could cut a rifle barrel or a falling hair.
Today, there aren’t many original Damascus swords left in the world, since most of the master blacksmiths from Damascus took the secret of the original method in their graves.
A group of German researchers analyzed an old Damascus blade in 2006 and found nanowires and carbon nanotubes in its molecular structure. It is still unclear how did the ancient craftsmen manage to create the nanotubes inside the steel, but scientists have offered a few theories. It is possible that the process of nanotube making is connected with the traces of vanadium, chromium, manganese, cobalt and nickel found in the wootz steel. (1)
This is just one of the stories about a technology invented and then forgotten. (e.g. think of the Romans who invented concrete and then another civilization reinvented it thousand years later) One of the many examples of technology created well before we understand how things work. (think of the many inventions of Edison if you want another example) Because understanding how things work (a.k.a. “science”) has nothing to do with technology. Technology is – simply put – the result of innovation, instinct and intuition of a man who just has the urge to create.
It sounds more poetic than technical and it is.
And poetry is what makes the world go around.
Poetry is about writing things which seem to make no sense.
And yet they are the most sensible of them all.
The era of understanding will soon come to an end.
For reasons we will never understand.
Because we have chosen to know.
While not knowing is the only way of being…
The swords of today seem strong. But they will break.
Science is just the analysis of the grammar rules.
But no man became a poet for knowing grammar…
That is where the meaning of life lies.