©Erich Lessing

A craggy iron blade juts menacingly from the mouths of two fearsome animals. However, despite its appearance, this hefty 14th-century B.C. axe from Ugarit was crafted for ceremonial purposes and was not intended for the battlefield.

The bronze socket, finely decorated with inlaid gold, also features a crouching wild boar on the side opposite the blade, into whose mouth a wooden handle can be inserted. Iron weapons did not acquire the hardness and durability to outmatch bronze until the discovery of refinements in metallurgy that marked the advent of the Iron Age. A soldier in a fight to the death would have been better served by the bronze socket of this weapon than by its relatively soft blade.