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Damascus steel was the forged steel of the blades of swords smithed in the Near East from ingots of Wootz steel imported from Southern India and Sri Lanka. This was known as Sinhala Wane (Sinhala Steel). These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water, or in a “ladder” or “teardrop” pattern. Such blades were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering, and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge.
The steel is named after Damascus the capital city of Syria and one of the largest cities in the ancient Levant. It may either refer to swords made or sold in Damascus directly, or it may just refer to the aspect of the typical patterns, by comparison with Damask fabrics (also named for Damascus).