Damascus steel was the forged steel comprising the blades of swords smithed in the Near East from ingots of wootz steel imported from India and Sri Lanka. These swords are characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. 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. 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 (which are themselves named after Damascus).
The original method of producing wootz is not known. Modern attempts to duplicate the metal have not been entirely successful due to differences in raw materials and manufacturing techniques. Several individuals in modern times have claimed that they have rediscovered the methods by which the original Damascus steel was produced.
The reputation and history of Damascus steel has given rise to many legends, such as the ability to cut through a rifle barrel or to cut a hair falling across the blade