Clubs, maces, and slings, originally appearing in primitive times, are alike in their antiquity and concussive effect.
Clubs, maces, and slings, originally appearing in primitive times, are alike in their antiquity and concussive effect. Clubs are stout sticks, weighted at the striking end and usually made of hardwood, although bone, horn, and stone were also used. Clubs, the oldest weapons, have taken many forms throughout history. As small personal weapons, less than 2 feet in length, they could be thrust into belts and carried anywhere. Larger war clubs from 2 to 3 feet in length–were wielded with one hand, and very large clubs, from 3 to 6 feet in length, were used with both hands. Shafts could be straight or curved, with cylindrical, ball-shaped, or broad, flat heads. Shaft edges could be sharpened, knobbed, spiked, or fitted with naturally sharp items, such as shark’s teeth, rays’ tails, or obsidian blades.
Greek slingers, circa 400
Although hand weapons could be used with more accuracy and force than thrown ones, clubs meant for throwing were also used. These
Developed from the club, the mace is a heavy weight attached to the end of a handle. Stone maces appeared during the seventh millennium
The sling was most likely a product of the Neolithic Near East (ninth millennium
Skilled slingers could hurl heavy stones to damage armor out to 15 yards, strike small targets with stones out to 30 yards, shatter skulls out to 50 yards, hit man-sized targets out to 180 yards, and throw light lead shot over 360 yards. In battle, slingers were employed to harass enemy formations before hand-to-hand combat began, to pursue routed foes, to ward off enemy cavalry and elephants, and to protect one’s own troops from missile attacks. During sieges slingers provided covering fire, harassed working parties, and hurled incendiaries into buildings or siegeworks.
Another type of sling was the staff
The club’s developmental
As populations expanded in
From left to right, an Iroquois club from eastern North America; an aboriginal throwing stick from northwestern Australia; a spiked Swiss “morning star” mace; and a braided sling from the Pacific Islands.
In open combat, warriors probably exchanged fire with slings and bows for some time before advancing to fight with spears, maces, and clubs, hurling throwing sticks as they neared their opponents. Piles of slingstones found in the destruction horizons of
As early civilizations developed in both hemispheres, so did
The stone-headed mace had virtually disappeared in
It was not until the early Middle Ages that metal-headed maces became popular. Steppe nomads and Muslim warriors–Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Mongols–employed them as an important secondary weapon for their lance- or bow-armed cavalry, an alternative to the sword and ax. The Chinese, Indians, Byzantines, Russians, Eastern Europeans, and, after about 1000
The sling enjoyed more common usage than the mace. David’s slaying of Goliath is only the most famous use of the sling by the ancient Jews. The Neo-Assyrian Empire considered its slingers so valuable it armored them. Certain peoples were noted as skilled slingers. The
After the Pax Romana, a period of peace within the Roman
DeVries, Kelly. Medieval Military Technology. Lewiston, N.Y.: Broadview Press, 1992. Diagram Group. The New Weapons of the World Encyclopedia: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to the Twenty-first Century. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007. Dupuy, R. Ernest, and Trevor N. Dupuy. “The Dark Ages: Battle-Ax and Mace, 800-1000.” In Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present. New York: Harper and Row, 1977. Gabriel, Richard, and Karen Metz. From Sumer to Rome: The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies. 1991. Reprint. New York: Greenwood Press, 2005. Grant, R. G. Warrior: A Visual History of the Fighting Man. New York: DK, 2007. Gurstelle, William. The Art of the Catapult: Build Greek Ballistae, Roman Onagers, English Trebuchets, and More Ancient Artillery. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2004. Hogg, Oliver Frederick Gillilan. Clubs to Cannon: Warfare and Weapons Before the Introduction of Gunpowder. London: Duckworth, 1968. Keeley, Lawrence H. War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996. Nicolle, David. A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell Press, 2002. O’Connell, Robert L. Soul of the Sword: An Illustrated History of Weaponry and Warfare from Prehistory to the Present. New York: Free Press, 2002. Woods, Michael, and Mary B. Woods. Ancient Warfare: From Clubs to Catapults. Minneapolis, Minn.: Runestone Press, 2000. Arms in Action: Slings and Spears. Documentary. History Channel, 1999. Conquest: Weapons of the Barbarians. Documentary. History Channel, 2003.
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