2011/05/21

Exotic ancient weapons: (IV) Macuahuitl

 .
The Native American civilizations have shown us how advanced "stone age" can actually be (and likely was in many part of Europe as well) - better than the few lasting traces of stone-age populations in Europe did.


The Central American populations used a quite advanced weapon with remarkable characteristics; a nightmare of a sword.
The Macuahuitl was basically a club with sharp obsidian stones as saw-like blades. A modern chainsaw is loud, but probably not much more frightening than a new Macuahuitl.


The Macuahuitl was basically a heavy, about one metre long scalpel sword - and it was wielded against warriors who had no metal armour. The club itself was already frightening, the sharpness was incredible, but the effect of a sawing motion slashing attack was certainly so brutal that we won't see a realistic Aztec battle in a movie anytime soon.


The obsidian stones lost their sharpness after some blows, of course. This did most likely require some economic and logistical effort because an army needed to be supplied with fresh stones and the means to fix them onto the wooden club (no clue how that was done).
 S O
.

1 comment:

  1. Most sources say that the obsidian blades were affixed into groves in the club via bitumen. Any use of obsidian is very symbolically loaded in the Aztec context—Tezcatlipoca is usually glossed in English as ‘Smoking Mirror’ and taken to be a reference to the steam emerging as an obsidian blade opens the chest cavity of a sacrificial victim. There are quite a few published essays focusing on the macuahuitl’s symbolism (which is actually not hard to see if you are knowledgeable about Aztec culture and society) but functional studies are much rarer. The Obregón article linked below is the best with which I am familiar.

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/19877909/macuahuitl.zip

    ReplyDelete