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Y7 History 1 Weapons and warfare 1. A VERY long time ago!

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1 Y7 History 1 Weapons and warfare 1. A VERY long time ago!

2 Y7 History 2 Before we start … When we are talking about years a very long time ago, we need to have a way of numbering them. As we found out when we were looking at the origins of Christmas Day, that the numbering system has not always been the same as it is today, but we have counted our years from the year we thought Jesus was born in for quite a long time. In fact it was not adopted in the UK until a Monk called Bede, who was also a great historian at the time decided to base his writings on in 731AD as we now call it. So we use AD counting forwards from the supposed birth of Christ and BC going backwards things that happened before. But in recent times, some people have become a little upset with the link to Christian religion to the worldwide dating system, so while sticking with the same numbers, they have changed the name given to each numbering system to CE (common era instead of AD) and BCE (before common era instead of BC). I do not mind which you use.

3 Y7 History 3 The very newest olds weapon! Until recently the oldest weapon was a mere 250,000 years old. Now a sophisticated spear, carefully made, has been found in Germany about 400,000 years ago. So this was not modern man, but a distant ancestor of Neanderthals. Previously, it had been thought that big game hunting did not happen this early. But the design, with the balance of the spear being 1/3 along its length means that it was built for throwing. As the spears were 2 metres in length and with a hardened tip, they were not for throwing at small creatures.

4 Y7 History 4 A Stone Age spear: 250,000 years ago An elephant dies, in what is now Germany. It has between its ribs a shaft of yew. The point has penetrated the elephant's hide because it is hardened, by heating in a fire. It is a spear, dating from the Lower Palaeolithic era - the earliest human weapon to have been discovered.

5 Y7 History 5 A Stone Age spear: 250,000 years ago As soon as humans separate from the apes and begin to walk on two feet, they no doubt hurl sticks and stones at each other. Equally a wooden branch or a chunk of rock is a natural tool for bludgeoning an animal to death. But such weapons are used as they are found. A sharpened spear - useful for throwing or prodding, in war or the hunt - is in a different category. The long story of the arms race begins.

6 Y7 History 6 The arms race begins There are two obvious areas in which progress can be made in the improvement of primitive weapons, or flint technology. One is the sharpness of the point of a missile, increasing the damage done when it reaches the target. The other is the force with which it can be propelled, extending its range and impact.

7 Y7 History 7 The arms race begins Stone Age man discovers that a sharp flint can be attached to the end of a spear, or else can be set at right angles into a wooden handle to be used with a chopping motion. One such point has been found embedded in the skull of a bear, which came to a violent end about 100,000 years ago in the Mediterranean region (near what is now Trieste).

8 Y7 History 8 And next … Stone Age man also finds ways of increasing the power of a human arm. The most obvious is by extending its effective length. This is the principle of the sling for throwing a stone. It is impossible to know when the sling was first used (made of vegetable fibres or animal skin, it will not survive for the archaeologist), but its power is attested in the biblical story of David and Goliath. But current ideas say that David and Goliath came a bit later in about 11,000 BC

9 Y7 History 9 And next … Slingers play an important role in warfare throughout ancient history. Spear-throwing devices, known from about 14,000 years ago, are more sophisticated weapons of the same kind. But the greatest advance in projecting a missile is achieved with the bow.

10 Y7 History 10 The bow and arrow: from 15,000 years ago The sudden release of the bow forces the arrow faster than a human arm can Yet human muscles, at a slower rate, have the strength to bend the strip of wood. The principle of the bow is discovered about 15,000 years ago.

11 Y7 History 11 The bow and arrow: from 15,000 years ago Bows and arrows feature from that time, no doubt both in hunting and warfare, in the regions of north Africa and southern Europe. The wood is usually yew or elm. Stone Age technology is capable of producing sharp flint points for the arrows, often with barbs to secure them in the victim's flesh.

12 Y7 History 12 The impact of metal: from 7000 BC Flint can be shaped into a blade, but only a fairly short one - a dagger rather than a sword. Copper, the first metal to be adapted to human purposes (from about 7000 BC), is too soft to be of much benefit in combat. Knives and sickles for practical use in the village are the typical copper implements, though battle axes and even helmets of copper are known. But the discovery of bronze, in about 2800 BC, changes things completely.

13 Y7 History 13 Bronze Bronze is sufficiently rigid to form an effective sword blade; it will take a sharp edge; and, VERY IMPORTANT, it can be reused. Bronze implements are made by casting. If a sword shatters, the pieces will be melted and used again.

14 Y7 History 14 Bronze Archaeologists have unearthed early hoards of bronze weapons and tools including lumps of shapeless bronze, melted down and stored for future casting. And casting solves what has been one of the basic difficulties of weapon manufacture in Stone Age technology - how to fit the sharp part to the handle.

15 Y7 History 15 Bronze The casters of bronze can make spear points with a hole, into which the wooden shaft of the spear will fit snugly and securely. Sword and dagger can be produced with a projecting spike or haft, round which a hilt can be built up in a suitable substance for the warrior to grip.

16 Y7 History 16 Bronze Axes will come from the mould with a hole already in place for the handle. For small objects, such as spear points and axe heads, this is a very flexible technology. Weapons can be made wherever a small furnace can be set up, to bake the clay moulds and melt the bronze alloy.

17 Y7 History 17 This map shows modern Greece and ancient Mycenaean and Minoan Civilizations

18 Y7 History 18 Suits of armour: from 1300 BC Bronze can be used for protection, as well as for weapons of aggression. In Mycenae, from about 1300 BC, a warrior will ride to war in his chariot. He may wear a bronze suit of armour, though leather almost certainly remains the normal form of protection.

19 Y7 History 19 Suits of armour: from 1300 BC This is the period of warfare reflected in Homer's Iliad, but the gleaming suits of armour described there are the stuff of heroic fantasy. Reality, in so far as it survives, is altogether clumsier - closer to Ned Kelly than Achilles.

20 Y7 History 20 Suits of armour: from 1300 BC The earliest known suit of armour comes from a Mycenaean tomb, at Dendra. The helmet is a pointed cap, cunningly shaped from slices of boar's tusk. Bronze cheek flaps are suspended from it, reaching down to a complete circle of bronze around the neck.

21 Y7 History 21 Suits of armour: from 1300 BC Curving sheets of bronze cover the shoulders. Beneath them there is a breast plate, and then three more circles of bronze plate, suspended one from the other, to form a semi-flexible skirt down to the thighs. Greaves, or shinpads of bronze, complete the armour. The Mycenaean warrior's weapons are a bronze sword and a bronze-tipped spear. His shield is of stiff leather on a wooden frame. Similar weapons are used, several centuries later, by the Greek hoplites.

22 Y7 History 22 Homework Imagine a big ball of string which we are going to use to represent time. The first weapon we have evidence for was 400,000 years ago. Now say we use the scale of 1cm of string for every 1000 years. If the start of the string was at the change over from BC (or BCE if you prefer it) to AD (or CE), how much string would you need to join it to our very first weapon? Get a piece of string that long – label one end 1BC or 1BCE and stick a label on the other end that says ‘Yew stick in elephant’. Then find out how long ago all the other things were that we found out about and work out where they are on the string and put a label about them on it. What then? Take a picture of the string with all the labels on it Or even wind the string round in a coil on a scanner, putting the 1 BC end in the middle and scan a picture of it that way perhaps? Another thought – if you made the string a little bit longer, you could have it go right up to the present day? How much longer would it need to be?

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