40 Fierce Facts about Ancient Weapons

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1Ulfberht Swords

Ulfberht Swords

During the Viking period, Ulfberht swords were made of crucible (very pure) steel all the way from India. The exceptional quality of this steel made them so valuable that forgers faked the name Ulfberht on lower-quality swords, the equivalent of present day fake designer logo.

2. Archimedes developed an anti-ship weapon called the Claw of Archimedes. It lifted a ship by the prow then dropped it, often causing the vessel to capsize or at least severely damaged it.

3. The Sword of Goujian is a completely untarnished 2000-year-old sword that was found in an ancient Chinese tomb. It also has an unusual sharpness for its age. This is due to its unique copper composition and the air-tight scabbard it was found in, keeping it sealed from the elements.

4. Ancient Greek slingers used to write "ΔΕΞΑΙ" (Dexai) meaning “take that” or “catch” on their lead sling bullets. So soldiers writing sarcastic taunts on their weapons is nothing new.

5. The Aztecs used obsidian swords called macuahuitl which were capable of decapitating horses with just one swing.

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6Damascus Steel Sword

Damascus Steel Sword

A "Damascus Steel" sword from the 1600s was found to contain carbon nanotubes and nanowires. Researchers say these tiny structures may account for the legendary strength of Damascus Steel.

7. Medieval English longbows could fire an arrow more than 300 yards and required so much strength that the skeletons of medieval archers can be identified by their enlarged left arms.

8. Greek Fire was an incendiary weapon developed by the Byzantines in the 7th century. It was deployed on ships, and in handheld tubes, operating similar to a flamethrower. Water didn’t extinguish it. Its precise chemical composition is still unknown.

9. The first gunpowder weapon was actually a melee spear with a one-shot flamethrower attached called a fire lance. It was used by the Chinese around 1000 A.D.

10. War pigs were used by the Romans because their squeals scared the war elephants into fleeing and trampling their own armies.

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11Linen Armour

Linen Armour

Alexander the Great's army conquered the world while wearing armor made of linen that could stop any arrow made at the time.

12. The Pilum or the Roman javelin, was designed with a soft shank that would bend after impact. This served two purposes: it prevented enemies from re-using it, and enemies that had pilum embedded in their shields would have to discard the shield or waste time removing the pilum.

13. The Plumbata was an ancient Roman weapon, which was essentially a lead-weighted lawn dart. Multiples would be carried in the hollow of a legionary's shield and thrown at the enemy.

14. Portuguese soldiers used black swords in the Age of Discovery in order to not reflect the light and announce their presence on ships, avoiding also its rusting when used near salt water.

15. During the late 1700s, in order to fight the British, an Indian king developed rocket artillery that fired swords.

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There is an ancient arrow throwing weapon called the atlatl that can throw an arrow up to around 100 mph.

17. The Man Catcher was one of the few examples of non-lethal medieval weapons. It was used primarily to pull a person from horseback and drag them to the ground, but it was also used to capture opponents for ransom and to trap and contain violent prisoners.

18. During the Second Punic War (218 - 202 BC), Greek scientist Archimedes is said to have repelled the attacking Roman ships by setting them on fire with a “burning glass.” It may have just been an array of mirrors.

19. Ancient Hawaiians made a weapon named Leiomano that had blades made out of shark’s teeth.

20. The Samurais wore a cloak (Horo) that inflated when the wearer was riding a horse, which protected him from incoming arrows from behind.



Hellburners were 16th-century fire-ships whose decks were filled with gunpowder sandwiched between bricks and tombstones. They are considered to be an early form of weapons of mass destruction.

22. There was an ancient Korean weapon named Hwacha that shot 200 arrows in one explosion.

23. In the 1500s, Incas had cotton armor so densely woven it could repel spears and arrows almost as well as metal armor.

24. King Edward I of England built the largest trebuchet ever made called “The Warwolf”. The Scots inside the castle surrendered by the mere sight of it but Edward used it anyway because he wanted to see it in action.

25. A "Hot Shot" was originally a cannonball that was heated in a furnace and then fired at wooden ships for the purpose of setting them on fire.

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  1. #18 – burning glass. This is taken from the source that the author himself/herself cited “ An experiment to test this theory was carried out by a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. It concluded that although the theory was sound for stationary objects, the mirrors would not likely have been able to concentrate sufficient solar energy to set a ship on fire under battle conditions.[2]



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