Why Don’t I Read Much About Thrown Weapon Use in the Middle Ages?
31 May 2012 1 Comment
Lord John Robert of York
Historical information on the actual use of thrown weapons up to about 1600 CE is very limited. Museums and collectors may have the weapons, but they usually have little or no information on how these weapons were actually used.
Weapons like swords captured the imagination of both medieval chroniclers and modern scholars, but thrown weapons generally did not. The sword was the weapon and symbol of a chivalrous knight, while the thrown axe or knife was usually the weapon of a battle-pressed knight who had lost his sword, the low-born ceorl protecting his croft or the unscrupulous rogue.
Thrown weapons were used in warfare in very early period by many cultures, but as armor and heavy cavalry became common (about 900-1100 AD in Europe) they became ineffective and were abandoned. After this period, thrown weapons were typically used by:
(1) Warriors when their main weapons were lost or broken;
(2) People involved in secretive operations, including assassins, criminals and other rogues;
(3) Almost everyone in desperate, self-defense situations;
(4) The lower classes of societies, who generally could not afford expensive weapons; or
(5) Illiterate aboriginal peoples.
Most of these people apparently had no interest (or literary skill) in leaving a record of their thrown weapon use. A knight who had dispatched his enemy with a thrown dagger apparently did not consider the feat a chivalrous action and so did not brag (or write) about it, although it had saved his life!