Topic: Guns & Weapons
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” A. Einstein
The arts in war, a nouvelle perspective thru the stories behind the main characters: weapons
The study of historical armed confrontation, dating from the beginning of times, ever since men were men in society, is indeed a rich subject of analysis. As in every human activity the means, forms and objects thru and with which those actions take place are an example of a determined historical and cultural moment. Usually when the subject “war” is approached, it is mainly analyzed either from a tactical and technical perspective on the one hand or, on the other hand it’s approached morally. The traditional phrase “the art of war” is a reference used in the first sense we pointed above. That line of study has resulted in a rich bibliographical production of all kinds, the debate is still open, hence are all research projects and works. However, in this opportunity, we would like to suggest another approach and angle of analysis. That of, regardless the parts, winners or losers, the objects thru means of which Men carry con battles, confrontations and glorious combats.
Weapons are just like any other material object produced by Humanity; these are aids, means thru which certain objectives can be achieved in a better, easier and improved way. While the object itself is null in good or bad terms, is the use given to it by those who manipulate it that makes the difference.
Most weapons, in the beginning of times were multifunctional. We mean that they could be used for a variety of purposes of work and combat. Made out of handy materials, their functionality was the main issue; the key words were simple, durable and useful.
While during the first period of their evolution weapons were made out of wood or stone, with the pass of time and the growth in the control mankind began to exhibit regarding its surrounding natural environment, new, better and improved materials such as copper and later on bronze and iron became more popular and appropriate for those uses. With the discovery and the domestication of each new and stronger material, the living and developing conditions of these peoples improved dramatically.
The history of these early weapons is well known around the globe. So is that of the revolutionary invention of gun powder and its impact in the world of weapons.
Moreover, the history of weapons is generally linked to the history of western civilization. This cultural approach to weapons has deeply marked the road the world of weapons collectors went thru. And whilst amazing and fascinating, this is a partial world that leaves aside a great deal of interesting, finely crafted and odd weapons that we could denominate modern ethnic.
Given the fact that we’re Latinos and Argentine, it has come to our attention that wonderful weapons dating from pre Columbian, Columbian and Independent times were not broadly considered by collectors. Weapons dating from those periods in Latin America include objects crafted by cultures as high and developed as the Inca, Maya, Aztec, Tehuelche, Araucano, Guarani and Diaguita, just to mention a few. Those 15th century aboriginal Empires and kingdoms did not know about iron or gunpowder until the arrival of the Spaniards, however, their original weapons were strong, well built and efficient. Their craftsmanship and domain of war and combat was such, that immediately after discovering the conquerors weapons they found a way of getting hold of them and using them for their own purposes.
If we focus on pre Columbian weapons we should point out the broad variety of hammering weapons such as truncheons, stone and wood hammers as well as others made out of copper, bronze, gold and silver. Javalins, bows and arrows (poisoned) were also big combat weapons. Speers known as chuki were also very common. Since most combats were men to men, heavy axe like stone and metal weapons were very well crafted and efficient. One very interesting weapon devise were the boleadoras, to which there’s no literal translation, but consists of a lariat with balls on one end, thrown so to twist around enemies, chocking them, immobilizing them or knocking them down. The boleadora consists of a wooden or metal ring from which it’s hold, attached to it are three or two strings made out of natural fabrics or animal guts –llama or vicu?a in this cases- and to those strings extremes there are heavy wooden or stone balls wrapped in raw leather, the combination of weight and impulse makes of this weapon a deadly object.
Weapons as those we pointed out right above vary a lot; while those belonging to the low class people and warriors are rudimentary and rustic, those who were property of the nobility or the heroic warriors were sophisticated, carefully crafted with great detail, gold, silver and luxury animal furs.
When the Spaniards arrive, we assist to an incredible cultural process, that goes way beyond the battle, and that is one huge syncretism. Evident and clear in religion as we stated in several previous articles, it’s also very important and thorough in terms of war techniques, tactics and weapons.
One important and interesting aspect of that blend, is the fact that it has to be discovered by the sharp eye.
At first sight, one might think that all weapons, clothing, art objects and items of all sorts used by the upper segments of society were all imported from the old continent. However, if the eye is trained and the spirit is adventurous, the observer will discover that most of those items were crafted in the Americas or the Western Indies as they used to be known as.
Indigenous craftsmen and artisans not only learnt to imitate major art painting schools from Europe, but they also began to work with the continental blacksmiths that came together with the expeditionary groups.
We also have strong evidence that several of the local indigenous weapons were appropriated by the conquerors groups and used them in their favor.
The richness of this process and the remaining objects we were able to find in present days lays on the thoroughness of the interchange of customs, traditions, skills and techniques.
In this sense, the history of Latin American weapons is as rich and amazing in indigenous items as it is in those incorporated by the newcomers, but what makes of those items a one of a kind object is the fact that the combination of different points of view and cultural heritages from one side and the other results in a rainbow of truly new things: Latin American Colonial weapons.
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Bob Frassinetti. Copyright 2005. Roberto Dario Frassinetti.