What is the most significant weapon not only in kung fu but in history of human kind. Many will think it is a sword, weapon that in all cultures symbolizes power, protection, authority, strength, and courage, metaphysically, it represents discrimination and the penetrating power of the intellect a symbol of knighthood and chivalry. But there is much older and simpler, utterly more important weapon that won and lost wars and were basic weapon for majority of soldiers of all armies of the world until the end if the World War one.
The weapon this article is about is a spear ,yes, just a simple spear . Spear, a pole weapon with a sharp point, either thrown or thrust at an enemy or prey. It appears in an infinite variety of forms in societies around the world. One of the earliest weapons devised by man, the spear was originally simply a sharpened stick. Primitive peoples used spears primarily as thrown weapons. When military practice evolved from the independent action of individuals to the group movements of masses of soldiers, the spear became a thrusting weapon. It took the form of the pike, the lance, and later the ax-bladed halberd, among other variations.
Spear is probably the first weapon made by man who used technology to build it. Although, human kind used different kind of stones, sharp stones and clubs, spear was the first technologically sophisticated weapon . What is more interesting, first spears were not made by modern man, Homo sapiens and Homo Neanderthals, but by their predecessor spices. First spears were nothing more than a long pointy stick whose top was hardened In the fire. Next, more advanced version of the weapon had a head made from the hard wood and sometimes later, heads made of stone . These first spears were hunting tools and since we know people fought much before recorded history times it is safe to assume it was used as a weapon .Analysis of 210 stone tools from the site of Kathu Pan in South Africa shows that people were probably hunting with stone-tipped spears by about 460,000 years ago, roughly 200,000 years earlier than previously believed. The study, led by University of Toronto doctoral candidate Jayne Wilkins, confirmed that the tools had broken in ways similar to other stone spear points that have been thrust or thrown into the bodies of animals. In addition, 23 of the tools appear to have been thinned at their bases to make them easier to attach to the shaft of a spear. From 200,000 BC, Middle Paleolithic humans began to make complex stone blades with flaked edges which were used as spear heads. These stone heads could be fixed to the spear shaft by gum or resin or by bindings made of animal sinew, leather strips or vegetable matter. During this period, a clear difference remained between spears designed to be thrown and those designed to be used in hand-to-hand combat
Spear manufacture and use is not confined to human beings. It is also practiced by the western chimpanzee. Chimpanzees near Kédougou, Senegal have been observed to create spears by breaking straight limbs off trees, stripping them of their bark and side branches, and sharpening one end with their teeth. They then used the weapons to hunt galagos sleeping in hollows. Orangutans also have used spears to fish, presumably after observing humans fishing in a similar manner. This fact opens a possibility that humans predecessors used similar simple tools almost five million years ago.
As the technology progressed, spears changed, first they got bronze and later iron and steel heads. With a beginning of civilization spears development goes in two direction, one is military and the second is hunting , fishing and is some cases spears played a role in religious rituals.
First human civilization appeared in middle east , developed in the region known as Mesopotamia between 4500 and 3100 BCE. The city of Uruk, today considered the oldest in the world, was first settled in c. 4500 BCE and walled cities, for defense, were common by 2900 BCE throughout the region. The city of Eridu, close to Uruk, was considered the first city in the world by the Sumerians. The first historical evidence of army organization comes from the Middle Eastern Sumerian empire. Figurines from the 4th millennium BC show foot soldiers in copper helmets and heavy cloaks carrying short spears.
The almost constant wars among the Sumerian city-states for 2000 years helped to develop the military technology and techniques of Sumer to a high level. The first war recorded was between Lagash and Umma in ca. 2525 BC on a stele called the Stele of Vultures.
Sumerian spear heads
It shows the king of Lagash leading a Sumerian army consisting mostly of infantry. The infantrymen carried spears, wore copper helmets and carried leather or wicker shields. The spearmen are shown arranged in what resembles the phalanx formation, which requires training and discipline; this implies that the Sumerians may have made use of professional soldiers.
During the Old and Middle Kingdom of Egypt's Dynastic period, it typically consisted of a pointed blade made of copper or flint that was attached to a long wooden shaft by a tang. However, in the New Kingdom, bronze blades became more common, attached to the shaft by means of a socket. These conventional spears were made for throwing or thrusting, but there was also a form of spear (halberd) which was fitted with an axe blade and thus used for cutting and slashing.
Bronze spear head from ancient Egypt
The spear was used in Egypt since the earliest times for hunting larger animals, such as lions. In its form of javelin (throwing spears) it was displaced early on by the bow and arrow. Because of its greater weight, the spear was better at penetration than the arrow, but in a region where armor consisted mostly of shields, this was only a slight advantage. On the other hand, arrows were much easier to mass produce.
In war it never gained the importance among Egyptians which it was to have in classical Greece, where phalanxes of spear carrying citizens fought each other. During the New Kingdom it was often an auxiliary weapon of the charioteers, who were thus not left unarmed after spending all their arrows. It was also most useful in their hands when they chased down fleeing enemies stabbing them in their backs. Amenhotep II's victory at Shemesh-Edom in Canaan is described at Karnak:" ...... Behold His Majesty was armed with his weapons, and His Majesty fought like Set in his hour. They gave way when His Majesty looked at one of them, and they fled. His majesty took all their goods himself, with his spear..... "
Karnak Stela of Amenhotep II W.M. Flinders Petrie A History of Egypt, Part Two, p.155
The spear was appreciated enough to be depicted in the hands of Ramesses III killing a Libyan. It remained short and javelin like, just about the height of a man, unlike the Macedonian lance of later times which was three to four times as long.
Assyrian army was a ruthlessly efficient fighting machine. Located in the north of modern-day Iraq, Assyria was constantly at war, either with its great rival Babylon in the south, or with one of the smaller surrounding nations. Compared to their adversaries, the Assyrian soldiers were better trained, better organized and better equipped: Their weapons were among the deadliest the world had ever seen.
Assyrian spear heads
At a time when most cultures still made their weapons from bronze, even the lowliest Assyrian infantryman was armed with iron weapons that were sharper, stronger and lighter than their bronze counterparts. The basic infantry weapon was the spear, consisting of a wooden shaft tipped with a lethal iron spearhead. For close combat, the men also carried short iron swords and daggers. Protection was provided by a variety of shield types, including tall ones made from leather or plaited reeds, and smaller circular ones consisting of a wooden disk faced with a thin layer of bronze.
The primary weapon of Greek army was almost 3 meters long spear ,known as Dory pared with a big round shield. Greek soldiers or Hoplites soldiers utilized the phalanx formation in order to be effective in war with fewer soldiers ,which has been proven as an excellent tactics and was used with more or less modification throughout the history by all armies until the invention of fire arms . Hoplites, named after their shield, the hoplon which were heavy, bronze-covered wooden shields about 1 to 1.1 meter in diameter. It spanned from chin to knee and was very heavy (10 to 15 kilos).
These shields had a revolutionary design; their rounded shape allowed them to be rested on the shoulder for additional support. The Greek warriors overlapped their shields, forming a shield wall. The left part of each warrior’s shield protected the right side of the hoplite to his left. A phalanx would consist of rows of spear-armed hoplites, all protecting each other and presenting a wall of shields and spear points towards their enemies. The first two rows of a phalanx were able to stab at opponents with their spears that protruded from between the shields. The first three rows, or ranks, of a phalanx could stab their opponents, while the back ranks would brace the front rows, prevent the front rows from retreating and support the all-important cohesion of the formation.
Ancient Macedonian Soldiers
Phalanxes could be 4, 8, 16 or more men deep, up to 50 rows in some extraordinary instances. This made the back rows relatively safe, giving them little reason to flee a battle, while the front rows were pressed between their own forces and an enemy bent on killing them. Yet, to the honor-driven Greek warriors, the front was where they wanted to be! In their martial culture, warriors sought glory in battle, and a general placed his best men in the front ranks.
The Roman military was the most successful and powerful in history, dominating the Western world for over a thousand years. The core of Rome’s military strength lay in the professionalism of their heavy infantry. A force that was organized and reorganized as it evolved and adapted to survive the assaults of different enemies. One of the essential roman weapons was throwing spear Pilum . The total weight of a pilum was between 2 and 5 kilograms. The iron shank was the key to the function of the pilum. The weapon had a hard pyramidal tip but the shank was made of softer iron.
This softness would cause the shank to bend after impact, thus rendering the weapon useless to the enemy who might throw it back. However, there are many cases where the whole shank was hardened, making the pilum more suitable as a close quarters melee weapon, which also made it useful for enemy soldiers to pick it up and throw it back. More importantly, if the pilum struck a shield it might embed itself and thus the bending of the shank would force the enemy to discard it as they might waste time trying to pull it out in the middle of combat. Even if the shank did not bend, the pyramidal tip still made it difficult to pull out. Pilum was constructed to use the weight of the weapon to cause damage, most likely to be able to impale through armor and reach the enemy soldier's body. The combination of the weapon's weight and the aforementioned pyramidal tip, allowed the pilum to be a formidable armor-piercing weapon.
The main weapon of the medieval period was the spear, not only for peasants but also for professional soldiers and even the noblemen. The spear was more effective at downing a charging wild boar because the blade created a wider, more lethal wound. It was equally as effective in battle, ripping holes in chainmail and armour. The spear is a relatively low in cost compared to a sword or axe. A medieval spear was relatively easy to use and very light in weight. Spears could also be quickly manufactured and can be used at a considerable distance from the target or enemy.
Spears and pole weapons evolved from spears
Spears began to lose fashion among the infantry in the 14th. Century, being replaced by pole weapons which evolved from simple spear by combined the thrusting properties of the spear with the cutting properties of the axe, such as the halberd . Spears were retained they grew in length, eventually evolving into pikes and wide variety of other pole weapons which would be a dominant infantry weapon in the 16th. and 17th. centuries.
Spear in China
Spear is used in China (and all over Asia) since stone age and had similar path of development and usage as it had in Europe and the rest of the world . The Qiang class of spears were believed to have evolved from the prehistoric spear that was known as the ‘Mao’. The common Qiang could be described as a spear that had a long staff, and had a steel, iron, or bronze mounted tip. The ‘Mao’ was a weapon that was used since prehistoric times. It was upgraded, according to the need, into many types of Qiang class spears during the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC – 11th century BC). At that time, the Qiang had a bronze tip. By the end of the Zhou Dynasty of Eastern China (770 BC – 256 BC), it was replaced with a steel tip. This weapon was so effective, that by the end of the Western Han Dynasty, the Qiang had replaced the Chinese halberd known as the ji. The Qiang was used by the Chinese army for long distance combat that involved throwing these spears, even after firearms were introduced by the Qin Dynasty.
Chinese spears helbards and pikes
The same as it was happened in Europe , halberd was developed in China by evolving common spear , the only difference is , in China this kind of weapon was invented much earlier . Ji is a weapon with a steel or bronze tip mounted on the end of a long shaft, next to which is attached a curved blade. Because of the attachment of the curved blade, the weapon can be used to both stab and slash. The shaft of ji used in chariots is longer than those used by infantry and cavalry. When two curved blades are attached on opposite sides of the tip, the weapon is referred to as double ji.
Ji was first used during the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC-11th century BC), when it was made of bronze. It was popularized during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BC-256 BC), when it was made of steel instead. By the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it fell out of use in war, and by the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589) it was replaced in its entirety by qiang (spear). Afterwards, it was used only as a weapon carried by ceremonial guards and as a weapon for martial artists.
Spear found its place in legends and myths all around the world and was a weapon of heros and antiheroes, certainly the most famous spear is "spear of destiny"
Spear of destiny
The Holy Lance, also known as the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny or the Lance of Longinus, according to the Gospel of John, is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross.According to legend who ever posses the spear will any war and can never loose .
List of magical Spears
- Ama-no-Saka-hoko (Heavenly Upside Down Spear) is an antique and mysterious spear, staked by Ninigi-no-Mikoto at the summit of Takachiho-no-mine, where he and his divine followers first landed, according to the legend of Tenson kōrin. (Japanese mythology)
- Amenonuhoko (Heavenly Jewelled Spear), the naginata used by the Shinto deities Izanagi and Izanami to create the world - also called tonbogiri. (Japanese mythology)
- Aram, the spear of Jangar. (Mongol mythology)
- Areadbhar (also Areadbhair), belonged to Pisear, king of Persia. Its tip had to be kept immersed in a pot of water to keep it from igniting, a property similar to the Lúin of Celtchar. (Irish mythology)
- Ascalon, the spear that St. George used to kill a dragon in Beirut and saving a princess from being sacrificed by the town. (Christian mythology)
- Brionac, the spear of Lugh that was said to be impossible to overcome. (Celtic mythology)
- Crann Buidhe, the spear of Manannán. (Irish mythology)
- Del Chliss, Cú Chulainn's spear that first belonged to Nechtan Scéne, and used to kill the sons of Nechtan Scéne. Formerly the name for the charioteer's goad, a split piece of wood. (Irish mythology)
- Gáe Buide (Yellow Shaft), a yellow spear that can inflict wounds from which none could recover. The spear of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, given to him by Aengus. (Irish mythology)
- Gáe Bulg, the spear of Cú Chulainn. (Irish mythology)
- Gae Assail (Spear of Assal), the spear of Lugh, the incantation "Ibar (Yew)" made the cast always hit its mark, and "Athibar (Re-Yew)" caused the spear to return. (Irish mythology)
- Gáe Derg (Red Javelin), a red spear that can destroy any magic that touches its pointed head. The spear of Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, given to him by Aengus. (Irish mythology)
- Green Dragon Crescent Blade, a legendary weapon wielded by Guan Yu in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It is a guandao, a type of traditional Chinese weapon. It is also sometimes referred to as the Frost Fair Blade, from the idea that during a battle in the snow, the blade continuously had blood on it; the blood froze and made a layer of frost on the blade. (Chinese mythology)
- Gungnir, Odin's spear created by the dwarf Dvalinn. The spear is described as being so well balanced that it could strike any target, no matter the skill or strength of the wielder. (Norse mythology)
- Gunnar's Atgeir, Gunnar's atgeir would make a ringing sound or "sing" when it was taken down in anticipation of bloodshed. (Norse mythology)
- Jiuchidingpa (Nine-tooth Iron Rake), the primary weapon of Zhu Bajie. (Chinese mythology)
- Lúin of Celtchar (also Spear of Fire or Spear of Destiny), a spear forged by the Smith of Falias for Lugh to use in his fight against Balor. (Irish mythology)
- Maltet, the name of the spear of Baligant from The Song of Roland. (French folklore)
- Nihongo, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Masazane Fujiwara. A famous spear that was once used in the Imperial Palace. Nihongo later found its way into the possession of Masanori Fukushima, and then Tahei Mori. (Japanese mythology)
- Octane Serpent Spear, Zhang Fei's spear from the Three Kingdoms period in China. (Chinese mythology)
- Otegine, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Masazane Fujiwara. (Japanese mythology)
- Rhongomiant, the spear of King Arthur that he used to defeat the legendary Sir Thomas of Wolford. (Arthurian legend)
- Spear of Achilles, created by Hephaestus and given to Peleus at his wedding with Thetis. (Greek mythology)
- Spear of Fuchai, the spear used by Goujian's arch-rival King Fuchai of Wu. (Chinese mythology)
- Tonbokiri, is one of three legendary Japanese spears created by the famed swordsmith Fujiwara no Masazane, said to be wielded by the legendary daimyō Honda Tadakatsu. The spear derives its name from the myth that a dragonfly landed on its blade and was instantly cut in two. Thus Tonbo (Japanese for "dragonfly") and kiri (Japanese for "cutting"), translating this spear's name as "Dragonfly Slaying spear". (Japanese mythology)
- Yueyachan (Crescent-Moon-Shovel), a Monk's spade that is the primary weapon of Sha Wujing. A double-headed staff with a crescent-moon (yuèyá) blade at one end and a spade (chǎn) at the other, with six xīzhàng rings in the shovel part to denote its religious association. (Chinese mythology)