10 Innovative Medieval Weapons: You Would Not Want To Be At The Sharp End Of These!

10 Innovative Medieval Weapons: You Would Not Want To Be At The Sharp End Of These!

(Read the article on one page)

Long before modern warfare, there was a time of knights in shining armor atop equally armored horses fighting for the hand of a maiden or in pitched battle. However, the weapons that these knights wielded expanded far past that of an ordinary sword and shield. Listed here are ten strange and deadly weapons used in the medieval period spanning across hundreds of years and reaching across the globe. While these weapons were not used regularly, they do provide an interesting window into medieval warfare and the advances in technology that were being made at that time.

The Gun Shield

The gun shield was exactly what its name would suggest, it was a shield with a breech loading match lock pistol at its center with a small square window about the barrel as an observation port. The shield is believed to have been used by the personal body guard of Henry VIII around 1544-1547.

Gun shield.

Gun shield. (c. 1545-1550) ( Public Domain )

Although many examples of gun shields have been found in England, they are thought to be of Italian origin and were offered to King Henry VIII in a letter from the Italian painter Giovanbattista. In this letter, they are described as, “several round shields and arm pieces with guns inside them that fire upon the enemy and pierce any armour.” The Italian version of the gun shield was more delicate and light - to be used in hand to hand combat, compared to the English version - which was typically used on a ship. This technology soon died out.

The Spring Loaded Triple Dagger

The Spring Loaded Triple Dagger appeared to be a normal dagger at first glance, but when the wielder pressed a release the two spring-loaded side daggers emerged - making the single dagger into a sort of trident. At the time, daggers were used as a side weapon in case the combatant had lost their primary. As such, daggers had extremely sharp points as opposed to sharpened sides, making it more effective as a stabbing weapon that could pierce armor. The usefulness of the triple dagger came in its versatility, one could use it as a simple dagger to stab, or as the triple pronged version to inflict more damage. It was effective at capturing the weapons of other opponents and parrying in exhibition combat. This weapon was used by fencers in Europe in the middle ages as it was far too expensive to ever see actual battle.

Left hand dagger with spring blades that can be opened by pressing a button, c. 1620.

Left hand dagger with spring blades that can be opened by pressing a button, c. 1620. ( Public Domain )

The Urumi

The Urumi was a very flexible long sword made from either steel or brass, and was often treated as a metal whip. It was often made up of multiple fine metal blades attached to a single handle, in some cases there could be as many as 30 blades in one sword. The weapon originated in the southern states of India, being known as far back as the Mauryan Empire. While being deadly to the opponent, it was also very dangerous to the wielder. In Medieval India, only the most well-trained Rajput warriors could practice with the Urumi as it required perfect coordination, concentration, and agility. The wielders would be taught to follow and control the momentum of the weapon and the techniques included spins and other agile moves. These spins made the weapon well suited to fight against multiple opponents at once.

Fighters using urumi.

Fighters using urumi. ( CC BY SA )

Greek Fire

Greek Fire was an incendiary material which could be shot from a ship and would burn on the top of water. It was said that in the 7th century a Byzantine architect by the name of Kallinikos invented Greek Fire and used it to defend Constantinople against an Arab fleet. In the west, the term “Greek Fire” was applied to incendiary weapons also used by the Mongols, Chinese, and Arabs. However, what set the Byzantine Greek Fire apart was their use of pressurized nozzles to project the liquid onto the enemy. While the composition is unknown, it has been suggested that the ingredients could be a mixture of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium, phosphide, sulfur, or niter.

Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Madrid Skylitzes, showing Greek fire in use against the fleet of the rebel Thomas the Slav

Image from an illuminated manuscript, the Madrid Skylitzes, showing Greek fire in use against the fleet of the rebel Thomas the Slav. ( Public Domain )

The Man-Catcher


Cousin_Jack's picture

The Lantern Shield is an interesting one, certainly innovative.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Human Origins

Ancient Technology

Mammoth in the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada). The display is from 1979, and the fur is musk ox hair.
In Sivershchina, close to the village of Mizyn in Ukraine is one of the oldest and most unique settlements of humans – and it was discovered in a parking lot. The now well-known archaeological site, known plainly as the Mizyn parking lot, dates back 18-20 thousand years.

Ancient Places

The highly-decorated tomb is built in a distinctive ‘L’ shape
A mysterious ancient tomb with “unusual and rare” wall paintings has been discovered in Egypt. Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Enany told BBC reporters the discovery of a 4,400-year-old tomb found during excavation work in Giza’s western cemetery “likely belonged to Hetpet, a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility, who assisted women in childbirth.”

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article