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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/87

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79
THE GENESIS OF THE SWORD.

THE GENESIS OF THE SWORD.[1]

THE idea of employing weapons for assault or defense was a logical result of the first contests that took place between man and man. In these contests the strongest man with his native weapons—his fists—was unconsciously the father of all arms and all armed strength, for his weaker antagonist would early seek to restore the balance of power between them by the use of some sort of weapon. The shorter-armed man lengthened his striking power by the use of a stick, and found, after a time, the help its leverage and weight afforded him. The first case in which the chance-selected, heavy-ended staff or club showed that weight or hardness had its value, was a first step toward furnishing it with a strong head. Hence the blow of the fist was the forerunner of the crushing weapon. In the same way the pointed stick became the lance or dagger; and the thrown shaft, helped, as knowledge increased, by the bow or "throwing-stick," was the precursor of the dart and arrow. The character of the first weapons was largely determined by the nature of the materials from which they were derived, and their shape partly from this and partly by copying the forms of the weapons possessed by the animals the primitive men slew. Hence arises the general similarity in character and shape of the earliest tools from all parts of the world.

The weapons of animals are piercing, striking, serrated, poisoned or missile; and weapons made directly from those of some animals were used for similar purposes. Spears and lances are found made from the weapons of the walrus, boar, gnu, rhinoceros, sword-fish, narwhal, and antelope, to be used for piercing, as the animals themselves used them. The serrated bone of the sting-ray furnished both the material and example for many a South-Sea Island spear. The saw-fish's snout has given the natives of New Guinea a ready-made weapon (Fig. 2), and the setting of the shark's teeth in the jaw has suggested their employment in making deadly the edge of a Tahiti sword (Fig. 39). The curved buffalo-horn and the wavy antelope-horn gave the types of the Indian kandjar. (Fig. 1) and many other Eastern weapons. The hollow poison-fang of the venomous serpent not only gave a lesson to the South American Indians, who use a poison-tipped spear, but indirectly suggested holes for poison in the poisoned arrow-heads, and grooves for the same purpose in the mediæval stiletto. The barbed arrow-head was suggested by the barbed sting of the insect, which stays in the wound it makes; and the Bushman may have learned to half cut off his arrow close to the head, so that it should break off in the wound, from observing how stings thus break off in

  1. From a paper by C. Cooper King, of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.'s "Science for All."