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Scottish Weaponry


Like many early civilisations, the dwellers of Stone Age Scotland started to use the materials around them to shape tools and weapons. Simple stone axes started to take the form we now recognise. Sharp flint blades and rounded stone axeheads can be found everywhere throughout Scotland. Though the main purpose of these weapons would have been to improve the hunter's skill, examples such as the Axe Hammer and the Bow and Arrow would also have been used in tribal conflict. The advent of skills in working bronze brought the development of more sophisticated weapons such as the Bronze Axe and Bronze Spear. There are also examples found of weapons such as the Halberd that would probably have no other use than in battle.

The Celtic tribes dominated the late bronze age period, and their art and craft developed similar forms to their neighbours in Ireland. A warrior from this period would probably have worn a Celtic Sword and Celtic Scabbard. Body armour was not widely used but a higher rank warrior or chieftain would have been equipped with a Celtic Helmet and Celtic Shield. Tribes were proud of their skills in hand to hand combat but in the pitched battles of tribal conflict the Javelin would have been used as a throwing weapon and the Gaesum Spear as a thrusting weapon. Small horses pulling a wooden Chariot were also used, with the charioteer driving his master on a simple wheeled platform.

The existence of the Picts who occupied Scotland in the first millennium is largely unrecorded. Occasional Roman and early Christian references, and a few archeological finds give us an insight into their lives. The Pictish Sword and Pictish Scabbard used identifiable Pictish ornamentation. Carved stones from the period show that Pictish warriors carried small shields such as the Pictish Buckler or the peculiar H-Shield, and that they were protected by a Pictish Helmet. Like their European neighbours the people of Scotland were starting to develop weapons of war such as the Mangonel. The Carnyx would also have been carried into battle by the painted tribes, its animal head producing strange and terrifying sounds.

The Scottish warrior was influenced by the movements of many peoples through the country. The early Celtic and Pictish tribes were gradually absorbed into the new kingdom of the Scots. But during this period the Romans made incursions into northern Scotland. Captured Roman weapons such as the Roman Sword and Roman Shield were probably highly prized. The Vikings were also regular visitors and established many settlements. Their ceremonial burials in Scotland have provided examples of Viking warriors buried with their weapons such as Viking Sword, Viking Scabbard and Viking Helmet.

Medieval Scotland was a scene of constant battle with the southern English neighbours. The trooper from the Scottish regiments was poorly equipped with simple weapons such as the Schiltron Pike or Medieval Axe. Swords however were becoming more sophisticated and the design of the 13th Century Sword and 14th Century Sword show that blades were becoming lighter and better balanced. Helmets were also developing with armour to cover more of the body and the face. The Bascinet enveloped the head but the Great Helm which gave complete cover to the face is similar to the type of helmet worn by William Wallace and Robert Bruce. Archers from the borders came with their Ettrick Bow to the battles, and sieges of border towns saw the use of large siege engines such as the Trebuchet.

Battles of the 16th and 17th Century were concerned with king and church, typified by the Covenanters who refused to take an oath to the king acknowledging that he was the head of the church. Conscripts to the covenanting armies were issued with weapons such as the Long Pike and Steel Cap but most self respecting highlanders carried a Claymore or Broadsword. The effectiveness of firearms had ended the use of body armour and Scotland had identifiable designs such as the brass Snaphaunce Pistol and the curved butt of the Fowling Piece. The covenanting regiments carried their aims clearly on the wording of their Infantry Colour and becoming now familiar was the skirl of the Highland Bagpipes leading the highland charge.


Lochaber Axe

Culloden saw the end of the Jacobite dream .The battlefield was strewn with the Lochaber Axe or Basket Sword of the fallen highlanders. The highland charge had failed and the troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie had barely had a chance to use their Highland Dirk in close combat. The Highland Targe had provided little defense against the cutting barrage of Cumberland's artillery. Scotland was to change forever after Culloden, but its people and industry were to make new contributions to the development and expansion of the world. Skilled Scottish craftsmen were already developing the new generation of weapons such as the Doune Pistol and the Firelock Musket. Scottish art and craft continued to feature in the making of highly ornamented objects such as the Powder Horn. Industry grew from the need for larger artillery such as the Field Gun and helped establish the reputation and quality of new Scottish industries such as the Carron works.

The highlanders had lost their last battle but were to go on to win much more as they explored the moral and social revolutions of the late 18th century, and the empires of the coming generations. The weapons contained in this collection are not intended to represent specific examples. Their purpose is to illustrate the weapons carried by the inhabitants of what we now call Scotland over the sometimes violent history of its development.

Visit SCRAN to obtain more information and view pictures of the weaponry at:
http://sites.scran.ac.uk/weapon/

See also...

Border Reivers: Clothing, Types of Weaponry, and Armour
The Lochaber Axe, Ancient and Modern
Scottish Weaponry of Importance
Of the arms and military accoutrements of the Celts


 


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