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.
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:
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