The Spear: A Universal Invention
Who invented the spear? Humans can’t claim to be the sole inventor of this weapon. Scientists have found evidence that chimpanzees in Senegal also make them. They would break off tree branches and sharpen the ends with their teeth. Of course it is possible they figured out how from observing people. Another species of ape, the orangutan, learned to make spears after watching humans. Both animal species use their weapons to hunt for food.
Archeological Evidence of Spears
Among humans, the invention of spears seems to date back to over 400,000 years ago. This could be misleading since wooden spears can’t last much longer for archeologists to discover. It is clear that the Neanderthals used sharp-edged weapons in 300,000 BP. Early humans learned how to harden spears with fire in about 50,000 years later.
Use of the Spear in the Ancient World
Spears were used quite a lot in the Neolithic Age, Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. It was one of mankind’s oldest weapons. For example, in ancient Mesopotamia, soldiers used short spears for holding in one hand and a shield in the other. The Greeks invented the doru and later the long sarissa for their renowned phalanges battle formation. Alexander the Great and his father Philip won their battles using this strategy.
The early Germanic and Celtic tribes also used the spear. They used them in boar hunting and warfare. When they died, Germanic warriors were buried with their spears. The fleur de lys, symbol of royal power, is thought to have been derived from a spear.
Religious Symbolism of the Spear
The spear was the favored weapon of some ancient gods such as Odin in Norse mythology and Lugh in Celtic mythology. Aside from its mundane purpose as a weapon of war, the spear might also have had a spiritual meaning. In the Christian world, legends of a “spear of destiny” sprang up. It was supposed to be the spear o a Roman soldier named Longinus, who pierced Christ’s side during the crucifixion.
Use of the Spear in Later Times
Even after the fall of the Roman empire, spears were still popular. Armies found them convenient and affordable. They were cheap and required less technical skill to make than swords. Among others, the Vikings, Irish and Saxon armies always carried spears to battle.
During the Middle Ages, two major kinds of spear were used: one for dueling and the other for throwing. Both were infantry spears. Later when advancements were made in horse riding, men began using cavalry spears. A cavalry spear could be either two-handed or single-handed. From the cavalry spear later came the lance used in jousting.
The most famous person to wield a spear in the Middle Ages was perhaps Charlemagne or Charles the Great.
Modern Use of Spears
Spear use began to dwindle during the Renaissance. Gunpowder and firearms made them obsolete. Modern armies would at most fix baynotes to their guns as a close-quarter weapon. In the present age, spears are used mainly hunting game.