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These kind of arrows were extremely difficult to pull out, but people in Middle Ages knew a trick

Posted July 4, 2019

Arrow – ammunition of Middle Ages. Although you might think that these weapons were rather simple, they were actually advanced. There were many different shapes of arrowheads and they performed different functions. Some, for example, were made specifically to stick in human body and not come out easily. They were very damaging, but eventually people figured out how to deal with them.

These arrows twisted themselves into a human body and were very difficult to pull out without causing even more damage. Image credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia

Take a look at this arrowhead. It doesn’t look that impressive, but have in mind that it’s been forged back in Middle Ages. And although it was made as a one-use weapon, it was quite well thought out. For example, you can see that there are two prongs facing the other way. They are not there for design or aerodynamics – they hook onto the victim’s body and make the arrow difficult to remove. Actually, scratch that – almost impossible to remove without causing even more damage.

The arrow is spinning when it flies. Therefore, it buries itself deep into a person’s body and cannot be extracted the same way it went in. Pulling it causes even more damage and this is be design. Even if a soldier doesn’t die on the battlefield, he is likely to die due to bleeding or infection. Arrowheads like this were specifically made to attack soldiers without significant armour. Armour piercing arrowheads were more sleek and thus easier to take out.

However, people were clever back in the day and eventually someone (likely, Belgians) figured out a way to remove these arrowheads without causing even more damage on person’s tissues. The trick involved a couple of geese feathers. First, you had to cut off the ends of feathers, making them into a couple of long and funny tubes. Then someone inserted these feathers one by one into the wound. The tricky bit was finding these prongs and sliding feathers onto them. Then the arrow with those feathers could be pulled out. Feathers covered the sharp prongs and guided them out the same way they went in. This left a cleaner wound, which healed faster.

It is quite interesting that someone came up with this method. But where there is a problem, there is always a solution as well. People were smart and used what they have to find the best way out of a tough situation. However, the removal of the arrow didn’t mean that the agony is over.

In Middle Ages arrowheads were frequently poisoned. Although there was no understanding of bacteria or infections, people knew that dead bodies are toxic. So arrowheads were frequently rubbed in with some dead man or animal juices. Manure and human feces could be used as well. This meant that even surviving a hit with an arrow could have ended badly several days later. And goose feathers couldn’t help in that case.

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