The Javelin is one of the oldest weapons. A light throwing weapon, they are lighter than spears, but they are of the same basic form. The earliest examples are lost to history as a light fire hardened stick for throwing by the earliest humans. The oldest examples have been dated to 400,000 years ago.
As a weapon used for both hunting and combat the javelin is seen in almost every human culture. We will look at a few examples over the arch of time. They were thrown and used as thrusting weapons in hand to hand combat.
The ancient Egyptians have light throwing weapons with both the Leaf shaped head and the four sided tapering bolt type head. The soldiers who carried Javelins usually had 3 or 4 at least to use as range weapons in combat. They also are seen on many of the charioteer depictions of the period.
Statue of Javelin use from KIng Tut's Tomb
The Greek examples are many in art and pottery depictions. Skirmishing infantry troops of Greek armies were called Peltast and were armed with several javelins and a shield.
Greek Javelin thrower
The use of these missile weapons continues across multiple cultures including Roman troops, Gaulish Calvary, and the Cantabri tribes of the Iberian peninsula who developed special light calvary tactics to take advantage of the javelins' versatility. The weapon also appears across the north of Africa and was used in the Punic Wars.
Roman Javelin use
Bayeux Tapestry showing javelin throwers
In the medieval period many javelins were fletched like arrows.
Into the Medieval period the javelin continues to appear in the hands of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Welsh, Iberian, Arab and Irish warriors. The Kerns of Ireland were known as some of the most effective light shook troops with their speed and furiousness in combat with sword and javelin.
Captain Thomas Lee Irish Commander
Arms & Armor Javelins
Here is a review of the Javelins we make at Arms & Armor. They are of two styles and cover a great deal of time and style.
If you get some Javelins to throw, please treat as any projectile weapon like archery or sport javelin. Never throw when someone is down range and be ever watchful not only in front of you but all around.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.