Humans are predictably violent, and certain weird weapons from history prove how creative and dangerous they can be. Medieval weapons were exceptionally deadly, but so were the intense historic tools used by indigenous New Zealanders who date back as far as 1200 CE.
These strange weapons had varying degrees of efficacy, but certain people led the arms race. Ancient Chinese weapon makers, for example, had a type of ancient rocket technology. They were obviously formidable enemies. They hardly had a monopoly on destruction, though. Some of the most surprising historical weapons could still prove fatal in the 21st century.
The Aztec macuahuitl looked like a large paddle. However, the edges of the long wooden weapon were outfitted with pieces of sharpened obsidian. The metal was typically strong enough to decapitate a horse. Allegedly, Aztec soldiers used the macuahuitl to tear into enemies’ throats between the 13th and 16th centuries. Those afflicted bled profusely.
Traditional katars sometimes had H-shaped handle and trigger mechanisms. During battle, the single blade could spring open into three separate points, making the armament like a claw. This Indian weapon, which dates from before the 19th century, was often used in hand-to-hand combat.
Nest Of Bees Arrows
Used by 14th-century Ming warriors, these arrows were a lot like primitive rocket launchers; no bees were actually used. A hexagonal tube typically held 32 individual rocket-propelled arrows, which could all be launched simultaneously at high speeds.
African Kpinga Throwing Knife
Azande warriors typically used this weapon in battle in the first half of the 18th century. Kpinga throwing knives were almost two feet long with three separate blades, and they were usually used within a range of about 30 feet. About three or four of these blades were brought into battle behind soldiers’ shields, meaning Azande foes were often met with nasty surprises.
Also called the Hunga Munga, the throwing knife might also be included in a wedding dowry.
Italian Boarding Sword
The Italian boarding sword was an extremely practical armament for the Italian Navy in the early 1500s. It was named for its ability to help Italian army men board enemy ships. The tiny point on the end of the weapon allowed the wielder to thrust at oncoming invaders, and the saw blade could be used to cut ropes and rigging. Some boarding swords were 34″ long with a 28″ blade.
Chinese Hook Sword
Traditional hook swords were typically used by northern Chinese martial artists. Many people believe the blades date back to the Qing era (about 1644-1912) or later. Sometimes referred to as tiger hook blades, these thin weapons were allegedly created for civilian use.
Zhua Grabbing Claw
The Zhua grabbing claw was a pole-like weapon, and ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu is rumored to have used it around 510 BCE. Usually six feet long with an actual clawed iron hand on the end, the weapon was used to tear shields away from opponents, or possibly even pull a man off horseback.
The claws were quite sharp and could easily tear flesh.
Zulfiqar, The Scimitar Of Muhammad
The prophet Muhammad allegedly gave his sword, Zulfiqar, to son-in-law and cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib during the 625 CE Battle of Uhud. A variation of a scimitar, the Zulfiqar blade is curved with modified saw teeth, and it’s split into two separate points. Some people suggest this dual prong would make fighting impossible, though.
So the true form of the weapon is not entirely clear.
Harmonica guns were aptly named because the magazine was shaped like a harmonica, extending horizontally from the barrel. They could fire at high capacities without needing to be reloaded. Makers including Jonathan Browning allegedly created the weapons in the mid-19th century, and the technology could be adapted for both pistols and rifles.
Ngombe Ngulu Sword
The Ngombe Ngulu sword is named for the tribe that created it in the late 1800s; the Ngombe people lived in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Historians don’t completely agree on the sword’s use. Some say it was for executions, while others believe it was purely ornamental, marking a man’s rank or tribe status.
The indigenous Māori people arrived in New Zealand between 1200-1300 CE, and their warriors often used jade patus to attack enemies. The weapons were typically used to thrust or jab, and when not in use, they hung from soldiers’ belts as a sign of prestige. Elite Māori chieftains treated prized paddles as heirlooms, keeping the polished jade in the family.
Allegedly, some defeated warriors even requested to be slain by their own patus in battle instead of by enemies’ weapons.