Mar 9, 2013

Weapons & Warriors: The Tomahawk of the Native Americans

Art by TL Jeffcoat

This little axe is so dynamic that it is still used in the modern American militaryand is currently issued to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many military vehicles have Tomahawks for use in case of emergencies. The original design and concept of the Tomahawk was purely for combat, but the Native Americans were never ones for wasting anything and made use of the Tomahawk for a variety of tasks. They can chop wood, hammer stakes, and perform other survivalist tasks.

The main difference between a Tomahawk and other axes is the weight. In Europe, axes made for combat were generally large. Even the one handed axes had heavier blades and were meant to strike with the weight to add to the blow. They used their weight and momentum to damage armor or dismember opponents. The tomahawk was built for speed. Instead of weight, it relies on its speed to strike faster and with more control. The momentum of greater speeds gives the tomahawk equal deadly force with every strike as any European hand ax against an unarmored part of the body

The light weight of a tomahawk makes it very versatile in combat. It is easily held by anyone of any size. It never encumbers a warrior so that he can continue fighting for longer periods of time. The tomahawk is used with quick slashing attacks. Ideally aimed at the most exposed areas. It is also balanced for throwing and just as deadly as a throwing knife in the trained hands of a Native American warrior.

The Native Americans did not have access to metallurgy before Europeans came so they did not originally use iron or steel blades. Most tomahawk heads were made from a solid piece of sharpened bone or stone. Some older versions resembled clubs with a round knob of wood as the head. Eventually the Native Americans traded with the European sailors for iron boarding axe heads and the modern tomahawk was born. The sailors used the boarding axes for cutting ropes, but didn’t have much use for them after settling into their colonies. The Native Americans were willing to trade a lot of food and supplies for them.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.

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