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Old 1st January 2008, 07:45 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,698
Default Marking of weapons: Anthropologically and Sociologically

On the thread on early makers trademarks, much of the discussion was keyed on the identifying marks used by guilds and makers primarily from a commercial standpoint. However, much of the discussion revealed religious and talismanic characteristics of many of these marks as well as phrases and mottoes.

I would like to open a line of discussion that would address the origins and history of applying marks to weapons and the purposes of these applications. While this topic is clearly so close to that of the other thread, I thought this might be interesting in our deeper understanding of weapons.

I would begin with early man, who in prehistoric times did indeed apply certain markings to his tools, and weapons, which of course were often closely related and interchageably used. Clearly, the tribal shamans or similarly functioning individuals, established that depictions of animals that were prey in the hunt might imbue the hunter with equivilent totemic power. In these times, extremely stylized or temporal geometric designs evolved and often appeared in wall illustrations and eventually on implements as well. We can only imagine the intended meanings of these, however some consistancies would seem have been established in degree in locations of discovery, and most important, we see that markings on weapons became an anthropological factor.

Jumping ahead to historic times, in the ancient world, I recall reading of archaeological discoveries of arrowheads I believe in Israel or other regions of Biblical history importantance, where there were identifying marks places on the arrowhead. It seems that in the caption it was noted that the purpose of this was to enable the warrior to claim the victim as his personal victory.
I wish I recall the reference exactly, but perhaps others might be able to offer either support or dispute as to its validity.

In recent travels here in the U.S. I have visited many American Indian historical sites and regions, and have found the tribal histories fascinating, especially of course, the weaponry. While there were of course, certain characteristics of style, ornamentation and symbolism in the varied weapons, it seems the key weapon that often carried personal identification, and with that purpose, was once again, the arrow. It seems that this practice was directed to the hunt, and these arrows would identify the warrior who would own the prey. I some cases of course, the objective was more universally tribal and this specific claim was overlooked, and naturally this practice was not necessarily common to all tribes.

I just found this practice of marking weapons from the earliest times, even to the present day most interesting. In a recent visit to an air museum here in Tucson, I thought of this while viewing the 'nose art' and various symbolism applied to not only combat aircraft, but even at times to the ordnance. Many bombs were emblazoned with patriotic jingoism and combat humor as they were loaded into planes. Naturally we are all aware of the trophy 'kill' symbols seen near the cockpits of these planes.
This also brings to mind the legends of the gunfighters notching the handles of thier guns (as I am presently in Tombstone, Arizona) and recently discovering that this practice was primarily myth. As far as is known, none of the historically known and established gunfighters ever notched thier gun handles.

This is simply a topic that has been on my mind for a while and just thought I would share it with all of you in hopes that you might join me with your thoughts, observations and examples. As always, the perspective gained by the constantly amazing core of knowledge that hallmarks the members and readers of this forum is monumental, and as always..we learn together!

Gentlemen, the lines are open!

All very best regards,
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