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Old 6th July 2012, 05:56 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default Caltrops - a Device Built After Nature

They probably have been around in warfare for thousands of years - and their natural pattern, water caltrops, for many millions of years.
They are a device of a principle simple and perfect at the same time: wherever, whenever and how ever they are cast they will always land the way that one spike points upward, to hinder and harm man and animal alike.

The surviving samples posted here are of late medieval to 18th c. date.
The painting details of which are attached is dated 1771, representing a later version of an earlier painting of the 2nd half of the 16th c., and depicting a cruel historic battle of 1444 which took place in Schönenbuchen, Black Forest. The rural population is portrayed dispersing caltrops from wicker baskets.

Most of the instances shown here are barbed. Acually this is a feature rare to find; in the author's experience, only one caltrop in about 500 was additionally barbed. They are not that easy to find in good condition either; most of them seem not to have survived spending hundreds of years of burial - most probably due to their delicate construction.


Caltrops also have gone down in medieval heraldry (instances attached).


Best,
Michael
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Old 6th July 2012, 05:58 PM   #2
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More.
m
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Old 6th July 2012, 06:03 PM   #3
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More details from the painting, some heraldic samples, and engravings.

m
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Old 8th July 2012, 07:07 AM   #4
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Interesting post, I've never heard of water caltrops before. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th July 2012, 12:53 AM   #5
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I AM PRETTY SURE THE CALTROP GOES BACK TO ROMAN TIMES AND IS STILL USED IN THE PRESENT. VIETNAM PUNJI STAKES IN RICE PADDIES AND TALL GRASS.
THERE ARE THE ONE WAY TRAFFIC TREADLES USED IN PARKING LOTS AND GARAGES TO SHREAD TIRES. THE SPIKE STRIPS USED BY THE POLICE AND MILITARY AND A THING REFERRED TO AS THE SQUID DESIGNED TO STOP VEHICLES WITH NON PUNCTURING TIRES AND SUCH. SEARCH SPIKE STRIPS.
THE BARBED AND CONCERTINA WIRE MAY HAVE EVOLVED FROM THE SAME IDEA. WHATEVER THE CASE THE PLANT KINGDOM THOUGHT OF IT FIRST.
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Old 9th July 2012, 07:48 AM   #6
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These are from a Venetian fort in Crete!
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Old 9th July 2012, 03:42 PM   #7
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Thanks Barry for your up-to-date contribution,
and eftihis for that photo from Crete!

m
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Old 9th July 2012, 09:34 PM   #8
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Looks like the village elders were put to work. All with white beards and no personal weapons of any sort.

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Old 9th July 2012, 09:46 PM   #9
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That was my impression too, Dmitry,

Seems the younger ones were all involved in the fight ...

Best,
m
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Old 10th July 2012, 03:58 PM   #10
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Personal details like that underscore the veracity of the subject matter. I love it!
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Old 10th July 2012, 04:41 PM   #11
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Hi,
Attached the arms of the Drummond family complete with caltrops. Malcolm Drummond is credited with successfully using caltrops against the English cavalry at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 hence he was accorded the honour of incorporating them in his armorial.
Regards,
Norman.

P.S. 'Gang Warily' means go carefully, I suppose apt where caltrops are involved.
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Old 10th July 2012, 05:02 PM   #12
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Gang Warily - a witty motto regarding caltrops!

Thanks for the brilliant contribution, Norman!


Best,
m
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Old 15th November 2012, 07:55 PM   #13
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A drastic illustration of the tactical effect of caltrops is shown in an illustrated manuscript "Kriegstechnik" of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich Switzerland, inventory Ms. Rh. hist. 33b, dating to the 15th century on page 49r.

Page no. 115v illustrates their effect on horses.

The caltrops shown are a similar type achored in the ground with a wooden stick.

This caltrops are very effective as the soles of shoes worn by soldiers or warrios that time had only one single or sometimes a double layer of soft leather with a thickness of max. 3-4 mm in total. It must be very demoralizing when watching your comrades in front of you running through such a mined field - knowing that you also must pass it.
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Old 16th November 2012, 01:54 PM   #14
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Another two illustrations of the use of caltrops.

The first one is from Conrad Kyesers Bellifortis from 1460 showing two differnet types - and - protective iron soles.

The second illustration is also a Conrad Kyesers Bellifortis issue from 1411 also showing two different types as well as the arrow types with their wooden base for mounting into the ground. You can imagine, when this devices are rigidly fixed to the ground it will take much longer and will hold the attacked person much longer back than the lose ones.
The red dressed guy obviously drives a heavy barrel over the devices in order to dismantle the caltrops.

N.B. On this image you can see that the men are only wearing tights - probably with a thin leather sole sewn on the sole under the feet.
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Old 16th November 2012, 04:21 PM   #15
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Most interesting.
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Old 5th October 2013, 10:25 PM   #16
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From today I can protect my little front garden with my reconstructed caltrops.

But I wonder what this huge caltrops are for? They have an over all heigth of approx. 30-35 cm, dated to 16th century and they are on display at Nationalmuseet Copenhagen, Denmark. For human feet they are definitively too large and for horses they seem to me too fragile, probably their aim is to massively harm tumbled men or horses?
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Old 6th October 2013, 07:19 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andi
From today I can protect my little front garden reconstructed caltrops.

But I wonder what this huge caltrops are for? They have an over all heigth of approx. 30-35 cm, dated to 16th century and they are on display at Nationalmuseet Copenhagen, Denmark. For human feet they are definitively too large and for horses they seem to me too fragile, probably their aim is to massively harm tumbled men or horses?



Maybe they are much older than we have assumed - Jurassic and meant to trouble Dinosaurs like T-Rex?

Seriously, I guess you are completely right and they were meant to harm heavy cold-blooded horses.

m
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Old 6th October 2013, 12:35 PM   #18
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Or for people (soldiers) body to fall on them ?
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Old 6th October 2013, 05:08 PM   #19
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... especially with their feet clad with thin leather only!

This of course was the main intention for throwing caltrops on a battle field, 'Nando. I, just as Andi, was only worrying about the unusual dimensions of the samples he posted.
Is it possible that yiou are trying to put us on the scrap heap with those, Andi? .


Best,
Michl
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Old 13th March 2014, 02:53 PM   #20
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I boughed this nice example from an Uk auction.
Rather terrifying to imagine these things deployed in action.

Is there also a record of them beeing "dipped" in waste to ensure an infection after encountering such a device? Though seriously injured, you might escape to fight another day.

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Old 25th March 2014, 03:59 PM   #21
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A better picture of my caltrop with very nice patina

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Old 25th March 2014, 08:35 PM   #22
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NATURES CALTROPS, MINERAL, PLANT AND ANIMAL
#1 & #2. THORNS OF THE HONEY LOCUST I HAVE SEEN THEM UP TO 10 INCHES LONG AND THEY WORK WELL IN PIT TRAPS LARGE OR SMALL. ARROW POINTS, POISON DARTS AND FISH GIGS ARE EASILY MADE AS WELL.
#3. MUREX SHELL NOT TO BE STEPPED ON WHILE WADEING BAREFOOT
#4. SEA URCHIN, THIS KIND DOES HAVE POISON AND WILL BREAK OFF IN WOUNDS. I KNOW THEM TO BE VERY PAINFUL.
#5. QUARTZ CRYSTALS THESE AS WELL AS MANY OTHER FORMS WOULD BE PAINFUL TO WALK ON BAREFOOT.
#6. CACTUS

MANY PLANTS HAVE SPIKED OR BURRED SEED PODS TO HELP SPREAD THE SEEDS. THORNS ON THE PLANT ARE MOSTLY FOR PROTECTION. CACTUS SPINES ARE A GOOD EXAMPLE.
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Old 27th March 2014, 06:12 PM   #23
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I like the pics, Barry. Very natural and relaxing...in a way! Interesting to see how ethnographic people incorporated natural resources into their weaponry, such a water caltrops, shark's teeth swords and spears, etc. The pic of the wicked-looking thorn trees reminds me of readings about the pre-contact Figians and Solomon Islands people. They built their fortresses out of nearly non-penetrable hoary spined tropical trees and thorn trunks. A definite discouragement for entering!
Mark
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Old 1st April 2014, 01:18 AM   #24
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I REMEMBER IN MANY OLD BOOKS ABOUT AFRICA THE SAFARI OFTEN BUILT A ENCLOSURE OF THORN BUSHES AROUND THE CAMP AT NIGHT TO KEEP OUT LIONS AND ENEMYS. THEY CALLED IT A BOMBA I SUSPECT IT WAS LIKELY NOT FICTION BUT COMMON PRACTICE WHERE SUCH THORN BUSHES OR TREES WERE AVAILABLE.
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Old 1st April 2014, 07:43 PM   #25
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Here is an other example for a simple and easy to build natural defensive armor similar to chevaux de frise. Made of the stems of fir trees (Abies) with shortened and pointed branches. A drawing in Jörg Kölderer: Befestigungen in Südtirol und Friaul. Tyrol, ca. 1508. ONB Vienna, HAD Cod. 2858, Folio 21r.
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Old 17th September 2014, 05:31 AM   #26
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Default Caltrops in WW 1

Greetings all,
I recently came upon this photo of two Canadian soldiers standing by boards with Caltrops set in. It is a World War One photo, the caltrops were set by the retreating German Army in 1917. The photo caption said that the caltrops were not very effective.
Best regards to all,
Brian
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Last edited by fernando : 17th September 2014 at 05:32 PM. Reason: image direction
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