Author Topic: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon  (Read 14155 times)

Offline Knecht

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Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« on: August 03, 2015, 04:03:40 PM »
 
Made two "plumbata" darts, more will follow. These were late Roman throwing weapons and most of the originals had barbed points. However, customer asked for leaf point for easier pulling from the target. As you can see, these darts had a lead weight cast around the head's socket, which  is what gave them the name. They were carried on the inner side of a shield, making each soldier capable of causing damage to enemy on short range distance. I doubt the darts were immediately deadly (although I'm sure some lucky hits occured now and then), but with the barbed points they surely were annoying and could cause nasty infected wounds, excluding the wounded from next battle, which was likely the point. A couple hundred of these hitting an enemy formation at short distance might have also caused quite a mess and chaos. With the lead weight, they have surprising impact and penetrating power with just a lazy, untrained throw. Even untrained individual (aka me, testing them after they were finished) was able to hit a 40x60cm target at about 25m. I'm used to throw axe and trench shovel, so I may not be so completely untrained, but this is somewhat different, as you need to consider sort of ballistic curve to your throw, it's not just straight flight. Considering this weapon was rather ment to be thrown unaimed into enemy ranks in large quantities, I think it was quite effective for what it was and what it cost.
I'll make a set of these for myself and train with them some more. Not a bad thing to know for a survival situation I think. 

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Offline archer

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2015, 05:08:27 PM »
those are cool. just like ancient lawn darts..


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Offline rogersorders

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2015, 05:22:07 PM »
just like ancient lawn darts..

I knew they reminded me of something. Pretty cool project.
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Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2015, 06:20:43 PM »
The difference is, these were thrown like an axe or a knife. Not like a current bar dart. (not sure how a lawn dart is thrown, never saw those). They rotated before the weight and fletches stabilized them and aimed the point forward. It's flight is unlike anything I ever saw. Sort of like a 5,45x39 bullet flight and impact completely reversed. A 5.45 bullet flies straight, then rotating once it hits a target. Plumbata rotates at start, then flies straight and hits straight.
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Offline TexDaddy

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2015, 08:02:13 PM »
Lawn Darts, not safe for kids.  :o https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawn_darts
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Offline Cedar

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2015, 08:05:50 PM »
I think I have seen something similar to those at SCA events. Nice work there.. good job

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Offline mxitman

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2015, 08:16:19 PM »

Lawn darts, are similar to the ancient Roman plumbata. they were popular here in the US as an outdoor family game, thrown underhand in an arc. Too many kids got hurt over the years and one little girl died in 1987 so they eventually got banned. They have a cult following, and can see high prices for complete sets when they can be found.

I love what you made, those would be cool to have and practice with.

Offline David in MN

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2015, 08:22:40 PM »
I'm imagining the horror of a unit of 100 Romans (Centurians, get it?) each chucking 5 of these at my group. 500 nasty little darts before the fight really begins.

I think we gloss over how quick and efficient the old world killing machines were.
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Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2015, 09:22:26 PM »
I think we gloss over how quick and efficient the old world killing machines were.

I think about this a lot. There were some really brutal and effective methods of battle back in the day.


Offline Marinesg1012

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2015, 12:26:51 AM »
I'm imagining the horror of a unit of 100 Romans (Centurians, get it?) each chucking 5 of these at my group. 500 nasty little darts before the fight really begins.

I think we gloss over how quick and efficient the old world killing machines were.

Plus their throwing spears which were designed to bend after impact so they couldnt be thrown back, and of course the entire purpose of the system was to close with and STAB the enemy in the gut.
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Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2015, 03:08:29 AM »
I searched for the lawn darts on Wiki and looks like parts for assembling lawn darts are still legal to import to the US. So, even if someone was worried about their stuff getting identified as lawn darts and seized by custom office, I can just simply send you unassembled set of these and let you put the heads on shafts.
I see massmade blumbata offered as high as $50-60 around the web. My handmade beauties are $22 each, or $10 for a finished point, if you decided to make the shaft by yourself. Barbed or non barbed point upon demand. Let me know.

I saw people throwing plumbatai both underhand and overhead, some say the underhand throw gives longest range, as far as 90m or so.
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Offline theBINKYhunter

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2015, 07:55:18 AM »
Woah... you're selling them? I may have to get one... you know... for history's sake...


Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2015, 09:22:04 AM »
These are the first I made, I make most stuff for custom orders, don't keep much in stock. I already have another guy asking for couple more, so I may as well make a bunch for others. Just PM me.
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Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2015, 06:45:10 PM »
Looks like I'll be making some more, this time the demand was for not necesarily authentic ones, rather durable. So I've been thinking about using fiberglass rod for the shafts (delrin rods also came to my mind) and some artificial material for fletching as well. I know good ductape can make pretty good fletching (tried it), but I'm afraid it won't look very professional. Usual arrow vanes are too small. Leather is hard to attach that way. Any ideas?
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Offline Elwyn

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2015, 01:28:23 AM »
Looks kind of like a Japanese uchi ne. They are like a short javelin about 18 inches long. Used by nobles.

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Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #15 on: September 27, 2015, 05:59:45 PM »
I believe those Japanese weapons were ment to be thrown like a javelin or a current bar dart, right? Plumbata is thrown more like an axe or similar unballanced weapon (just flies much further), it makes couple turns before it's stabilized.
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Offline iam4liberty

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #16 on: September 27, 2015, 06:49:33 PM »
Looks like I'll be making some more, this time the demand was for not necesarily authentic ones, rather durable. So I've been thinking about using fiberglass rod for the shafts (delrin rods also came to my mind) and some artificial material for fletching as well. I know good ductape can make pretty good fletching (tried it), but I'm afraid it won't look very professional. Usual arrow vanes are too small. Leather is hard to attach that way. Any ideas?

Any reason for not using a more solid material for fletching?   Joerg Sprave from the sling shot channel has been experimenting with such designs:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=U36ZDL2ZEmw
https://youtube.com/#/watch?v=-GdvIrNl8LY

Offline Knecht

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Re: Roman plumbata darts - interesting ancient weapon
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2016, 07:10:32 PM »
Here's my latest batch of plumbatai. It's Gen3, with thicker point material, wider socket and thus thicker shaft, with better shaft wood (beech vs. previous pine/spruce). Still required authentic looks of these, so they have natural feather fletching and nice natural linen thread binding. Lead weights are now cast onto the heads in a 2-piece wooden mold, making them all the same weight and shape.
On the photo, they are accompanied by some roman cavalry throwing javelin heads. Nothing fancy, just a field weapon, most likely one-time deal. Unlike the infantry and their heavy, long-headed pilum, light cavalry had just common javelins with small heads and a leaf-shaped blade. Carried in a large quiver by the saddle. I have one of these heads left, somewhat shorter than these (about 21cm overall), if someonenwas interested.
The modern version of plumbata dart I've mentioned earlier didn't really happen, the customer changed his mind and went period-correct in the end.
Took the picture address from my G+ page, hop it's visible.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2016, 07:21:01 PM by Knecht »
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