Full Version: Plumbata
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47
Doesn't it all depend on the tactical situation and what you are trying to achieve? If you want to create confusion in the enemy's rear ranks, an under-hand throw, lobbed over the heads to the front ranks, seems to be indicated. On the other hand, an over-hand throw would seem to be more accurate, if directed at the enemy's front rank or a charging horseman. Vegetius seems to imply the latter:

'If soldiers throw them at the right moment, it seems almost as if shield-bearing infantry are imitating the role of archers. For they wound the enemy and his horses before they can get not merely to close quarters, but even within range of javelins.' (Veg. 1.17 - Milner's translation)

However, he does not rule out the alternative.

Incidentally, Robert, your last post merely repeated Brucicus' earlier one, without adding a comment of your own. What's that all about?
(12-19-2018, 12:12 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]Doesn't it all depend on the tactical situation and what you are trying to achieve? If you want to create confusion in the enemy's rear ranks, an under-hand throw, lobbed over the heads to the front ranks, seems to be indicated. On the other hand, an over-hand throw would seem to be more accurate, if directed at the enemy's front rank or a charging horseman. Vegetius seems to imply the latter:

'If soldiers throw them at the right moment, it seems almost as if shield-bearing infantry are imitating the role of archers,. For they wound the enemy and his horses before they can get not merely to close quarters, but even within range of javelins.' (Veg. 1.17 - Milner's translation)

Well exactly, I could not have put that better. Actually I tried to, in a lot more words, in my answer above/ Smile

(12-19-2018, 12:12 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]Incidentally, Robert, your last post merely repeated Brucicus' earlier one, without adding a comment of your own. What's that all about?

I reply to get the html of the text, which I then copy in Word, before pasting it back here. You caught me while I was actually busy writing the answer (got away with it so far).
Maybe I should enter a short tekst while answering, to prevent confusion. Wink
(12-19-2018, 01:34 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: [ -> ]I reply to get the html of the text, which I then copy in Word, before pasting it back here. You caught me while I was actually busy writing the answer

I can see why you would click on 'Reply' to get the text and then work on it (I do that) but surely there is no need to post it. Incidentally, there is a 'Quote' button that does not seem to work. Is that right?
(12-19-2018, 10:38 AM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: [ -> ]
(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]You are missing the point.  

Oh I hope not – every plumbata has one. Smile

I appreciate the humor.  The point still remains missed.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]Whether thrown UH or OH the plumbata will have fletching impacting its flight.  So, what makes a dart with fletching fly further when thrown UH than a dart with fletching when thrown OH as you claim?  They both, when properly thrown will have identical launch attitudes, i.e,  point forward, tilted upwards.  

The certainly start point forward, but then the tail starts to overtake them until the flights correct that – the ‘righting itself’ – happens both with UH as well as OH throws. Of course you can judge that ‘poorly executed throws’   that is not what I stated about 'poorly executed throws'   but I’ve seen that happen also in the videos of people who reach up to 80 meters. That may be due to how hard they can throw – I never claimed I was Olympic quality, quite the opposite – or how their plumbatae were constructed. There is not ONE plumbata type, weights differ wildly. Of my own versions I throw very light ones and commercial ones with a totally different weight distribution – and it shows.

Robert:  Frankly, if you can't properly throw overhand, why are you conducting these tests?  Even worse, why do you defend your results as being valid or at least in conformance with other test results?  And then to use those results to make definitive statements about how the darts were thrown in Roman times is not supportable.  It is like asking someone who has never ridden a bike to compare the speed of a bicycle to a tricycle.  The tricycle will win, right? Because the guy keeps falling off the bike. That is what you are doing. [Image: tongue.png]And, based on the videos I have seen, what others have done in their research.  That's why I entered the discussion originally.

I have thrown all my life, taught throwing to countless kids.  I've won championships as a player and as a coach. I am able to look at a thrower's motion and accurately predict future physical problems based on their mechanics. I've thrown plumbata-like devices an order of magnitude more than you have.  I bring experience and knowledge. If I were you, and if you are truly interested in researching the past, then I  would listen closely to what I am being told.  You don't have to believe it, but it should open one's eyes to potential problems with one's assumptions and may allow you to craft future experiments that have some validity.

Overhand throwing is one of the few physical things humans can do better than anything else in the animal kingdom...but it is not simple.  Underhand is simple.  Apes do it.  Overhand is complex, and studies indicate that learning to throw that way needs to start at a young age.  That comports to my experience trying to teach adults how to throw.  Having five more people who can't throw perform your tests is just a waste of time.  Find a baseball or cricket team to recruit throwers from.  When I asked you about your throwing experience you admitted that you are not an Olympian in that regard.  I take from that response that you have zero throwing background.  And you are qualified to discuss this topic how??  I truly don't mean to be insulting, I just really want to know.[Image: smile.png]

BTW, did you ever do a search on 'lawn darts'?  Someone interested in plumbatae would do that as a matter of course, I would think.  The ones with the sharp metal points are no longer allowed but one can find pictures of them on-line quite easily.  The legal ones have soft tips and would be ideal to use for testing battle scenarios.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]So I claim directly comparable real world experience.  In fact, I may have more experience throwing plumbata-like objects than anyone on this thread.  

LOL. I know (of) lawn darts, but I’ve never seen them around here. That website denies me access btw.
I don’t know how lawn darts differ from plumbata reproductions, but I’m not optimistic about straight comparisons. Once a guy told me about modern darts being ‘the same as plumbatae’, so UH throws were silly according to him, ‘because everyone knows that darts are thrown OH’.

Btw, how did you throw the lawn dart? How did you hold it?

Not sure what your LOL meant.  I do indeed believe that I have more experience in that regard than anyone I've seen post in this thread.  I was not joking

The lawn dart is held in both UH and OH methods the same way, by holding the shaft in your palm behind the fletching.  UH the thrower's palm will be facing inward  (like it is when carrying a suitcase) throughout the throw, dart pointing to the ground.   OH, at the start of the throwing motion the throwing arm is fully extended behind you with the palm facing upward with the tip pointed backwards.  That allows the shoulder and arm to rotate and align properly to be able to move into the next stage of the motion, which is known as cocking the arm.  In a properly cocked position the dart's fletching will actually be facing upwards and somewhat forward (towards the enemy).  I haven't gone into supination and pronation, loading and releasing the hips, loading and releasing the shoulders, proper follow-through and body alignment, leg drive, and more because that doesn't translate well on paper.  Much more easily understood in the doing.  When throwing OH you use more leverage (there is no cocked position in UH, thus less torsion) and more muscle groups than UH.

I’m not going deeper into our ballistics discussion because either I do not understand enough about the physics behind it, or I don’t seem to be able to explain why I have a different view on that particular subject. To me you can’t discuss the behavior of a plumbata comparing it to a ball, whereas you seem to hold the view that you can. Let’s agree to disagree here and focus on other details.

As mentioned, I have long experience with throwing balls, stones, and devices extraordinarily similar to plumbatae.  And I understand the physics, too.  Wise move giving up that line of discussion.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]I'll attempt to clarify my thinking, (not always a successful venture): A dart thrown overhand or underhand, with equal amounts of energy (forward, angular, lateral momentum), with equal environmental factors, and launched with the same trajectory will land in the same place. Basic physics supports my claim, I believe.

I think the detail in that statement is ‘with the same trajectory’. This is where, in my humble experience, the differences between OH and UH occur? An OH throw has the hand deliver a different (actually more) force than it does with an UH throw.    Different force??  What does that mean?  Are you meaning a whole new type of force or are you meaning to imply a different force vector, or just the amount of force?.      I should use a high-speed camera (if I had one) to look at the difference, but I would suggest (hope it’s correct) that the UH throw naturally takes the plumbata more upwards, and the OH throw takes it more forward? This is were the energy is delivered right? That final flick of the wrist? 
You are on the right path here.  The final wrist flick shouldn't exist in UH throwing. In fact, it will hurt your accuracy because the wrist flick UH (a side to side motion of the wrist when throwing UH)  greatly alters the trajectory (steepens) without adding much power, if any.  OH throwing, the final wrist flick is vital.  In that position the wrist flick is like knocking on a door.  Much more power.  When I teach throwing I get the students to feel the power delivery moving from their feet, legs, hips, torso, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. 
If you just accept that you are a crappy OH thrower you won't have to try and come up with some attribute of darts that changes based on throwing motion.  Angel

If you throw anything on an upward trajectory it will go up.  The UH throw will result in a flat trajectory if your release point is low enough.  Thus the problem with my pal Flavius Targetus standing in front of me. That your arm in an UH throw is moving upwards facilitates a higher (but with less energy) throw than an OH throw which is moving the stored energy directly along the launch vector.  But you are starting to get it.  Think this way, OH my throwing force is all directed forward, in the direction of the throw. UH, the energy of the force is actually moving upward and only some of that energy is transmitted to the thrown object.  Note that after throwing UH your arm/hand still continues to rise.  That is energy not released into the thrown object.  Contrast that when throwing OH  your arm automatically drops.  Why? Because it has given all its energy to the object.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]I also maintain that dart could be thrown en masse, overhand, from formation to a distance farther than that attainable by spear/javelin.

There we agree fully.  What??? How did that happen??

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]That's why I reduced the speed by 20%.   /quote]

Alright, you did not mention that, only ‘modern horse’. I would say a reduction of 30-50% would be more accurate, given that the horse was not fresh out of the stables either.
Maybe I should take off a few more % because the horse may be having an off day or their shakras aren't aligned.  Wink

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]Are you maintaining that enemy cavalry forces didn't attempt to break up formations?  Roman squares, Wellington's squares, the enemy charged them both.  If the Roman's formation cracks then the, say, Gothic cavalry wouldn't be in among them?  

No, I did not say that – they charged them when weakened. Plenty of examples exist indeed of enemy cavalry charging Roman infantry, but when not weakened these always held out. Horses are not easy to train and although you can train a horse to charge straight into a group of armed men (I’ve been part of such training) it would cost you the horse (and the rider) without guarantee of success. It’s a myth that cavalry is there to ‘charge the enemy line’. I know of a 6th-c. battle of 100 Roman infantry against Persian cavalry more than 6 times their number. They held out for hours and only succumbed when the Persians dismounted.

Cavalry keeps up the pressure with higher tactical speed, suppressing enemy light troops from coming forward – and of course countering enemy cavalry. Only armoured cavaly (with armoured horses) are meant to harass the infantry up close and personal, with their long lances (7 foot) keeping out of range if possible. Only when the line greaks is cavalry sent in to break ranks, but that’s a gamble. After the enemy breaks the cavalry really comes into play by attacking the fleeing troops – and that is the moment where the casualties fall, not before.
This is standard Roman tactics btw, and it goes for a lot of their enemies as well.

What are ‘Roman squares’ btw? I mean getting into a tight formation for defense against cavalry, lances/pikes/bayonets facing outward.  You mean the manipular organization or the later Roman organization? They are not comparable to Napoleonic squared or the pike infantry that went before it.   I disagree.  Let's save that for a different discussion.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]OK, now I am confused, did the enemy charge or not charge?  

There are a number of phases in a battle, requiring different counter-measures. I’m talking Late Roman army here - simplified of course (I know this will draw criticim from people who know more about the subject):
1 – after the march to the battlefield, the army is drawn up into the respective battle positions. No enemy contact.
2 – the first contact, usually by arrows, is met by archers. If you have no achers, reaction requires the first shield-wall formation (static) with the first four ranks holding their shields in front and above (a fulcum). Usually cavalry is deployed now to force archers/slingers back behind their own infantry.
3 – First use of plumbatae – if the cavalry comes to close or attempts a charge while the infantry is still deploying). This would be an OH throw straight into the attackers.
4 – closing with the enemy. Romans would await an enemy coming to them, again by an OH plumbata throw from at least the front ranks. I don’t believe in any ‘rotation schemes’ of people throwing and running back while their comrades throw the next ones. Either the darts are passed forward for a next throw, or they throw their 5 darts and that’s it.
5 – closing with an enemy that will not come forward required the mobile shield wall (confusingly also named fulcum), that resembled the old testudo. Suppressing fire (UH plumbatae and archers/slingers would fire over their heads.
6 – infantry main battle. Suppressing fire (UH plumbatae and archers/slingers would fire over their heads.
Some phases could be repeated, or interspaced with cavalry attacks – see above. Mostly one army pulled back or broke, after which the cavalry was the main actor.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]I bet he still went home and continued to spout his unfounded opinion anyway, knowing him.

Two things abou that. By PM, as it’s unrelated to this discussion.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]Soccer comes from the term 'association football'

I know. It just comes across as odd to hear a sport that’s being played worldwide under the name ‘football’ being referred to as something else in one single country, who adopted the name for a different game. Why did they not name it ‘American rugby’ or something like that? Crickets in cricket? Yikes! Smile

American 'Football' predates the European version.  Typical, the Americans are nice to the Europeans by not insisting they name their new sport something not already in use, and we get belittled for it.

I sometimes use this example when discussions are getting off the tracks due to misunderstandings about terminology.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]you reported a following wind (I didn't see wind speed in your report, I'll look again later).  A following wind will carry a higher shot farther than a lower shot.  

It does. Despite not having a wind meter I know the wind was not significant enough to influence the test results. Yet you mention the wind in your document  as having ruined some throws.  Is this also a  due to shortcomings in your English?

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]You also state that the UH method obtained marginally more distance that the OH...yet the farthest throw of DK1 was overhanded.  I know...outlier. /quote]

Actually I blame the lower distance achieved on me getting tired. Your report stated that you were not fatigued (relying on memory for that) After a certain amount of throws you see the distances dropping, which is when I stop. Repeating the test with UH throws first may show a difference, I must try that.
(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]It was great that you included your poor throwing technique as one potential influencing factor on your results.

But of course. I’m no athlete and not having other people taking part in these tests can really make a difference where conclusions come into play.
I’m planning to do a test with 15 plumbata types and at least 5 people, each test throwing one type at least 5 times. Testing is actually quite dull, and one walks up and down a lot retrieving the darts.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]In your report you stated that: 'No wobbling, turning over in flight or similarly unstable behaviour could be observed.'  I must be mis-reading something because it seems that you maintained the opposite in your past couple of responses to me.  Something about the fletching 'righting' the plumbatae.  

See? terminology confusion. My English is not perfect.  
By 'wobbling' I mean wildly erratic behaviour throughout the flight. 
By 'turning over in flight' I mean the dart making a complete 360 in the air. Some darts do this, especially the old Indian reproductions who seem to have an iron rod in the wooden shaft. It prevents breaking but messes up flights.
By 'righting itself' I mean the characteristic behaviour described above, where the dart, after the launch, has the tail attempting to overtake the head.

You mention this frequently.  The tail is not trying to overtake the head because the head is where most of the mass (energy) is.  The fletching allows the dart/arrow to resist lateral, angular and environmental forces (yawing, wind, ) and keep the sharp point directed at the enemy. This is fundamental.

(12-18-2018, 06:13 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]Say hello to Sinter Klaas for me.
Nicolaas has already left the country on December 6th, so that’ll have to wait until next year Wink
I hope you got some nice new wooden shoes!  I still have mine from my childhood. And not the cheesy tourist painted ones either. Doesn't Nicolaas have some creepy friend?  What is up with that?

Too bad we can't argue in person while drinking beer and enjoying rijstafel (sp?).

Renatus:  You have it precisely.  When the only throwing option was a lob, they lobbed.

Correction to my previous post:
When throwing the dart OH the tip of the dart in the cocked position will point upwards and just above and behind the thrower's head. The thrower should be standing sideways to the target.

I must've been having an LSD flashback when I wrote that about the fletching. ;-o
This looks like a good picture of a lawn dart.

(12-19-2018, 09:32 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]This looks like a good picture of a lawn dart.

That is it!  Thank you, Renatus.  Once I get used to the forum engine I'll be more facile in attaching images.
They came in various colors.  It was a kid's toy and the object was to get more darts to land in the ring ... but boys will be boys and we found other, more er. challenging ways to utilize them. I have 3 brothers....  Recipe for disaster, but we all made it out alive and only scarred mentally. One interesting application of the darts ended up piercing my buddy, Mike Bailey's, foot.

I believe that that dart is a very good proxy for a plumbata.  I think the manufacturer even admitted/advertising having used the plumbata as a model.

I'd be interested in seeing objections to using soft-tipped versions for determining flight characteristics, e.g. relative distance of different throwing methods, relative accuracy.  I think one could alter their weight with minimal impact on flight behavior through the use of lead tape or lead-core fishing line, but I can't be sure until I have some in hand.  I can envision some cool reenactments testing tactical assumptions using a whole bunch of the sort-tipped ones.
There is a nice PhD thesis in this maybe and could potentially add a lot to the state of knowledge of this vitally important subject. Angel

After that we tackle peace in the Middle East... Heart

Happy Christmas, Renatus
(12-19-2018, 11:07 PM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]Happy Christmas, Renatus

Thank you. The same to you and Robert and everyone else.
Here is a study that confirms all I have claimed about proper throwing technique:

Subjects untrained in throwing were given capable instruction and supervised practice for a month.  Their progress was measured throughout the course of the project. 
Bottom line - proper throwing technique allowed subjects to about double their initial (untrained) throws.

I consider this to be the stake in the heart of any reasonable counter-argument.

Sorry that the established science has turned out to be rubbish.  At least now we have the opportunity to set the record straight and re-assess the conclusions based on improperly designed and misguided 'scientific' studies.  That makes this a good day, right?

Do I get a PhD now?  How about a cookie?  Reputation points? Don't make me beg. ;-)

Frohes Fest und Einen Guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!

So how did the Roman Army really use plumbatae in battle? 
Although new, informed,  testing has yet to begin, let us assume that proper overhand throwing allows for more distance and better accuracy than underhanded throws so that we can theorize how plumbatae may have actually been employed on the battlefield.  As part of this think piece I am including my thoughts on what would constitute the perfect plumbata for each battle situation.  If the archaeological record should produce plumbatae corresponding to the idealized types, then that may give us basis to infer the battle technique for which they were employed.

Against Approaching Enemy

Enemy at extreme plumbata range 
With  the overhand throw offering more reach than earlier assumed attainable, adversaries would be engaged sooner (i.e. when farther away).  In coordination with archery units, skilled plumbata use could be an effective force multiplier.  One example: Roman archery could, given favorable battlefield conditions, act against enemy bowmen in 'counter battery' suppressive fire while skirmishers or other troops move in close enough to quickly launch dart after dart into the infantry or perhaps, cavalry masses, using the weapon's reach as a buffer against sudden attack.  Another example:  Archery providing high-angled plunging fire forcing enemy shields up while the darts arrive at a lower angle, forcing enemy shields down.  A 1-2 punch of that nature would severely impede or could even discourage the progress of an attacking force, I conject.  It was certainly advantageous for the Romans to keep the adversary in the killing zone for as long as possible.  A bigger kill box does precisely that.

En masse delivery of plumbatae to their extreme ranges thrown overhand can be delivered by troops assembled in a somewhat 'loose' formation, e.g. quincunx or, because the overhand method, unlike the previously espoused method, requires little space side-to-side, with only slightly increased spacing in files.  Being in close proximity offers the advantage of rapid reassembly in the face of an onrushing foe.

Underhand distance throwing would require much looser 'formations' than overhand.  The very nature of the underhand throw relegates it to being a front-line-only weapon when reach is required; as stated in a previous post, a launch angle of approx. 12 degrees is required for a plumbata to clear an obstacle 170cm tall 4 meters in front of the thrower, the number I use to represent the height of an average Roman soldier (I name him Flavius Targetus).  With 4 meters between lines we are looking at huge, loose formations that complicate the process of quick reassembly. 

Frankly, I see no advantage that the underhanded throw offers for combat at extreme range, and I therefore conclude they were not thrown in that manner for this battle situation.

Plumbata implications:  If I were to develop a plumbata specifically for long distance attacks it would have a long wooden shaft (by plumbata standards) and a shorter than standard (yes, I know there are no real plumbata "standards") metal shank leading from the weight to the arrowhead.  Why? In an overhand throw the length of the shaft essentially extends the length of your arm, i.e. your leverage, just as an atlatl does.  The farther out you move the center of mass, the more energy it develops when thrown.  The shorter metal arrow shank moves more mass closer to the end of the dart, thereby maximizing energy potential (and distance) in a tradeoff for some penetration depth capability. 

Enemy at Medium Range

As the adversary approaches to a distance just outside of pilum/franziska/javelin range, archers stationed to the rear of the Roman formation may find it difficult to bring the enemy in battery for direct fire due to not being able to find a safe shooting lane, or in some cases may lose complete sight of the enemy due to the nature of the terrain, enemy fire, and/or the archers' positioning.  The same impediments may make their plunging fire difficult and ineffective as well.  In this situation, the overhand thrown plumbata can essentially, as Vegetius alludes, replace archers.  At medium distances the Romans would have tightened their formations in anticipation of a charge, ruling out en masse underhand throws.  Direct, aimed fire as well as high-arced plunging fire are both quite attainable with the overhand throw at medium distances, from formation, so that one-two punch mentioned above could still be delivered.  While en masse throwing would predominate this battle phase, I believe that, at this distance, it was quite possible that certain individual enemy targets were prioritized for 'sniping'.  (As an aside, I expect accuracy tests at all distances using overhand delivery will surprise those of you unfamiliar with the method. We'll see.)

Lobbed (underhanded) throws from the rear of the Roman formation were certainly a possibility, but they would need a fair amount of space to launch them, thus keeping their numbers and their potential effectiveness low.  As that method offers no particular advantage and only disadvantages, I do not believe that underhand throws were used in that battle situation.

Plumbata implications:
Designing darts for this situation I would end up with a dart shorter than the above, but with a longer metal arrowhead shaft and more added weight.  Distance isn't the main concern, it's accuracy and impact that matter now. The heavier weight makes up somewhat for the dart's shorter length, and the shorter length also helps in en
masse throwing from formation.  The lengthened arrowhead shank is for enhanced penetration
This dart would also suffice in meeting the requirements of a plunging fire missile:  A high arcing throw expends much of its energy in the ascension.  For it to be effective as a weapon of war it must recapture as much of the spent energy as possible via the fall to the target.  The extra weight allows the dart to accelerate downwards towards terminal velocity faster than a lighter one, resulting in higher impact and more penetration.

Enemy at Close Range
As the adversary closes to within pilum range and then on to the press of spear-against-shield, both overhand and underhand methods have their place. 

In a close Roman shieldwall formation, I believe that a version of the overhand throw that I describe as a 'flick' may have been used.  The 'flick' is simply an abridgement of the complete, proper overhand throw, but eliminating the initial reach-back and subsequently eliminating the need for a follow through.  The 'flick' is accomplished by grasping the dart on the shaft behind the fletching (true for all methods mentioned here) so that the dart is pointed up.) Facing the enemy, raise your throwing arm so that your elbow is the same height as your shoulder, then simply snap your arm forward and flick the wrist toward your target.  Basically, it is the same motion as pub darts, but because you are holding it by the shaft behind the fletching (like holding an ice cream cone)... and because the dart's mass is out towards the other, pointy end, enough energy is developed to get off a quick, accurate (in a Roman context) strike that might dissuade your not-so-friendly Goth buddy 5 meters away from continuing to try and puncture you with his spear.  With timely communications, second, third and maybe fourth lines could, I conjecture, coordinate on the spot to keep up timely, deadly, harassing fire literally into the faces of their enemies.     

At the same time as the front ranks are engaged, the rearmost ranks would be lobbing plumbatae underhanded onto the enemies back ranks.  In this situation, these plumbateers  could be formed more tightly side-to-side (but still trying to be far enough away from the ranks in front) because the underhand lob is a close-up precision throw and the proper technique for that throw keeps your throwing hand close to your body throughout the delivery.  It's the bocce ball toss.  Testing has shown that this is the most precise way to hit nearby targets.  As distances grow, however, accuracy quickly diminishes.  But for close-in plunging fire this is the way to go.  And I imagine it would be very effective.  One can deliver high arcing  shots via the overhand throw AND achieve more height than with the underhand method, but accuracy is lost and, speaking personally, even as a young man, because it requires a sharp torso tilt and suffers from a lack of horizon for orientation, I got dizzy trying to do it more than a few times.  Others are more stalwart than I am, I am sure.

Both throwing methods, adapted to the short distances involved, offer unique capabilities that would be of great value in this battle situation.  I have no doubt that the lobs occurred, but the 'flicks' are just supposition based on my knowledge of throwing and belief that necessity is the mother of invention was as true under the Romans as it is today. 

Plumbata implications:
The best dart, to my mind, for the close-in, direct, "flick" attack would need to be short for ease of use in close quarters.  It wouldn't need much weight added to it because it doesn't have far to go and it is not expected to deliver a forceful impact.  I can only speculate what an optimal arrowhead and shank design would be.  I think it would probably be just a more delicate version of the others.

For the plumbatae lobbed underhanded into the enemy's rear, I would think that they would be given substantially more weight and that the wooden shaft would be somewhat more substantial to allow better purchase on the grip so to avoid friendly fire due to sweaty palms/poor throws and to withstand the higher forces that the additional weight brings into play.

I hope this make sense.  Any thoughts the community wishes to share gratefully accepted.  I don't intend for this list to be inclusive of all battle situations.  More just capturing a string of thoughts.

{This discussion has certainly woken up...} - and a question springs to mind; given the discourse on 'overhand' vs 'underhand':

- Whilst I'm aware of, really, only one style of 'underhand' (with, or without, imparting a spin) - where I've thrown balls, lawn darts and even 'normal' darts that way on occasion...

What, precisely, is the version of 'overhand' being suggested (or perhaps more than one)?  I ask that having also thrown balls; for range; for pitching (softball rather than baseball); English style bowling; the classic circular overhand for grenade throwing; pub darts; and sport javelins - all of which are actually rather different in technique.

And, thinking about it, if you have space on the spot (open-order or even soldier-level quincunx) then the plumbata could even lend itself to a circular-spin (cf discus) technique - I wonder what range could be achieved with that!
(12-24-2018, 02:56 PM)Mark Hygate Wrote: [ -> ]{This discussion has certainly woken up...} - and a question springs to mind; given the discourse on 'overhand' vs 'underhand':

- Whilst I'm aware of, really, only one style of 'underhand' (with, or without, imparting a spin) - where I've thrown balls, lawn darts and even 'normal' darts that way on occasion...

What, precisely, is the version of 'overhand' being suggested (or perhaps more than one)?  I ask that having also thrown balls; for range; for pitching (softball rather than baseball); English style bowling; the classic circular overhand for grenade throwing; pub darts; and sport javelins - all of which are actually rather different in technique.

And, thinking about it, if you have space on the spot (open-order or even soldier-level quincunx) then the plumbata could even lend itself to a circular-spin (cf discus) technique - I wonder what range could be achieved with that!

Mark: I am talking about standard overhand distance throwing, such as a baseball outfielder making a long throw to home plate.  That is the only proper overhand style for devices the size and weight of baseballs, softballs (not actually soft, btw) and plumbatae, really.  Everything else is just a modification of that motion imposed by the requirements of the sport (i.e. a cricket bowler's straight arm delivery is by rule) or by the peculiarities of the thrown device (long javelin, short pub dart). 

I don't understand what is meant by 'discuss throw'.  Plumbatae and discs are of much different design.  The fletching (or 'flights') already impart a spin around its long axis to the dart just as the rifling of a gun barrel imparts spin to a bullet.  If that is what you mean by spin, then it already occurs.  Rotation around the short axis would be disastrous to both the dart's distance capability and accuracy. Perhaps you are thinking of using a sling to achieve even greater distances?  There are parallels in history which suggest this is possible.  The use of atlatls would also extend range and were known to the Romans, I understand.

Softball pitching is underhand throwing, and the classic circular overhand grenade toss (just like a cricket bowler's delivery) hasn't been taught for grenade throwing since at least the 1970's, if not much earlier.  I assume your reference to 'English style bowling' is meant to describe cricket 'pitching'.  The only other forms of bowling of which I am aware, such as lawn, lane, and Kegeln, are all performed underhand.

Thanks for joining in!  I hope my responses clarify the issue for you.
Enjoy the Holidays!
Here is a short video illustrating proper technique without the encumbrance of technical jargon.

Here is a video showing two children demonstrating the overhand style.  The young lady actually demonstrates the wrong way to get into the ready position and if not corrected will lead to serious arm problems.  At the end of the short video the boy and girl throw simultaneously.  Note how the boy reaches as far back as he can with the ball before moving the arm forward and releasing the throw?  That is the proper way to perform the overhand throw.  He looks like a natural thrower.

And here is a video showing overhand throws as performed by the best throwers in the world.  Note how accurate one can be with this method. There are no restrictions in baseball as to how you throw, yet they all use the same form because it is the best when power and accuracy are required. Imagine a bunch of guys like this releasing dart after dart in your direction with malicious intent!

hope this helps you visualize what I am saying.

Merry Christmas,
I hope everyone has had a nice Christmas or whatever you celebrate this time of year. 

This video is very brief.  It shows a man throwing plumbata heads into a shed door. 
I hope it is his shed door.
 I can tell by the way he finishes his throws, when in frame, that he is throwing overhand.  I can't judge how mechanically sound he is, but he is getting his body into the throw.  Note that by necessity he is holding the arrowhead in his hand by the shank, not the held-in-the-fingers pub dart "push" style (which is only useful if you are fighting a battle down at the ol' Pig & Whistle!).  This grip allows him to take all the energy that has built up in his body and snap it into the dart head via the wrist and do so delivering all his energy towards the target.  
These are very broad heads and will not penetrate nearly as well as, say, a bodkin point on a narrow shank, a la pilum.  There is neither additional weight for impact nor fletching for guidance, so strikes are off the preferred strike angle.  But can you doubt that there is considerable power in such a delivery method?  Now add in the missing wooden shaft which would extend his throwing arc, again multiplying his force, the weight and fletching.... do you doubt that even those huge heads would have completely penetrated those doors?

Also, please take notice of how quickly he is able to get off those strong throws.


Built a plumbata (186g, 40cm)  and have been testing it today.

Underhand, my throws are consistently 31m.  Overhand I've been getting 45-47m regularly.  I sprained my knee during the testing (I am 67 and arthritic) so my eldest son took over.

His best UH throw was 51m, his overhand throws were all in the 57-60m range.  We had a headwind of 7mph to contend with.

While the difference is less than I had thought, we are still seeing about a  20% increase in distance with the overhand method.

I did notice much more initial instability at launch when thrown overhand.  Despite this, my son reported his overhand throws were more accurate than underhanded ones.

My conjecture is that the overhand release imparts so much energy that any aerodynamic flaws are exaggerated.  Because I used PVC pipe for the dart's body, I believe that I have too much mass in the shaft.  I plan on switching to thinner, lighter hardwood dowels for future tests.  I used PVC for strength in resisting breakage, but I think they are too thick and are causing problems.

So, at the very least the myth that overhand plumbata throws have a maximum range of 30m has been well and truly busted.

I am going to try to attach a photo of my plumbata.  I tried this 10 minutes ago and my whole message disappeared, so if that happens again I shall post without the photo.

Thanks all,
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47