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What this seems to demonstrate is the influence that the personal characteristics of the testers can have on the results. You have age and arthritis against you, so it would be interesting to know the age, general health and athletic prowess of your eldest son.
(12-29-2018, 08:14 AM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]What this seems to demonstrate is the influence that the personal characteristics of the testers can have on the results. You have age and arthritis against you, so it would be interesting to know the age, general health and athletic prowess of your eldest son.
Thanks Renatus, I agree with your conclusion. Let's get qualified people performing the tests. Now that the 30m myth has been shattered maybe researchers will improve their testing protocols.
MY eldest son is 28, great health and he knows proper throwing technique.  I am looking forward to watching him throw a more aerodynamic plumbata.
Was telling my current wife this morning as she helped me out of bed that my knee strain may forestall my triumphant return to football (American).
This getting old is getting old.
Regards
What you also have to consider is the effect on overall performance of the encumbrances of armour, shields and other military paraphernalia. I suspect that you and your son may have been doing it in your shirtsleeves, while the re-enactors who tried it may have been in their full kit. Otherwise, your son does seem to have all the requirements. Is there a late-Roman re-enactment group near you that could fit him out for a more realistic trial and see how that affects the results, if at all?
Renatus, your response, along with my aspirin and tea, triggered some thoughts this morning: A multi-discipline approach is clearly the best way to fully test plumbatae. A team encompassing historians, aerodynamicists (neologism?), and kinesthesiologists may quickly uncover aspects of the darts not yet understood.

As Robert Vermaat smartly conjectured years ago, the existence of (IIRC) 15 different types of darts (mostly weight differences) may indicate use in different tactical situations. A team comprised as above may be able to create discrete taxonomic groupings of plumbatae that aren't readily apparent to researchers lacking a 'hard sciences' background.

Current knowledge in this area (optimal utilization) is deeply suspect. At least to my mind it is. My bare-bones testing has already destroyed the 30m myth, so what else do we 'know' that simply isn't true? Seems like it would be a great project.
Regards

(12-29-2018, 03:51 PM)Renatus Wrote: [ -> ]What you also have to consider is the effect on overall performance of the encumbrances of armour, shields and other military paraphernalia. I suspect that you and your son may have been doing it in your shirtsleeves, while the re-enactors who tried it may have been in their full kit. Otherwise, your son does seem to have all the requirements. Is there a late-Roman re-enactment group near you that could fit him out for a more realistic trial and see how that affects the results, if at all?

Well, not shirt sleeves, it is the Sierra Nevada mountains in winter, but your point is well taken.  Testing should take place in appropriate gear - from  velites lightly clad, to the legionary soldier, to mounted cavalry etc.
I looked a few days ago for local re-enactors in reasonable driving distance, but no luck.   My testing was only to prove that the OH method is (1) viable and (2) capable for throwing at distances well beyond the heretofore assumption that 30m was the limit.  I am hoping that others with access to more resources will take up the standard and perform serious, rigorous tests.  I make no pretense that my simple tests will define the limits of what is possible with these darts and I lose my strong-armed thrower next week when he has to return to duty (USAF).

Thanks for engaging with  me on this, Renatus.

BTW, all my results were from a standing throw, i.e. no run up.

Regards,
I hope everyone has had a great holiday!

My plumbata testing has continued over the past few days and I believe it is incumbent upon me to post my results whether good, bad, or indifferent.  So I shall be doing that over the course of a few postings.  I shall try to post all the relevant information and attempt to do so in a logical progression.  Please feel free to critique or to ask questions.   

Let's start-

I.) Test plumbata

The first order of business was to make a plumbata or two.  So I did.  One I used for testing and it remained unaltered during the tests. I named it 'Jove'. The other was a 'test bed' model which I used to test the effect of different weights, different shaft lengths, and different fletching/vanes.  Only the results of the test model (Jove) will be reported here.

Below are two fotos of 'Jove' for your viewing pleasure. 

Here are its vital statistics :

Components
Shaft - oak wood dowel (3/8th" diameter, 17" in length).

Weight - Two large steel nuts, each of which weigh 49g (98g total).

Fletching/Vanes - Cut from cardboard (Amazon delivery box) covered with duct tape for durability.

Binding Material - Glue, applied via a hot glue gun (a cruel mistress, indeed) and duct tape.

Total weight of finished dart - 135g


Aerodynamics

This test dart, Jove, is decidedly LESS aerodynamic than plumbatae used by the Romans.  Here is how and why:

- 'Jove' utilizes steel for weight, not lead.  Lead is much denser than steel, allowing one to use less lead in a smaller shape to achieve the same weight.  Lead is much more malleable than steel and can be formed into aerodynamic shapes quite easily.  The weights on 'Jove' present a large, flat face to the wind, creating resistance via its mass and its shape. 

-  Fletching is perhaps the most critical part of the dart's design.  Proper fletching actually prolongs the arrow's flight, and as the plumbata is a weighted, thrown arrow, that applies here as well. Here is an article about arrow fletching that is very informative (https://www.advancedhunter.com/arrow-fletching/) should you be curious.  
Feather fletching is also very light...ten times lighter than Jove's.  Feathers are also much thinner and more aerodynamic (well, birds use them) than my cardboard vanes. Any mass in a plumbata that is not concentrated in the front weight is baggage and reduces the overall energy, thus distance or hitting power, of the dart.  Jove's vanes provided guidance but offered much higher wind resistance, drag, and adverse weight effects than real feather fletching would.
So, in summation, the results of my testing represent the low end of plumbata performance.  Significant improvements in ballast material and shape as well as the use of feather fletching would result in significant improvements in the numbers we achieved.

Need to break for a while.  I'll be posting more soon.
Brucicus

Apologies for the doubling of the previous post.  I have had some minor issues learning how to use this engine and have had entire posts disappear here while trying to edit.  As time was short for me, I decided to leave as is for the moment.  It should be more readable now.  It is all user error, I am sure.  I do attempt to get it right, though.

Continuing on with my findings...


Testers: 
To throw for me over the test period, I employed (as in 'used' not 'paid') my two sons.  Here is a brief description of them and their capabilities.  My estimation is based on coaching hundreds of kids and young adults, as well as other related experience:
 
Tester A:
Trained ball thrower. Twenty years old. Athletic. Excellent health. Below average throwing power. First time plumbata. Has not thrown in three years  - 

Tester A+:  (I use this designation to help you differentiate more easily which of the two is stronger)
Trained ball thrower. Twenty-eight years old. Athletic. Excellent health. Average to good throwing power. First time plumbata. Plays softball currently.-           

Both testers are right-handed.  They wore athletic shoes, blue jeans, shirts and either a sweater or a sweatshirt during the tests.
No gloves of any type were used.
No animals were injured in making this study, but I did have to chase off the cat from our target range a few times. 


Test Environment:

Range:
For our test range we used my front yard which is about 1 hectare.  We are located at about 560m asl.  The range itself is sloped down slightly to the SW.  The ground was firm but pliant. 

(I made no attempt to record impact angles because, in soft landing-surface environments, results cannot be reasonably deduced from the position of the dart in the ground as the weight posterior to the point will cause a shift.  Robert Vermaat points out and illustrates this phenomenon in his previous testing.  In my case, the ground is firm but giving and all throws exhibited no shifting.  Perfect impact points and good penetration. So, if there is a clamor for such testing, I am willing to attempt it, I think.  I do have a crazy big protractor).

Weather:
Sky was clear.  Temperatures cool (40s and 50s F).  Day One had swirling winds (I live in a valley on a mountain.) of about 10mph.  Subsequent test days had stronger swirling winds of up to 20mph.


Test Procedure:

Warm-up:  Testers warmed up throwing balls to one another both overhand and underhand.  Proper form fundamentals were reviewed.

Measurement: I used my pace as the measuring device.  I am 195cm tall with disproportionately long arms and legs.  My pace measures very close to an exact meter, and I calibrate it every time I walk down my hallway as I have two 9-foot Persian carpet runners and I am a little bit OC.  I do not look like a spider.  Not too much.

Testing:
For distance throwing, testers worked from a standing start. Each would take turns throwing 'Jove' for the record, while the other threw the experimental model (results not included). Throws were made alternating between each thrower and alternating the throwing direction so as to account for inequities in wind and terrain.  Simply stated; they threw the darts, we walked over to get them, I measured the distance, then they threw the darts back to where they started, we walked over to get them, I measured...and so on.

When throwing for accuracy, I set up a cardboard guitar shipping box supported by a sawhorse.  Throws were made from both 30m and 50m away.  Test target represented an enemy leader in the front row of an enemy formation 16 men wide by four ranks deep; 6m to each side of target to a depth of 4meters. 

Shots were ranked as Kill (hit target), Hit Neighbor (hit person in direct proximity to target), Hit Formation (at least you hit something worthwhile!), and Misses (throws too long, too short, or more than 6 meters from target on either side).

Test Results:

Today, I am only including the basic results from the distance tests as I am just about plumbataed-out and don't want to tabulate the accuracy results at the present moment. Numbers are rounded.

Day One-

Tester A:           Underhand:   (Avg. 52m, long 56m)      Overhand:   (Avg. 60m, long 65m)           Differential: +15%  Overhand


Tester A+:         Underhand:   (Avg. 61m, long 64m)      Overhand:   (Avg. 77m, long 80m)           Differential: +27%  Overhand


Day Two-

Tester A:           Underhand:    (Avg. 55m, long 61m)      Overhand:   (Avg. 64m, long 71m)           Differential: +14%  Overhand

Tester A+:         Underhand:    (Avg. 58m, long 64m)      Overhand:   (Avg. 74m, long 81m)           Differential: +28% Overhand


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
So folks, I will leave this where it is.  I have plenty of thoughts for the analysis, but I am tired.  And frankly, I want to read what you folks think.  I'll save my analysis for later. 

The attachment below is Tester A+ throwing a dart overhand in slow motion.

Brucicus
I have been reflecting on this subject in the light of recent posts and these are my conclusions. Some of my comments may seem somewhat forthright.

From my slight acquaintance with reports of earlier experiments, these results indicate that greater distances than previously were achieved with the overarm throw but less satisfactory distances were achieved underarm. I see from the early pages of this thread that a member of Comitatus threw a plumbata 70 m. underarm at his very first attempt and there are reports of 80 and 100 m. being attained. This indicates some deficiency in the underarm tests, either in flawed design of the missile or inadequate throwing technique.

So far as design is concerned, the device seems nose-heavy. All  the weight is at the front, whereas actual plumbatae have the barb projecting beyond the weight. This probably affects the balance but I am not qualified to say how this may have affected overall performance. Earlier experiments seem to indicate that plumbatae are susceptible to variations in weight, weight distribution and shaft length. These results are interesting but will only attain true validity if replicated using ‘proper’ plumbatae.

This brings us to the major problem. No one knows for sure what these weapons were actually like, as evidenced by the various designs that can be found on the net. The surviving metal parts vary in size and weight and for the organic components we have to rely upon educated guesswork. The only ancient description we have is in ‘De rebus bellicis’ in which the Anonymous deals with two improvements to the basic design. It is not entirely clear whether the fletching that he mentions is part of the basic design or one of his improvements, although it is generally assumed that the original weapon was fletched. His improvements consist of adding spikes to the lead weight to form a sort of caltrop and of changing the form of the head from barbed to bodkin to achieve greater penetration. Incidentally, he places the grip for throwing the weapon between the weight and the flights, so what does that do to our experiments? Robert Vermaat has a webpage on how to make a plumbata which may be helpful in creating a replica.

In your post #664, you disparage Robert’s experiments (and, by implication, those of other re-enactors who have achieved similar results) on the grounds that he is not properly trained in throwing technique and go further to suggest that he is (and they are) thereby disqualified from conducting tests and commenting on the Romans’ use of the weapon. Robert can speak for himself but it seems that, at this point, he switched off and decided that further discussion was a waste of time and effort. In his shoes, I would probably have done the same. This sort if criticism is not only grossly offensive to those who may have spent many years trying to unravel the mysteries of the plumbata but is also fallacious. Your results could be equally invalid for the opposite reason, namely, that you and your sons are too highly trained. You have been at some pains to emphasise your attainments in the field of ball-throwing. This of itself makes you atypical.

Vegetius tells that, apart from being trained in the use of plumbatae, Roman soldiers were trained in throwing stones by hand and with the sling, so the notion of throwing was not an alien concept to them. However, I would very much doubt if they attained your level of proficiency as a matter of course. Vegetius also tells us that virtually all soldiers in his day were armed with the plumbata. Inevitably, there will have been a wide range of ability. Some may have been highly competent, others barely adequate. The majority will have been somewhere in between. In the Minerva article to which Robert provided a link in post #658, David Sims sensibly warns against a fixation with distance at the expense of the weapon’s primary purpose, to inflict a wound of such severity as to kill the opponent or to put him immediately out of action. For my part, I favour an overarm throw, directed at a specific target by the front ranks or, so far as the rear ranks are concerned, of sufficient range as to clear their front rank and to land their missiles amongst the enemy. We need not strive for extremes; a decent average is all that is required. A little humility on this subject would not go amiss.
Please forgive my ignorance but if there is any connection with the 'modern' pub game of darts and plumbata it is fairly obvious why the grip should be on or just behind the centre of balance.
Michael:

Thank you for your response.  I am grateful for your critique and would encourage others to voice theirs as well.  I have nothing to hide and am happy to defend myself and my study in this public forum.  It appears I am unique in that regard.

Allow me to address your points individually:
  • From my slight acquaintance with reports of earlier experiments, these results indicate that greater distances than previously were achieved with the overarm throw but less satisfactory distances were achieved underarm. I see from the early pages of this thread that a member of Comitatus threw a plumbata 70 m. underarm at his very first attempt and there are reports of 80 and 100 m. being attained. This indicates some deficiency in the underarm tests, either in flawed design of the missile or inadequate throwing technique.

    I have seen those claims, or at least some of them.  They all have a few points in common: Not one report gives weather/wind conditions as I do.  I once hit a golf ball over 430 meters.  That is quite an achievement.  When one learns that I achieved that feat with a 50+mph following wind, the achievement is not so spectacular.  I have known athletes who can only be described as 'freakish' in their abilities, so I have no doubt that that capability exists.  I maintain, however, with the superior energy delivery of the overhand method, an individual capable of 70 meters underhand would be capable of 100 meters overhand.  Which brings us to the second point they all have in common: not one of those claims mentions testing overhand (utilizing the proper grip, i.e. on the shaft extending behind the fletching, not the 'pub dart' style).  So we have nothing to compare their claims to.  As such, from a scientific perspective their claims are useless.  My tests showed nothing more than relative performance between the two methods in the given conditions. 
         My test happened on specific days with specific wind conditions, all of which I have shared.  Throws were made in opposite directions to equalize the impact enironmental may   have on test results.  I have seen no other testers using that methodology. 
As far as throwing technique, I am happy to provide any bona fide expert in this area with slow-motion videos of the throwers in action.  And my test dart is likewise available.
What other researcher can do the same?  I stand behind my study 100%.
  • So far as design is concerned, the device seems nose-heavy. All  the weight is at the front, whereas actual plumbatae have the barb projecting beyond the weight.
         It seems to me that having the 'barb project beyond the weight' is another way of saying 'nose heavy', so your point is not apparent to me.
  • This brings us to the major problem. No one knows for sure what these weapons were actually like, as evidenced by the various designs that can be found on the net. The surviving metal parts vary in size and weight and for the organic components we have to rely upon educated guesswork. The only ancient description we have is in ‘De rebus bellicis’ in which the Anonymous deals with two improvements to the basic design. It is not entirely clear whether the fletching that he mentions is part of the basic design or one of his improvements, although it is generally assumed that the original weapon was fletched. His improvements consist of adding spikes to the lead weight to form a sort of caltrop and of changing the form of the head from barbed to bodkin to achieve greater penetration. Incidentally, he places the grip for throwing the weapon between the weight and the flights, so what does that do to our experiments? Robert Vermaat has a webpage on how to make a plumbata which may be helpful in creating a replica.
    Forgive my obtuseness, but I am unclear as to the 'major problem' you are elucidating.  If it is the holding method you mention, what were the battle conditions he was dealing with?  We know it isn't long-range harassing fire because a spike-shaped weight is aerodynamically a disaster.  So, assuming the translation is correct to the real meaning of the document, and assuming that 'anonymous' knew what he was writing about, we still don't have any context.  But you say that is 'incidental', so is the major issue still remains hidden to me.  But, since you bring up the historical record, let's talk about that.  We know that two Illyrian (IIRC) legions specialized in using plumbatae in war.  We are told that they are so effective that they are given the descriptors "Jovian" and Herculean".  Historians remain unclear as to why.  Let me posit my theory: If I am successful, I will have attached an image to this post of Jove throwing thunderbolts.  Note how he does that.  Look familiar?  It is not much of a leap to consider that, to a Roman's eye, they look just like Jove doing his thing.  It is not too much of a leap for the Roman's to view the capability to throw darts long ways as 'herculean'  And we know Romans threw overhand because so many images of that remain.  Show me an image of Jove throwing underhand, if you can.  Additionally, Virgil and Gaius Valerius Flaccus (Argonautica 6.83) speaks of soldiers in Hispania throwing the 'cateia' using the 'torquero' method.  'Torquero' is translated as 'to throw wound up', which perfectly describes the overhand throwing motion.  In fact, baseball still calls the initial part of the overhand throwing motion as 'the wind up'.


[*]I shall continue my response in another post as formatting issues here are driving me nuts and I have already lost two replies to you trying to fix them.  Thanks for bearing with me.[attachment=14888]
[*]
[*]Michael:

[*]Continuing on........


  • In your post #664, you disparage Robert’s experiments (and, by implication, those of other re-enactors who have achieved similar results) on the grounds that he is not properly trained in throwing technique and go further to suggest that he is (and they are) thereby disqualified from conducting tests and commenting on the Romans’ use of the weapon. Robert can speak for himself but it seems that, at this point, he switched off and decided that further discussion was a waste of time and effort. In his shoes, I would probably have done the same. This sort if criticism is not only grossly offensive to those who may have spent many years trying to unravel the mysteries of the plumbata but is also fallacious. Your results could be equally invalid for the opposite reason, namely, that you and your sons are too highly trained. You have been at some pains to emphasise your attainments in the field of ball-throwing. This of itself makes you atypical.

[*]
         This is the most difficult part for me because I have no desire to demean Mr. Vermaat's work.  His study of the record and his tracking the discoveries is good work and informative.  That is clearly his strength.  I have apologized to Robert in private for my tone but not for my points which still stand and I stand behind them.  While it is offensive to you that I disparage the prior studies (I cannot claim to have exhausted the literature on the subject, but I have read four of the reports that Robert based his studies on...and I have read both of Robert's studies.  They ALL have fatal, disqualifying flaws), it is offensive to me to see misinformation and fatally-flawed studies being cited as support for further flawed studies. 
[*]I want that cycle to stop. 
[*] My depiction of bicycle vs. tricycle in a prior post is apt and germane.  So, let me make this clear, using yourself, a 50 yo man with no training and no experience in throwing, as the tester is entirely inappropriate.  Even worse, as the only tester.  There are few bigger no-noes in conducting scientific studies than having the researcher act as the test subject.  Surely that is obvious.  And since you are being forthright (a behavior that I whole-heartedly encourage), when I  brought up my credentials in throwing, the response I got was  "lol".  I consider that supremely disrespectful.  When I asked about his throwing experience the reply was "well, I am not an Olympian".  That is obfuscatory and non-responsive.  When asked to clarify certain areas of his report, he provided on three different occasions answers which were in diametric opposition to what he stated in his documents.  I find it difficult to believe that you would respond to me in such a dismissive way and I am surprised that you would suborn such conduct from any professional. 
 So, being forthright, Robert didn't 'disengage', he fled because he was losing the argument and knew it.  I have provided Mr. Vermaat with a more detailed critique of his studies in this area and offered my services to help him craft relevant, scientific studies.  I still hope he swallows his pride and asks me.  I'd love to work with someone with his knowledge and enthusiasm to get the issues I bring up addressed. Heck, Robert even asked me how to hold the plumbata.  That is indicative of how little imagination has been used in the study of these devices.  And, so yes I disparage the work of people who did not use qualified testers, who did not consider environmental factors, and used themselves as test subjects.  I believe it is warranted.  If people feel insulted, they should look at their work more honestly.  They shouldn't feel insulted; they should be embarrassed.

[*]Michael, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I was a tester in my studies.  I did no such thing.  I am familiar with scientific testing protocol (see above) and would not want to taint my findings by inserting myself into that process.  As far as my two sons are concerned, neither has ever played competitive baseball aside from Little League, which ended at 14 years of age and Tester A played on his high school baseball team where he only occasionally was able to crack the starting line-up.  My selection process for the testers would have been better had I a pool of qualified testers from which to randomly draw.  That would make the study more valid.  What I did in using my sons was the equivalent of going to a youth soccer coach (I assume that there are organized youth leagues in England) and asking him/her to provide me with an average kicker and a somewhat above-average kicker to strike balls for me.  If you consider that over-qualified does that mean you prefer the non-qualified testers used in the previous studies?  I apologize that my accomplishments in throwing come off as braggadocio.  All I have claimed is that I once (sadly) had a very strong arm and that I have studied the act of throwing and taught it to many, many people.  I have not played professionally.  As strong as my arm is was, there was always someone around who could best me.  And sometimes by quite a lot.  But all that is moot, as I did not perform any of the tests.
[*]Are you over-qualified as a solicitor because you actually studied for the law?  I find this course of reasoning a bit silly.  


  • In the Minerva article to which Robert provided a link in post #658, David Sims sensibly warns against a fixation with distance at the expense of the weapon’s primary purpose, to inflict a wound of such severity as to kill the opponent or to put him immediately out of action. For my part, I favour an overarm throw, directed at a specific target by the front ranks or, so far as the rear ranks are concerned, of sufficient range as to clear their front rank and to land their missiles amongst the enemy. We need not strive for extremes; a decent average is all that is required. A little humility on this subject would not go amiss.

    I completely agree about distance not being the primary factor as you state it.  However, am I to believe that the Roman's would not have employed a weapon that could kill/wound enemies at a distance?  I find that hard to believe.  Am I to believe that, seeing two legions of experts throwing effectively overhanded, accurately and deadly, that they would not try to train soldiers to emulate that capability?  Doesn't sound very Roman to me.  There are many different battle situations.  Those that could not throw would be relegated to lobbing darts at close range...when that was needed.  Trained skirmishers would be the best throwers because they could  break up attacking enemy formations at a distance and perhaps even stop the attack altogether. 
    There are clues as to how the plumbata was thrown based on the design itself.  Ask any competent archer about fletching and they will inform you that arrows are fletched close to the nock because that is where the feathers provide the most guidance.  The closer to the head the less accurate the arrow.  Yet the plumbata has the fletching well up the shaft, leaving the rearmost length bare.  Why?  It is not to facilitate underhand throwing because, if the fletching were all the way to the rear of the dart one could still grab the open space forward of the fletching and very effectively perform an underhanded throw.  In fact, that throw would be even more accurate because of the ideal positioning of its 'guidance system'.  . No, there is only one reason to  have that bare shaft extending behind the feathers... to facilitate an overhand throw.  And yes, I have tested that.  Day before yesterday.
[*]


So thank you for your considered response.  I encourage others to do so.  I am even okay if you agree with me!  I stand behind my study, both in methodology and results.  I am also willing to take on all comers.  I do feel bad that feelings have been hurt.  How is that to be avoided when one's work shows up the flaws in others'?

Best regards,
Bruce


Moderator:  I cannot get my video to attach.  What could I be doing wrong?


                

(01-05-2019, 10:26 AM)kavan Wrote: [ -> ]Please forgive my ignorance but if there is any connection with the 'modern' pub game of darts and plumbata it is fairly obvious why the grip should be on or just behind the centre of balance.

Kavan, thanks for your question.  Let me try to help you with this: How far do you need to throw a pub-dart? IIRC, regulation darts are thrown at a distance of 6? 8? feet.  To a board in a game where accuracy is highly prized.  Now picture that you have to throw a dart 60 meters.  Doesn't that require adding more power to your throw?  And since it is a bunch of guys named Gort coming at you with spears,  isn't a level of accuracy also important?  With your life on the line?

But you have hit on the main problem: modern day Europeans do not have throwing sports like we in America and so there are relatively few people in Europe who know how to throw overhand using the proper grip and technique.  Thus, there dart world view is like yours - throw them pub-style - and that is precisely what previous studies have done.  At least one study reported giving up on testing overhand because they could only get a maximum of 30 meters out of that method - the pub darts method.  There is even a video showing a person (French, I believe) using an atlatl to throw a plumbata.  The sad thing is that he doesn't even see that the plumbata has the atlatl built in.  I doubt the Romans would have been so obtuse so as not to realize that.  And why would the Romans put a handle on it if it were not to used?

Welcome to the board and feel free to ask me questions.  I hope this answer addresses your concern adequately.
Bruce,

There is a lot in your two posts and I do not intend to try to deal with all your points individually. That could merely degenerate into a tit-for-tat exchange that would lead nowhere. I will instead pick up on points that particularly strike me as requiring comment. If others occur to me later, I will deal with them then.

First, you say that none of the reports of earlier experiments mention wind conditions. I don't know what you have been reading but W. B. Griffiths in the Arbeia Journal mentions a strong cross-wind and John Eagle in his report speaks of a three-quarter following wind, albeit in relation to only one of his tests. Robert Vermaat specifically chose sheltered sites to avoid his tests being affected by wind.

You seem mystified by my saying that we do not know what these weapons were actually like. I don't know how I can make this any plainer. We have the metal parts but, as to the rest, we have only the vague description in 'De rebus bellicis' plus its illustrations which are some removes from the original and probably not very reliable. Only one shows the weight and that is in connection with the provision of spikes and apparently not as we see it in the surviving metal parts. You say that arrows have flights at the end of the shaft whereas the shaft of the plumbata projects behind the flights. That is only because that is how experimenters have reconstructed it. It need not be correct. For what it is worth, the illustrations in 'De rebus bellicis' have the flights at the end of the shaft, like arrows.

You say that you have not put yourself forward as one of the testers. This may be so but I would be very surprised if your experience did not bear upon how your sons performed. I am quite sure that, if you thought that they were doing it wrong, you would say so. This brings me to a crucial point. You say that modern day Europeans do not have the same experience of throwing sports as in America and that relatively few know how to throw overarm using the proper grip and technique. I need hardly say that the Romans did not have the American experience either. To the best of my knowledge, the Romans did not play baseball. You simply cannot take you experience and assume that the Romans had the same. In fact, a truer test may well be by those without that experience.

You have brought up the two Illyrian legions and postulated that the names Joviani and Herculiani somehow derived from their technique in throwing plumbatae. There is no mystery about this. They were the two senior palatine legions and their names derive from the divine names assumed by Diocletian and Maximian, Jovius and Herculius respectively. If there were anything in your theory that their technique related to illustrations of the manner on which Jupiter delivered his thunderbolts, it would be immediately apparent that he employed the standard javelin grip.

This finally brings me to Kavan's eminently sensible comment that the grip should be on or just behind the point of balance. This is what the Anonymous seems to be describing. I would suggest that a more profitable area for research would be to see whether a plumbata delivered with that grip could achieve Vegetius' criterion of outranging a javelin. I know that some researchers have tried this and been disappointed but one of John Eagle's tests using, in effect, the pub darts throw did outdistance by a small margin the maximum javelin throw achieved by Quinta in tests reported in the Arbeia Journal in 1992, so it does seem possible, given a suitable amount of practice . In short, those who have abandoned this method and resorted to holding the plumbata by the end of the shaft and throwing it overarm or underarm may have given up too easily. As I have said before, we need not be looking for these super-distances.
There is a lot in your two posts and I do not intend to try to deal with all your points individually. That could merely degenerate into a tit-for-tat exchange that would lead nowhere. I will instead pick up on points that particularly strike me as requiring comment. If others occur to me later, I will deal with them then.

First, you say that none of the reports of earlier experiments mention wind conditions. I don't know what you have been reading but W. B. Griffiths in the Arbeia Journal mentions a strong cross-wind and John Eagle in his report speaks of a three-quarter following wind, albeit in relation to only one of his tests. Robert Vermaat specifically chose sheltered sites to avoid his tests being affected by wind.  Neither of these tests were bi-directional, such as mine. John Eagle is the one who couldn't reach 30m, so he just stopped throwing .

You seem mystified by my saying that we do not know what these weapons were actually like. I don't know how I can make this any plainer. We have the metal parts but, as to the rest, we have only the vague description in 'De rebus bellicis' plus its illustrations which are some removes from the original and probably not very reliable. Only one shows the weight and that is in connection with the provision of spikes and apparently not as we see it in the surviving metal parts. You say that arrows have flights at the end of the shaft whereas the shaft of the plumbata projects behind the flights. That is only because that is how experimenters have reconstructed it. It need not be correct. For what it is worth, the illustrations in 'De rebus bellicis' have the flights at the end of the shaft, like arrows. I wish you would point out where my mystification lies, specifically.  You stated mine was nose heavy, yet on the plumbatae remains discovered all of the weight is on the nose :i.e the shaft terminates in a socket or other junction of the shank with the barb attached.  The lead weight is then wrapped over that junction.  Perhaps a review of plumbata construction would be more beneficial to you than to me. I shall leave it to others to determine if my plumbata qualifies as a valid test device.  I have already posited that, for close in work with an enemy in contact, fletching would be as far to the rear as possible for maximum accuracy ....while leaving plenty of room for the grip for an underhand throw  I believe that was in my last post.

I would be very surprised if your experience did not bear upon how your sons performed. I am quite sure that, if you thought that they were doing it wrong, you would say so. This brings me to a crucial point. You say that modern day Europeans do not have the same experience of throwing sports as in America and that relatively few know how to throw overarm using the proper grip and technique. I need hardly say that the Romans did not have the American experience either. To the best of my knowledge, the Romans did not play baseball. You simply cannot take you experience and assume that the Romans had the same. In fact, a truer test may well be by those without that experience.  So being raised by a Little League coach somehow disqualifies my children, while the total lack of any throwing skills somehow qualifies others. That makes no sense to me.  Why would you use completely untrained individuals to determine how hardened, trained warriors used them in real life? Would you test a plane with an unqualified pilot?  This too is a puzzling statement. And while I would like for America to take credit for throwing, did the Romans kick their pila at the enemy?  Did shepherds in Mesopotamia scissor-kick their rocks at wolves?  Did cavemen roll their spears at aurochs?  This argument makes no sense to me either.  I also find it difficult to believe that he Romans would have all the components of a superior infantry ranging weapon and then not take advantage of its potential.  Your argument that we don't know what the plumbata looked like works as much for me as against me, you understand.  I tend to think the Romans were at least as smart as me.

your theory that their technique related to illustrations of the manner on which Jupiter delivered his thunderbolts, it would be immediately apparent that he employed the standard javelin grip.
I know when to bow to superior knowledge  Should you be so inclined, I would welcome a source.  All of the ones I have uncovered state 'history is unclear' and 'historians debate'.  I appreciate the update.

This finally brings me to Kavan's eminently sensible comment that the grip should be on or just behind the point of balance. This is what the Anonymous seems to be describing. I would suggest that a more profitable area for research would be to see whether a plumbata delivered with that grip could achieve Vegetius' criterion of outranging a javelin. I know that some researchers have tried this and been disappointed but one of John Eagle's tests using, in effect, the pub darts throw did outdistance by a small margin the maximum javelin throw achieved by Quinta in tests reported in the Arbeia Journal in 1992, so it does seem possible, given a suitable amount of practice . In short, those who have abandoned this method and resorted to holding the plumbata by the end of the shaft and throwing it overarm or underarm may have given up too easily. As I have said before, we need not be looking for these super-distances. I replied to Kavan's question.  The answer lies there.

Best regards, Bruce
(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]John Eagle is the one who couldn't reach 30m, so he just stopped throwing .

MY point exactly - he gave up too soon. Actually, there is not much wrong with 30m. The Quinta javelin tests produced a maximum of 20m, with a mean for the better throwers of 15m. A pllumbata cast of 30m is, therefore, well within Vegetius' criterion. No doubt, both could be improved with practice but the ratio may not be dissimilar. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the obsession with distance may be badly distorting our approach to this subject.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ] I wish you would point out where my mystification lies, specifically.

Let me quote you: 'Forgive my obtuseness, but I am unclear as to the "major problem" you are elucidating.' That is mystification in my book. The answer is in the following sentence in my post: 'No one knows for sure what these weapons were actually like'.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]You stated mine was nose heavy, yet on the plumbatae remains discovered all of the weight is on the nose :i.e the shaft terminates in a socket or other junction of the shank with the barb attached.  The lead weight is then wrapped over that junction.

That's it precisely. The barb projects ahead of the weight. This shifts the centre of balance. The effect may be minimal and not make a hap'orth of difference but, until your replica reproduces this feature, we cannot be sure.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]did the Romans kick their pila at the enemy?  Did shepherds in Mesopotamia scissor-kick their rocks at wolves?  Did cavemen roll their spears at aurochs?

Let's keep this discussion vaguely intellectual, shall we, and not descend to the arguments of the playground? Your comments are tripe and you know it, so why make them? Of course every one can throw overarm, even Europeans. Your point, as I understand it, is that Americans, through a long association with ball-throwing sports, have refined the technique to a degree unattained by those in Europe. The extent to which this technique is 'proper' (to use your terminology) outside the confines of the baseball diamond is, to say the least, debateable. What seems beyond doubt is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Romans engaged in such sports. It is, therefore, not legitimate to impose the techniques of twenty-first century Americans upon fourth century Romans and assume it to be correct. The techniques of the Old World in this context may have as much, if not more, relevance as those of the New.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]your theory that their technique related to illustrations of the manner on which Jupiter delivered his thunderbolts, it would be immediately apparent that he employed the standard javelin grip.
I know when to bow to superior knowledge  Should you be so inclined, I would welcome a source.  All of the ones I have uncovered state 'history is unclear' and 'historians debate'.

Your comment does not seem to relate to the part of my post quoted. If you are referring to the names of the Joviani and the Herculiani, I refer you to n.3 on p.17 of Milner's translation of Vegetius.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]I replied to Kavan's question.  The answer lies there.

Indeed you did - with the fallacious argument that I have endeavoured to expose.
Renatus, please reread my comments.  The 'mystification comment comes in reference to the plumbata construction.  I am well aware of plumbata construction.
And, as stated later: That NO ONE knows what they looked like supports my argument as much as it detracts.

MY point exactly - he gave up too soon. Actually, there is not much wrong with 30m. The Quinta javelin tests produced a maximum of 20m, with a mean for the better throwers of 15m. A pllumbata cast of 30m is, therefore, well within Vegetius' criterion. No doubt, both could be improved with practice but the ratio may not be dissimilar. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the obsession with distance may be badly distorting our approach to this subject.

(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ] I wish you would point out where my mystification lies, specifically.

Let me quote you: 'Forgive my obtuseness, but I am unclear as to the "major problem" you are elucidating.' That is mystification in my book. The answer is in the following sentence in my post: 'No one knows for sure what these weapons were actually like'.
See, you got the statements mixed up.



That's it precisely. The barb projects ahead of the weight. This shifts the centre of balance. The effect may be minimal and not make a hap'orth of difference but, until your replica reproduces this feature, we cannot be sure.
Your critique was that my test dart was 'nose heavy' then you propose making it more nose-heavy.  Logical consistency would be nice.  I get your point that mine didn't have the sharp pointy thing.  Can you support your contention that it would have made a difference. Perhaps a discussion on the physics?



Let's keep this discussion vaguely intellectual, shall we, and not descend to the arguments of the playground? Your comments are tripe and you know it, so why make them? Of course every one can throw overarm, even Europeans. Your point, as I understand it, is that Americans, through a long association with ball-throwing sports, have refined the technique to a degree unattained by those in Europe. The extent to which this technique is 'proper' (to use your terminology) outside the confines of the baseball diamond is, to say the least, debateable. What seems beyond doubt is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Romans engaged in such sports. It is, therefore, not legitimate to impose the techniques of twenty-first century Americans upon fourth century Romans and assume it to be correct. The techniques of the Old World in this context may have as much, if not more, relevance as those of the New.  If by vaguely intellectual, you mean build and tear down strawmen, then I shall analyze your responses so as to learn from a master.  Please point out to me anywhere that I have claimed that America has 'refined the technique of ball throwing'.  If my arguments are tripe, yours are a haggis gone off. 

I use the term 'proper' as a way to differentiate between those who throw overhand in the pub-darts style from those who throw overhand by gripping from the rear shaft.  I may not've been consistent in that application.  I would have to reread my posts.
Humans do certain things like walk, run, throw,  swim in certain ways because our bodies are built in certain ways.  We didn't invent throwing.  We haven't developed some super new way of throwing that I am trying to retrofit on the Romans.  And I challenge you to point outMy point that the current European milieu is not throwing oriented due to the nature of their major sports.  Throwing is a skill set not widely-attained in Europe. Americans are broadly trained in throwing - baseballs, footballs... and so we view things like plumbatae from a different perspective.  Throwing a spear is the same motion as I describe for throwing the plumbata.  It is the rearward grip and resultant wrist snap at the release that delivers the final burst of power to the plumbata.  Please leave your strawmen for the maize field.

your theory that their technique related to illustrations of the manner on which Jupiter delivered his thunderbolts, it would be immediately apparent that he employed the standard javelin grip.  Because he is depicted throwing a thunderbolt, not a plumbata.

I know when to bow to superior knowledge  Should you be so inclined, I would welcome a source.  All of the ones I have uncovered state 'history is unclear' and 'historians debate'.

Your comment does not seem to relate to the part of my post quoted. If you are referring to the names of the Joviani and the Herculiani, I refer you to n.3 on p.17 of Milner's translation of Vegetius.  Thank you for the reference.  Does that translation qualify as definitive proof, or are historians still debating and are historians still unclear?
(01-06-2019, 02:32 AM)Brucicus Wrote: [ -> ]I replied to Kavan's question.  The answer lies there.

Indeed you did - with the fallacious argument that I have endeavoured to expose.  Well, I guess you failed.  But good effort.

Best regards,
Bruce

Renatus:
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the obsession with distance may be badly distorting our approach to this subject.

This is worthy of discussion. I would first say that, if directed at me, to say that I am obsessed with distance is not correct. I tested both distance and accuracy. I am sitting on the accuracy results because I intend to reveal them when the time is right.

One need not have to choose between accuracy and distance. Any military commander would want a weapon that can reach the enemy before the enemy can reach him. Can we agree on that? Any military commander would want that weapon to be reasonably controllable so as not to represent a danger to friendly troops. Can we agree on that point? Any military commander would want a weapon that possesses enough energy to inflict serious damage to the enemy, yes?
This argument is going round in circles and I'm getting fed up with it. Let me try to make my position clear and then give up.

Your whole argument seems to have been that Americans know how to throw and Europeans don't. If I have misinterpreted it, that is how it has come over. I am not saying that Roman soldiers could under no circumstances have reached the same standard. That would be absurd. What I am saying is that we cannot assume it and base our analysis on that assumption. It is possible that some may have reached that standard but many, probably the majority, will not. I, therefore, prefer the middling position, neither super-competent nor wholly inadequate but somewhere in between, which conforms to the human condition.

You assume that the appropriate grip is at the end of the shaft behind the flights, which you apparently consider to justify your conclusion that a baseball-style of throw is the correct one. This is not unequivocally established. It is a grip adopted by researchers who felt that a javelin-style delivery did not produce a long enough range. What I want to see is how far a plumbata can be thrown javelin-style after a lengthy period of intense training. After all, that is what the Romans were used to. They had no need, necessarily, to devise some exotic form of delivery outside their natural expertise. There appear to be indications that this could satisfy Vegetius' contention that plumbatae outranged javelins, so let a concerted effort be made to see if this can be achieved. It is, frankly, all we need. Ranges of great length are an indulgence.

EDIT The addition to your post was added while I was formulating my reply. I do not dissent from any of that.
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