Monday, April 14, 2014

The Tips of the Spears

Sergeant Jason, above, is about to deliver a telling stab to those uncovered target is in range and ranged.  His spear is held in position to stab down and in front with the point of the spear on the little finger side in what may be called the “over hand” grip.  The Bayeux Tapestry show the over hand grip as default in the shield wall to facilitate stabbing down and out over the wall of shields.

Overhand grip used by both sides, infantry and cavalry
The “over hand” grip with the arm back as if in throwing (rock, spear, and javelin) is also used with other weapons such as the sword, axe, and/or club.   The advantage of the overhand pose, regardless of the weapons includes a better twist on the base of stirrup and hip to the upper body, and a greater range of upper body movement that would otherwise been hampered by being knee to knee, stirrup to flank of the horse on one side and the chest of the horse on the other side.
Mongols here also show the overhand grip
Contemporary art of the century after Hastings (1066-1166) reflects the shift in Western mounted warfare towards the couched grip.  Indeed, the Tapestry features three grips, couched, low grip and over hand
Regardless of East or West, mounted or on foot, the over hand option used with the spear or lance requires a 180 turnaround of the butt of the spear for the point.  This requires a certain amount of dexterity which may have supported the choice of couched lance as it is easier. 

The grip on the shield is as depicted in some of those on the Tapestry with only one rope or leather strap close to the top of the shield. In the Tapestry shown above the shields held this way for the cavalry rotate with the wind and appear to by flapping in the breeze.   
Broom and mop handle verified
 This is a matter of wrapping the fingers under the spear, and using the thumb to push the spear around at the same time as raising the right hand. This minimizes and undue spear spinning which could be lethal, and ruin some buddy’s whole day.
The knack of doing this right depends upon a lot of practice, particularly while being jostled around.  The infantry has to do the rotation in close quarters about the second rank from the front. 
There may be other ways to do this, and it is something to look for in original sources.  As a matter of course, I find art not of the period reflects what was current at the time the art was rendered.  Those in more modern times like the 1800’s are limited by the lack of direct evidence or original sources.
Aquí termina la lección