Medieval grenade reveals ancient blasting technique

For decades, anthropologists have excavated spherical vessels throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. However, the purpose of these containers, which are often equipped with tapered bases and small openings to prevent spillage, remains unclear. The hypothetical ranges from beer gourds to smoking pipes.

A recent analysis of four such ships from the 11th or 12th century found in the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1960s points to different theories. According to a team of researchers led by molecular anthropologist Carney Matheson, three of the ceramic jars likely contained oils, perfumes and medicines, in line with what was previously expected for such containers.But they say a fourth may have been used as a grenade in the Middle Ages Crusades.

Inside its extra-thick and completely undecorated walls, anthropologists found sulfur residues as well as mercury and magnesium (consistent with explosives).What they found was published in send one earlier this year.

Matheson, now an associate professor at Griffith University in Australia, said the grenade theory was supported by Arabic and Crusader texts. Specifically, he and his colleagues noted historical records of the siege of Jerusalem in AD 1187, which mention bright flashes and large explosions that may be consistent with flash grenades.

“More research on these ships and their explosive content will allow us to understand ancient explosive technologies from medieval times, as well as the history of explosive weapons in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Matheson said in an article. Press release.

greek fire

Scientists and historians have long sought to understand how wars were waged thousands of years ago. The earliest known incendiary weapons date back to the seventh century. From about this time, the Byzantine Greeks used a famous liquid called “greek fire“Fighting on the high seas.

The exact components behind the Greek fires are a well-kept military secret that remains a mystery to this day, but Petroleum may be the main ingredientOther potential elements include sulfur or bitumen, saltpeter (i.e. potassium nitrate, a salt that forms on rock surfaces), and turpentine, an oily extract from conifers.

How the flammable mixture was ignited is another mystery, although Byzantine warriors may have used a compound called quicklime or calcium oxide. They threw flammable mixtures into cans or sprayed them out of tubes mounted in the bows of ships, reminiscent of medieval flamethrowers. It is said that fire in Greece cannot be extinguished by water – only with sand or vinegar, making it especially destructive in naval battles.

It is considered the main reason for the long rule of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted for thousands of years after the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire. To be sure, this technology helped the Byzantines defend Constantinople from Arab sieges in AD 673 and 717, and again against Russian forces in the 10th century.

black powder

In the East, Chinese monks foundblack powder,” the forerunner of modern gunpowder, during their quest for the elixir of life in the ninth century. Saltpeter, the main ingredient there, has been used medicinally for centuries. But it is somewhat surprising that when mixed with sulphur and charcoal, it becomes burnt arms.

In its early days, monks believed that the most effective chemical formula was one part sulfur, three parts charcoal, and nine parts saltpeter. In the 18th century, however, researchers concocted a more efficient ratio (10:15:75), which was adopted by many gunpowder manufacturers. used until today.

During the Song Dynasty, the Chinese used black powder very effectively in siege warfare, especially against the Mongols.This leads to the development of primary Rockets, bombs, cannons and minesAnother consequence of these international conflicts, most researchers agree, was the introduction of black powder into the Middle East by the 13th century – although others believe the technology arrived in the region earlier and was only kept secret.

Adding their two cents to the ongoing debate, Matheson and his team say their latest research on spherical vessels from medieval Jerusalem — one of which contained sulfur but no saltpeter — unequivocally proves that the vessel did not Contains black powder. Instead, the speculated explosives were most likely developed by locals in the nearby area. It remains to be seen whether other such ships will tell the same story.

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