Mace (club)

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A mace is a simple weapon that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful blows. A development of the club, a mace differs from a hammer in that the head of a mace is radially symmetric so that a blow can be delivered equally effectively with any side of the head. A mace consists of a strong, heavy wooden, metal-reinforced, or metal shaft, with a head made of stone, copper, bronze, iron or steel.

The head is normally about the same or slightly thicker than the diameter of the shaft and can be shaped with flanges, or knobs to allow greater penetration of armour. The length of maces can vary considerably. The maces of foot soldiers were usually quite short (two or three feet, or 700 to 900 mm). The maces of cavalrymen were longer and better designed for blows from horseback. Two-handed maces could be even larger. The flail is often, though incorrectly, referred to as a mace.

Maces are rarely used today for actual combat, but a large number of government bodies (for instance the U.S. Congress), universities and other institutions have ceremonial maces used as symbols of authority, in rituals and processions and for other purposes.

Archaeological evidence suggests that maces were used extensively in prehistory. The mace was first developed around 12,000 BC and quickly became an important weapon.[citation needed] It was the first weapon developed specifically for killing humans.[citation needed] The first wooden maces, studded with flint or obsidian, became less popular due to the development of leather armour that could absorb the blows. Some maces had stone heads.

The discovery of copper and bronze made the first genuine metal maces possible. Many early cultures were unable to produce long, sharp and sturdy metal blades, which made the mace very popular. The Rajas, generals, and others that were high in command often had maces crafted of gold.File:Money

In the west, a beautifully-carved flint mace-head was one of the artifacts discovered in excavations of the Neolithic mound of Knowth in Ireland, and Bronze-age archaeology cites numerous finds of perforated mace-heads.

In ancient Egypt, stone mace heads were first used nearly 6,000 years ago in the predynastic period. The earliest known are disc maces with odd but beautifully formed stones mounted perpendicularly to their handle. The Narmer Palette shows a king swinging a mace. See the articles on the Narmer Macehead and the Scorpion Macehead for examples of decorated maces inscribed with the names of kings.

Maces as a weapon were used extensively in Egypt and neighboring Canaan. However, in regions where armor and helmets became commonly worn during combat, their use became limited.

The problem with early maces was that their stone heads shattered easily and it was difficult to fix the head to the wooden handle reliably. The Egyptians attempted to give them a disk shape in the predynastic period (about 3850-3650 BC) in order to increase their impact and even provide some cutting capabilities, but this seems to have been a short lived improvement.

A rounded pear form of mace head known as a “piriform” replaced the disc mace in the Naqada II period of pre-dynastic Upper Egypt (3600-3250 BC) and was used throughout the Naqada III period (3250-3100 BC). Similar mace heads were also used in Mesopotamia around 2450-1900 BC.

An important, later development in mace heads was the use of metal for their composition. With the advent of copper mace heads, they no longer shattered and a better fit could be made to the wooden club by giving the eye of the mace head the shape of a cone and using a tapered handle.

More than 1,500 years after the Scorpion King was depicted upon an Egyptian mace head, we find inscribed on a Stela of Amadeh the 18th Dynasty King, Amenhotep II, recording that:

“His Majesty returned in joy of heart to his father Amun; his hand had struck down seven chiefs with his mace himself, which were in the territory of Takhsi”