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13 Things 2009

13 Things 2008

Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology

Search Brown



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

My study of the catapult will trace the path of non-gunpowder artillery through history, from its ancient beginnings through its affect on societies to the modern day phenomenon of recreating ancient technologies.


In discussing the invention and development of the catapult, the questions of where and when have a broad and complex answer, due to the fact that the catapult can refer to a number of related siege engines, used from the fifth century BC to as late as the 1500s, having spread from China through the Middle East to Western Europe. I will examine some of the variations of stone throwers, from the earliest torsion trebuchets to the latest counterweight operated variations, looking at additions to the collection of ideas that makes up the catapult and how these additions reflect the societies that provided them.

-Catapult as Catapult

I will briefly try to investigate the catapult from a phenomenological standpoint, observing its materiality, its scale, and the overall experience of catapult operation as an interaction between human and thing.

-Catapult’s Affect on Societies

I will next look at the catapult as a destroyer of infrastructure and an agent of change in the world. How effective was the catapult at destroying walls and cities? How did its effectiveness change the structure of defenses, cities, and even warfare?

-Catapult: Thing Throwing Things

Here I will view the catapult through its ammunition, asking of this thing-thing relationship, how does the ammunition used alter the use of the catapult? Particularly interesting examples are the use of diseased animal corpses, an early example of biological warfare, as well as the use of corpses of the besieged, in what could be called an early form of terrorism.

-Catapult as Time Machine

I will finally look into the catapult through modern day recreations. Why do we choose to relive the past by engineering ancient siege engines, and is there anything practical to be taken from this? How do our modern catapults compare with the originals? Maybe even try to build my own?

Sources so far:

Good site

Symbols in Action -Ian Hodder

Medieval Siege - Jim Bradbury

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