General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Conquistadore meets Aztec

Message started by Johnny on Jun 19th, 2004 at 10:21pm

Title: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 19th, 2004 at 10:21pm
The only weapon the Conquistadores feared was the sling. The Aztecs, Incas, Mayas and Peruvians used them. "at 30 meters a sling shot was observed by one conquistadore to break in two the sword held in a man's hand, and at half that range it could dent an iron helmet and stun the man wearing it." Hope you folks like this illustration.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 19th, 2004 at 11:31pm
Johnny,  just how long did it take you to bang this one out?!   Do you have a website?  You should moonlight/freelance on the net!!

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by JeffH on Jun 20th, 2004 at 12:14am
Johnny,  could you check your quote?  I don't believe the meter was established until long after the conquest of the Americas.

I could be wrong here, but...

Your art, on the other hand is without peer.  You are truly tallented!

jeff <><

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Hondero on Jun 20th, 2004 at 1:35am
Splendid illustration, Johnny!! You are gathering a unique set of sling drawings for your future book. It´ll be worth to get it  :D

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 20th, 2004 at 2:12am
Johnny,  have you ever been asked to collaborate as  illustrator on a children's book?  Perhaps you have already illustrated books?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by justin Ball on Jun 20th, 2004 at 4:47am
Meters, yards, doesn't matter. I think 30 meters was used here because most of the world uses the metric system now. However, the text the quote came from may have originally said 33 yards, or 67 doesn't matter, it is the same phsyical distance.

I have an interest in this, having had a go round with a work mate some time ago..he would not condone purchasing of books for the workshop with imperial units. Since most woodworking mags and videos are of US origin (80%?), it wiped out all that treaching material, and all information printed in the UK prior to 1970 something. I argued it didn't matter what system the object was originally built to, it was what it was, and could be measured, or say, described in any language, and it remained the same thing- and it was the "thing", its construction method and size that mattered.


Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 20th, 2004 at 5:35am
Justin,  you lost me......this ignorant american don't speak metric!   lol.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by longwinger on Jun 20th, 2004 at 7:11am
Very good point Justin, the distance from point A to point B is the same, reguardless of which ruler it is measured with.
Very nice illustration Johnny! Did the people of this region ever develope and use metallic glandes?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Yurek on Jun 20th, 2004 at 7:31am


Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 20th, 2004 at 7:51am
Thanks for all the nice comments!
I've done a few illustrations for various books in the past. Look for the book, "The Thracians" by Osprey publishing. I did some of the black & white illustrations.
The quote comes from the book,"The Conquistadores" by Terence Wise. A book produced by Osprey publishing.
I'm also interested in the Spanish swords of this period. Toledo blades were awesome. Incredible strength, but flexible. You could take a sword, bend the blade into a S or semi-circle, and it would spring back to its original shape. Maybe Hondero has some good information on this!

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by JeffH on Jun 20th, 2004 at 11:50am
Justin (and others)

My comment was not about the validity of either Johnny's art or the text he quoted.  

But, we do care somewhat about accuracy, do we not.  Not only technical accuracy, but historic and grammatical as well.

I don't care personally what units a person states
a fact in.  I have been a technical draftsman for over 20 years (since I was 13).  I have worked in a variety of measuring systems.  I love any system based on 10 divisions.  I love converting units and understanding the relationship between units of differing systems.   They are all just different ways of describing the same thing.  After all, measuring a distance in a particular unit does not affect the distance.

So, Justin, it does matter what measuring system we use when we quote a source, because we are desirous of being accurate to the source.  It does not matter what system we use when describing something ourselves, unless the reader cannot understand the system.

jeff <><

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 20th, 2004 at 1:11pm
I think you misunderstood Jeff.  Johnny was accurately quoting from another source and to suggest that he bear the onus of backdating his source to 'stay true to the period' seems a bit...shall we say, burdensome. Who burnt your milquetoast? If only I could split hairs with my sling as well!  To quote you:

"I love converting units and understanding the relationship between units of differing systems"

If you had merely done that which you 'love' before your post, you would have noted that the Spaniards themselves had a problem keeping true to their own units of measurement.

Let us spend a moment to impart understanding to the reader on Johnny's behalf......

"The earliest transmittal of Roman metrology to Spain probably occurred sometime between the 3rd Punic War (end of Carthage in 146 B.C.) and the rise to power of the Spanish soldier Trajan as Roman Emperor near the end of the first century A.D. Spain's local regional modifications to measurements evolved for the next fourteen centuries. Because of the extreme Spanish regionalism at the time of Mexican conquest in 1519, every Spanish province had measurement systems which only faintly resembled the "official" standard established by Castile. The regional confusions spilled over to Nueva España until the late 16th century when a royal decree established that the vara of Burgos province would henceforth be considered the "standard." In the late 19th century this vara was generally accepted as .8359 meter or 32.909 inches. With time, however, the "vara problem" became progressively worse. W. C. Wattles reports in LAND SURVEY DESCRIPTIONS that there were no less than 22 different values of the vara during Mexico's and California's Spanish and Mexican exploration periods!

Much confusion still prevailed as some early metrologists tried to tease out a universal system from one inherently grounded in imprecision (fundamental lengths from body parts!), and regional variations (political and unsettling!) contributed to the confusion, making any of a number of measurement systems possible and probable during Spain's colonization period.

The chart at the end of this paper is based on the Burgos vara and shows a degree of precision compared to modern metric and English (Society of Automotive Engineers-SAE) standards. Since no academic consensus prevails as to the Burgos standard, extreme care is necessary in using the table. In many cases one unit might have been used to denote a variety of measurements. Some units changed values depending on the commodity, product, or direction being measured and some length measures changed their value over time, such as in the vara, as mentioned, and the league which changed often. Many units had specific usage for vocations such as sewing, shoe or boot making, printing, shipbuilding, agrarian and cattle industries.

England's contribution to a universal measurement "solution," some two hundred years before Spain's entrada into California, added even more confusion. In 1595, under Queen Elizabeth 1, the House voted on the conventional English furlong as being 40 rods, known also as poles or perches, each unit equaling 5.5 yards. The SAE system now begins with a yard consisting of 3 feet with 12 inches to the foot. Differing Anglo-Saxon and Spanish notions about "precision" now came into conflict, adding to cultural and language differences. To this day, the two adopted systems are still out of sync. Spanish cultures now embrace the more exacting metric system, while English speakers are intransigent with base 12 dimensions.

France incorporated the simpler and more exacting metric system shortly after Charles Maurice de Tallyrand, Bishop of Autun, placed before the French National Assembly a plan based on a unit of length equaling that displacement which a pendulum makes in one full swing per second. Louis XVI, in 1790, authorized a scientific investigation aimed at reforming weights and measurements at the end of the French Revolution. Spain followed France, after Napoleon had temporarily suspended the metric system for twenty-eight years, and fully adopted the metric system around 1867, then well past the California Mission Period.

The following list contains twenty-three known length measurements (small to large) existing during the Spanish colonial period, together with the author's hypothesized genesis. The table presented, courtesy of Charles W. Polzer and the Arizona SMRC team, shows the relative relationship between all twenty-three lengths and their dimensions in more familiar SAE and metric equivalents. Please keep in mind that if any other definition of the vara is adopted other than the Burgos provinces, these definitions will be modified, and areas, to be discussed in Part II, will be greatly modified.

punto: An extensively used word in the Spanish language in many idiomatic expressions, meaning a point or dot, the punto was the smallest of Spanish measurements. Used exclusively in sewing, shoe and boot making, and later printing, it was 1/12th of a línea (line) and a little over six-thousandths of an SAE inch.
línea: Spanish for line, línea denotes a "twine's thickness," used for stitch measuring in sewing and most commonly in the fishing industry. It was 12 puntos and 1/9 of a dedo, equaling about 0.076 SAE inch.

dedo: The Spanish word for finger or toe, dedo, begins the scale of measurements associated with the human form. The finger's breadth was handed down centuries earlier. The Egyptian digit (zebo) of 18.7mm and later the Roman digitus (finger) of 18.44mm was transferred to the New World as 17.4mm, using the Burgos definition of the vara (48 dedos to the vara). In SAE units, the dedo measures 0.686 of an inch.

pulgada: The Spanish word for inch, the pulgada was the third most widely used linear measurement, after the vara and legua. These three were used traditionally as small, medium and long lengths throughout antiquity. A man's thumb width (quite often larger during prosperous times) denoted the inch in many cultures. From the Latin uncia, literally a twelfth, we get the words INCH and OUNCE. Starting out as 24.58mm, it arrives in the New World as 23.2mm and is exactly 1/3 of a palmo menor, equaling 0.914 SAE inch.

palmo menor: This measurement came from minor palmus (small palm) or 4 Roman digits, or approximately 3 inches. It was used in Spanish colonial times as subdivisions: 1/2 of the sesma and 1/3 of the palmo mayor. It is about 2.74 SAE inches.

sesma (jeme): A variation of the Spanish word sexma (for 1/6), the sesma was 1/6th of a Burgos vara, or six pulgadas at 5.48 SAE inches.

palmo mayor: (curato, c.1620 DF): Derived again from the Roman concept of a " large palm," the Roman major palmus was 12 digits or three times larger than the small palm. Spain's adoption is similar, with the palmo mayor being exactly three times larger than the menor,or 8.227 SAE inches and is exactly 1/4 vara.

pie: (tercio, c.1620 DF): Spanish word for foot, the pie is 2/3 the size of a codo and 1/3 larger than the palmo mayor. From the Roman pes, a foot of 295.7mm survives to become the Spanish foot at 278.6mm or 10.969 SAE inches.

codo geométrico: (media, c.1620 DF): Spanish for elbow. Traditional naming for measures from anatomical appendages continues. The Roman cubitus, at around 18", now becomes Spain's codo geométrico, at 16.45 SAE inches. Theoretically, it is the distance between the elbow and the outstretched middle finger.

codo real (de ribera): Used primarily in shipbuilding (lit. "along the shoreline"), the codo real is 1/3 larger than the codo geométrico and was exactly 8 palmos menores In SAE terms, approximately 1.83 feet.

paso ordinario: Spanish for a man's length of step or pace and is 1/2 of a paso geométrico. The Roman gradus or half- passus most closely resembles the ordinario, measuring approximately 2.3 SAE feet.

vara: Established within Spain's northern central power province of Burgos in the early 16th century, vara was considered very early on as the Spanish YARD and was used for many other integer multiples. The legal value of the vara set in early 1900 Texas was 33-1/3 inches, but Spanish-speaking countries (including Mexico and California) and those outside of Mexico had many other definitions for this most-used of Spanish measurements. (Burgos Province vara = 32.909 SAE inches)

paso geométrico: Twice the length of the paso ordinario where again Roman influence predominates with the passus, or man's pace, about 5 feet, considered a "long" Roman yardstick. The Spanish paso geométrico measures slightly less than 4.6 SAE feet.

braza: A length used primarily in the shipbuilding industry (meaning "marine fathom"), was actually measured differently for length and height. From Greek times the fathom (orguia), was defined as the distance between fingertip to fingertip of a man's outstretched arms. About 1.83m in antiquity, the fathom transferred to Nueva España as a shorter 1.67m or 5.485 SAE feet.

toesa: A Spanish measurement that had absolutely no common multiples or divisions with any other Spanish measurement. Rather, the toesa was adopted quite independently from an Old French measurement (toise) of approximately 6.38 SAE feet.

marca: As with the toesa, the miarca has no common divisors or integer combinations between the toesa or other Spanish lengths. It appears that this length was used as a height measuring stick, approximately 7.88 SAE feet, for sea and land measurements. It was apparently another French legacy.

estadal: A Spanish linear measurement of about 3.3 meters or 11 SAE feet. The estadal is many even multiples of other Spanish measures. (Please see Editor's Note for the explanatory Table.)

cordel: In Spanish colonial times there were three cordels with distinct integer equivalents of 10, 50 and 69 varas, each measuring in at 27.4, 137. 1, and 189 SAE feet respectively. Used primarily in the agrarian and cattle industries.

milla: The Spanish equivalent MILE or 1/3 of a legua. From the Roman mille passus, or 8 stadia, which contains 1000 paces, came the mile (milliarium). Spain's bequeathal, the milla, similarly contained 1000 pasos geométrico or twice as many pasos ordinaries with many other integer multiples along the way. The milla is 1393m or 0.866 SAE mile. The Roman milliarium was used extensively in antiquity, e.g., along highways where stones were equally spaced and served to form military positions; also in highway maintenance.

legua: The largest of Spanish measurements was the legua, or LEAGUE, which has many divisors and multiplying subdivisions. Exactly 3 millas, 5000 varas or 10,000 codos; it was 2.597 SAE miles or 4180 meters in length."

There, that should clear up Johnny's 'oversight' in quoting a source that uses modern units of measurement........He should have used the 'Vara' so that we could all have benefitted in being compelled to go a 'googling' for understanding on the matter.  I know I learned something....

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Gun on Jun 20th, 2004 at 1:33pm
Tech Stuff you get my vote for the " award" for the longest post.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 20th, 2004 at 2:19pm
Maybe the author of the book(Terence Wise) translated the Spanish text(in yards) to a 20th century speaking English culture. I know the Europeans use the metric system. Wow-I never dreamed my illustration would cause a firestorm!!
PS-The goal of an artist(at least for me) is to inspire people. I see I have "inspired" a debate on Meters/Yards!!!!

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by weaver on Jun 20th, 2004 at 5:30pm

Are there any sources, archaeologic or literary, that tell us anything about the style used by the Aztecs or the slings they used?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by David_T on Jun 20th, 2004 at 5:47pm
Great illustration!

I read that same account and now I have a picture to go along with it. But, you forgot one detail--I don't see a "puddle" under the Spaniard's feet. Surely that must have scared the pee out of him ;D

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 20th, 2004 at 7:46pm
No debate on my end.  I simply don't debate facts that are in evidence.  Such evidentiary exploits are motivated by a preference to diffuse debate.  I agree in retrospect, with Gun.  I should have provided a source where the information could be found should the reader be interested, and avoided taking up so much space.  

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Hondero on Jun 21st, 2004 at 12:26pm
Tech, your speech has been  great  :D, I´ve had a lot of fun,  and the information on Spanish old measures is extremely interesting, as to have it before one when reading old Spanish texts, as for example the Cronicas de la Conquista.
The quote of Johnny has been used frequently by different authors in all times and thus it has been deteriorated as it is logical, changing units and facts according to the exactitude and quality of the author. For that reason the observation of Jeff is not superfluous, and it´s always advisable to mention the author of quoted texts.

The original quote is from Alonso Enriquez de Guzman, who accompanied Pizarro and fought beside him at the siege of Cuzco. The ideal would be to transcribe the quote as he wrote it, in old Castilian, but unfortunately one has to translate it to modern English although it loses great part of its original taste.  It says, more or less, talking about to the Incas of Manco Cápac:

"The main weapon they have is the sling, that uses it from childhood. When they are born they already wear it on the head like a cap. With it they throw very big stones that can kill a horse and sometimes to the rider although they strike to him in the helmet. Their slings are really almost as lethal as arquebuses. I have seen breaking in two pieces with the sling an old sword that a man had in the hands, to a distance of thirty pasos".

So, in the first place, the quote was about the Incas of Peru. Secondly, it was an "old" sword , what it seems to indicate of smaller hardness and solidity. Third,  it talks about thirty "pasos", that would correspond to about 20 meters aprox. But in any case the exact distance is not important here since the author is not speaking specially of accuracy with the sling, but of power when breaking the sword.
The slings of the Incas were without a doubt frightful, and at the same siege of Cuzco where the event of the sword takes place, a brother of Pizarro, Juan Pizarro, was struck by a stone of sling on the head, and since he had forgotten to wear the helmet, his skull was broken, dying fifteen days after.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by TechStuf on Jun 21st, 2004 at 12:44pm
Take it from one who knows,  I always say.   ;)  Good work Hondero.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by archeorob on Jun 21st, 2004 at 2:17pm

Fantastic Illustration!  I knew that you had to be related in some fashion to Osprey publishing.  Your style reminds me a lot of Angus McBride.  Good stuff!!

As for the quote, I have no oppinion on whether meter or yards is historically accurate.  I do, however, think that the author had never seen a macquahuitl (macana) wielding Aztec!  The sling is tough, but a club with shards of obsidian is to be greatly least by Cortez and his men.


Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by english on Jun 22nd, 2004 at 2:52pm
I do not agree with the first statement - the Aztecs used the atlatl, which the Conquistadors feared far more than the sling.  The Incans were not truly effective with their slings against the invaders, and the Maya had dispersed before the Spanish invaded.  Excellent picture though, good detail and sense of action.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Gun on Jun 22nd, 2004 at 3:04pm
The spanish maybe feared the atatla because they were more out in the open. The sling is small, maybe the spanish didn't even know that they had them. It wold be hard to conseal a atatla in your pocket.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 22nd, 2004 at 4:24pm
Where can I find sources giving descriptions of Spaniards being killed, swords being broken and horses stunned or killed by the atlatl. I've read a few blurbs about this, but can't find good information.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by zeluiz on Jun 23rd, 2004 at 1:49am
Tactical analysis leaves little doubt that the most effective Andean weapon was the sling, a conclusion indirectly supported by the depiction in the Nueva corónica of prominent Inca commanders, notably the general Calcuchima, wielding the sling in battle. Sling stones were said to be capable of shattering a horse's thigh or snapping a sword blade in two with a square hit at short range, and the Spanish feared these missiles as they feared no other indigenous weapon, no doubt in part because of their random nature.

the sources speak about the Incas. Aztec ... ?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Hondero on Jun 25th, 2004 at 12:32pm

wrote on Jun 20th, 2004 at 7:51am:
I'm also interested in the Spanish swords of this period. Toledo blades were awesome. Incredible strength, but flexible. You could take a sword, bend the blade into a S or semi-circle, and it would spring back to its original shape. Maybe Hondero has some good information on this!

Johnny,  I ought you somewhat about swords  :D
I am not an expert in swords although who does not know the famous steel and swords from Toledo? The city still remains as in the Middle Age and to walk around its streets is to return to the past, and only half an hour from Madrid. The crafts of the swords and armors keeps on alive, although now mainly for the tourism. One can find in the shops along the streets great amount of swords, replicas of famous swords of all times, but also ceremony swords for today armies of many countries.

It is said that the quality of Toledo´s blades is due to the properties of the water of its river, the Tajo, in which they were hardened. But without a doubt their craftsmen got to develop a very special art, mainly in XVI century, although the tradition of making excellent swords is very old in Spain, until the point of which the Romans adopted a Hispanic sword like the standard weapon of their army: it was the famous "gladius hispaniensis", that caused more deaths throughout history than any other weapon until the appearance of the firearms. The Roman gladius was the celtiberic sword of short antennas, very beautiful, to which the Romans just changed the grip. There are Latin texts that describe the quality and way to make those wonderful swords of Celtic tradition.

Returning to the Toledo´s  swords, they were made in such a way that their edges were very hard and sharp, but simultaneously the blade was flexible and did not break because of blows, being both things normally contradictory. To greater hardness of a steel, greater fragility and facility to break itself. For that reason they made the inner part of iron (very ductile) and it was covered with very hard steel sheets. The set was soldered at high temperature in the forge and afterwards hammered to merge the parts in an only part. We could say that it was a compound blade, something like the compound bows.
The process to make swords in any country considered the principles to combine the iron and the steel, but in each place there were different ways of doing it and the secret of the quality was without a doubt in the procedures. In some places it was done twisting rods of steel and iron like plaiting a cord, in others they made of steel only the edges, etc, etc. One of the main reasons of the fame of Toledo´s swords was maybe that each unit was put under a rigorous control of quality, in such a way that the sword that did not pass the tests was sent back to the forge to remake it.
There are so much to talk about swords... but we are slingers, aren´t we?  ;D

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by David_T on Jun 25th, 2004 at 7:36pm

Wow, I wonder how many nearly lost arts there are.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by JohnHorn on Jun 27th, 2004 at 11:24am
Heyhey, very awesome illustration! :)
Though if I was picky I would probably pick at the eye-area and chinbone. I'm also an illustrationist, but primarily I deal with 3d graphics. I focus on organic modelling (people).

Hey, it's awesome that you've made illustrations for the Thracians book :D

I've gotten 11 books from Osprey Publishing, but 4 books have not yet arrived:
New Vanguard 78: Greek & Roman Siege Machinery
New Vanguard 89: Greek & Roman Artillery 399 BC
Men-at-Arms 360: The Thracians 700 BC-AD 46
Special: Hannibal's War With Rome

It's very cool to have met someone who has illustrated a book I've already ordered. :D

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by english on Jun 27th, 2004 at 12:56pm
I also like Osprey.  Probably everyone here does.  I like mostly Medieval, Japanese or American colonial era books, but I have a few others.  The illustrations are often first rate.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 27th, 2004 at 2:04pm
I personally know Angus McBride.
He has done some biblical illustrations for my company, LifeWay Publications. Very nice and wonderful person.

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by JohnHorn on Jun 28th, 2004 at 9:39pm
Heyhey.. I actually got the book in my mailbox on monday. :)

Looking good, I can see many of your b&w drawings on pages 8, 13, 14 and so on..  "© Johnny Shumate 2001"
I take it that's you? :)

Great drawings m8!

I also love Angus McBride's illustrations, they just.. rock!

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 28th, 2004 at 9:51pm
Your's truly!
The originals are in color and I wish you could see them that way.  Seems a little was lost in the greyscale conversion. But, anyway, I find it a honour to have my work next to the great one, Angus McBride!
PS-Did you see the Thracian slinger?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by JohnHorn on Jun 28th, 2004 at 10:15pm
Hmm.. too bad about the conversion. Would be fun to see them in color.

Yes, I saw a Thracian Slinger, but only in Angus McBride's plate F (on page 30). Did you paint/draw him?

Title: Re: Conquistadore meets Aztec
Post by Johnny on Jun 29th, 2004 at 6:41am
I didn't draw or paint the slingers. I think there are 2 slingers in the book.
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