In the prehistoric periods, it is not possible to differentiate between tools and weapons, due to the multipurpose design of early equipment. Bows and arrows can be used to shoot at game animals but also at other human beings; hammers and axes, too, can be applied to all manners of materials, as well as other people’s heads. The increased specialization and Mesopotamia’s organization into competing city-states in the third millennium B.C. contributed to the professionalization of soldiers.
   Texts and visual depictions, as well as grave goods, show the military equipment of the period. Warriors were protected by tight-fitting (leather?) caps, cloaks, and shields. They used stone-headed maces and bronze daggers for hand-to-hand combat. Projectile weapons, such as spears and arrows, were made of stone, bone, and wood. Kings and members of the elite were given ceremonial weapons made of gold when they were buried. They may have also played a role in courtly ritual and display and could be offered to gods as votive gifts. In the second millennium B.C., improvements in molding techniques led to elaborately worked and decorated daggers and axes as well as mass-produced bronze arrowheads. Bows underwent several changes in design; it seems that composite bows, made from layers of different materials to improve strength and elasticity, were invented already in the third millennium. Of great importance was the introduction of chariot troops in the mid-second millennium. The Assyrians were the first to use cavalry troops.
   Assyrian reliefs give the best and most detailed evidence for weaponry of the first millennium. Soldiers wore pointed helmets, coats of mail, shin guards, and long as well as round, bronze-coated shields. The infantry had spears and daggers, while cavalry units were armed with spears or bows and arrows.
   See also ARMY; WARFARE.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.


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