Trebruchet: Medieval Siege Weapon

This evening, I am reporting on the medieval siege machine known as the trebuchet. One key use was to pound away at castle walls with massive rocks until their defensive capabilities were severely weakened. In addition to rock type projectiles the trebuchet could be used for germ and psychological warfare by  lobbing into castles rotting animals and the bodies of captured deceased defenders.

The video below shows a trebuchet in action at Warwick Castle, England. This still image is of the trebuchet at Castle Urquhart at Loch Ness, Scotland.

 Technical information

A trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses a long arm to throw a projectile. It was a common powerful siege engine until the advent of gunpowder. The design of a trebuchet allows it to launch projectiles of greater weights and further distances than that of a traditional catapult.

There are two main types of trebuchet. The first is the traction trebuchet, or mangonel, which uses manpower to swing the arm. It first appeared in China in the 4th century BC. Carried westward by the Avars, the technology was adopted by the Byzantines in the late 6th century AD and by their neighbours in the following centuries.

The later, and often larger and more powerful, counterweight trebuchet, also known as the counterpoise trebuchet, uses a counterweight to swing the arm. It appeared in both Christian and Muslim lands around the Mediterranean in the 12th century, and was carried back to China by the Mongols in the 13th century.


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