Author Archives: hoplologyenthusiast

Final Project: Counter Weight Trebuchet


For my final project I decided that I wanted to build a trebuchet because when I originally took this course that was the sort of thing that I thought we were going to talk about. The trebuchet can be traced as far back as 300 B.C in Ancient China (Tarver 130). This form of trebuchet was what is known today as a traction trebuchet.

The traction trebuchet was similar to the more traditional counter weight trebuchet that most people think of but with the major difference being the method of swinging the arm. The traction trebuchet was typically consisted of a off set arm on an axel. The long end of the arm would have a sling that could hold the projectile to be thrown, with a large number of ropes tied to the other end. These ropes would be grabbed by the team of men once the siege engine had been aimed at its target. The men would then jump up, and pull the ropes down all at once, swinging the arm upwards and launching the payload towards the target. This would be the only version of the catapult to exist into 500 AD when the French would adopt it in large numbers (Traver 152). This trebuchet would continue to be used until 1216 during the Siege of Dover where the counter weight trebuchet was introduced to Europe.


A model of a Traction Trebuchet (Todd)

The counter weight trebuchet is the trebuchet most commonly thought of, depicted, and well known trebuchet. It’s construction was very similar to that of the counter weight trebuchet in terms of how the arm, payload, and method of propulsion were set up with the main difference being the mechanism to swing the arm. Where the traction trebuchet used ropes and a team of men to pull the weight down, the counter weight trebuchet simply had a large weight instead. The weight would constantly be on the ground unlike the traction trebuchet who had the ropes constantly on the raised side of the arm. The arm would then be lowered down using a system of pulleys to load the payload and prepare for firing. Upon pulling a levear the arm would swing and the payload would fire. The pulley system was based upon the trebuchet size with smaller ones using a hand crank while larger ones would require what was essentially a human sized hamster wheel. The counter weight trebuchet would generally replace the traction trebuchet until the popularization of the cannon and gunpowder which would be used to replace it.


A Model of a Counter Weight Trebuchet ( Akinom)

I decided to make my trebuchet using some methods that could have been used back in the day. Instead of building my trebuchet using nails, improved geometry, and today’s architecture tools to build it I decided to build one using woodworking techniques and to make it look similar to how they would have back in the day. I decided to use wooden dowels instead of nails by drilling holes into the wood and pushing wooden dowels through the holes too small for the dowels and cutting the dowels to size by hand after. The other method that I used was a woodworking technique called a rabbet join where you cut the wood to half length and stack them on top of one another before pinning them together.  Below are my pictures of in progress and some pictures that I made of the wood working techniques I used.



Alchin, Linda. “Trebuchet.” Life in the Middle Ages, 2017,

Chevedden, Paul E., et al. “The Trebuchet.” Scientific American, vol. 273, no. 1, 1995, pp. 66–71. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Tarver, W. T. S. “The Traction Trebuchet: A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine.” Technology and Culture, vol. 36, no. 1, 1995, pp. 136–167. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Chevedden, Paul E. “The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 54, 2000, pp. 71–116. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Todd, Gary Lee “Military Museum: Ancient Weapons.” Wikimedia Commons, September 30, 2008

Akinom, “Trebuchet at Caerlaverock Castle.” Wikimedia Commons, August 2007

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Bayeux Tapestry Scene #70

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth around 230 feet long, 20 inches tall, and recounts the story of the conquest of England by the Normans, specifically William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex (Carter 24). The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story from the perspective of the successful invading Normans, but it is agreed upon now that it was created in England. The tapestry was supposedly commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half-brother, a few years after the battle had reached its conclusion some time in the 11th century, sometime around the 1070s (Carter 24). The tapestry was then lost to history until it was discovered in 1729 when scholars of the time found it while it was being displayed in the Bayeux Cathedral. This tapestry tells a long story spanning many years, but how reliable can one consider this tapestry to be?


Plán bitvy u Hastingsu, anonymous, public domain, This graphic represents the battle of Hastings, the main battle represented in the tapestry

The purpose for the creation of the tapestry is probably where the biggest reason for skepticism comes in. As previously said, this tapestry was created a few years after the conquest had ended and was commissioned by Bishop Odo. This means that it was most likely created with approval of the church as a sort of commemorative work of art. It was most likely used to help bring the story of William’s conquest to all those who would see it. This was meant to help establish that William was went to win because God was with him, or at least that his claim to the throne was true in the eyes of God (Anderson 254). Proof of this can be seen in the fact that it was on display in a church.  Since this was meant to celebrate William and his conquest, some details are likely to be embellished or polished up.

Another reason for skepticism is that the entire thing is from the perspective of the invaders. History is written by the victors after all. This leads to a one sided view of the conquest that obviously favors William. This ties into the previous point about a retelling being improved to help the victor appear better, but for a different reason.

Despite these negatives, the tapestry is practically a miracle. The entire length of it was able to survive for hundreds of years before scholars were able to find it. The colors and cloth are still extremely vibrant and clear allowing for easy reading and interpretation of the needlework. With the piece being commissioned by Bishop Odo, someone present in the stories, this leaves the possibility that this is a recording of the story from a primary source in the form of Odo himself.


Photo taken from The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066 by Mogens Rud

In this scene, we can see the end of the actual battle of Hastings and the actions of William and his armies during the aftermath. The bottom left of the scene shows the dead body of Harold with an arrow through his eye, identifiable by the cause of death as well as his unique shield shape. Also along the bottom you can see scenes of archers firing on the retreating army along with what appears to be a decapitated peasant. Along the middle we can see conflict between across a diverse range of parties. From left to right we see conflict between foot soldiers fighting foot soldiers, foot soldiers vs cavalry, and a foot soldier vs a peasant based upon his dress. The shields of the soldiers along the left are covered in arrows and we can see at the bottom right of the scene that archers shown previously are most likely the reason for it. Along the middle we also see a Latin inscription that when translated reads “Here the French fight and have killed those who were with Harold” (Rud). A note that perfectly describes what is happening in the scene. Finally, along the top we see animals that have been present along the length of the battle. This scene is the clean up that comes after defeating an enemies commander. A good comparison for this scene would be cutting the head off a cockroach. The cockroach won’t know what to do or how to move, but it will still run around even without that knowledge. Eventually it may will stop moving and die, but unlike the cockroach the army can get a new head, a new commander. So they decided not to wait for that possibility and kill those that were traveling with Harold, those most likely to be able to take control.

As this is a memorial piece, some of the details are most likely embellished, polished, or omitted altogether. But even with that, this easily one of the best source of medieval history around today with its clear artwork, close to primary source account, and its creation point near the time of the event. It gives the history of William’s conquest of England before the attacks, during, and the aftermath. As a source for what happened, you most likely won’t find a better source, just remain a bit skeptic.



Bloch, R. Howard. “Speculum.” Speculum, vol. 81, no. 2, 2006, pp. 493–494. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Carter, John Marshall. “Doing What Historians Do: Using the Bayeux Tapestry to Discover the Past.” The Clearing House, vol. 70, no. 1, 1996, pp. 24–25. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Anderson, John D. “The Bayeux Tapestry: A 900-Year-Old Latin Cartoon.” The Classical Journal, vol. 81, no. 3, 1986, pp. 253–257. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Noxon, Gerald. “The Bayeux Tapestry.” Cinema Journal, vol. 7, 1967, pp. 29–35. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Rud, Mogens. The Bayeux Tapestry and the Battle of Hastings 1066. Christian Ejlers, 2008.

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