Before guns were a thing, melee combat was the way to go during battles.

The concept is simple: Hand-held weapons that could slash, pierce or shatter the enemies’ bones. Through time, early civilizations began experimenting and developing these melee weapons to make them efficient and effective in killing enemies. As a result, many weapons were created and modified depending on the battlefield’s needs of ancient warfare. Some flopped, while others turned out to be highly impressive and effective, causing devastation and havoc to anyone who had to face these weapons.


Not only was it visually intimidating, but the macuahuitl, derived from the Nahuatl language that means “hand-wood,” was something you’d want to avoid. Instead, it was a wooden club attached with prismatic blades made from obsidian on its side. The edges stuck out from the grooves for about an inch, while the hilt was designed so one could hold it either with one or two hands. Obsidian was used because it can produce sharp edges, even higher quality than steel razor blades.

A modern recreation of a ceremonial macuahuitl made by Shai Azoulai. (Zucchini one at English WikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Macuahuitl can be traced back to the first millennium CE, during the Spanish conquest. At that time, this weapon was widely used in Mesoamerica by different civilizations like Toltec, Mixtec, Maya, and Aztec. The Macuahuitl could decapitate an enemy horse with just one or two blows, although it was not as effective against the body armors of the Europeans.