Bodkin point

A bodkin point is a type of arrowhead. In its simplest form it is an uncomplicated squared metal spike, and was used extensively during the Middle Ages. The name comes from the Old English word bodkin or bodekin, a type of sharp, pointed dagger. Bodkin arrows complemented traditional broadhead arrows, which continued to be used, as the sharp, wide cutting surface of the broadhead caused more serious wounds and tissue damage than the bodkin arrowhead. The typical bodkin was a square-section arrowhead, generally up to 4 1/2" long and 3/8" thick at its widest point, tapered down behind this initial "punch" shape. They were as long as a man's middle finger.

The bodkin point is an uncomplicated design, probably with much in common with the era's pike heads, and the origins of both are lost in history, possibly extending back to the Roman Pilum and javelins of Antiquity. It has been mistakenly suggested that the bodkin came into its own as a means of penetrating armour, but research has found no hardened bodkin points, so it is likely that it was first designed either to extend range or as a cheaper and simpler alternative to the broadhead. Broadheads were made from steel, sometimes with hardened edges.

In a modern test, a direct hit from a steel bodkin point penetrated Damascus chain armour. Armour of the Medieval eras was not proof against arrows until the specialized armour of the Italian city state mercenary companies. Archery was not effective against plate armour in the Battle of Neville's Cross (1346), the siege of Bergerac (1345), and the Battle of Poitiers (1356); such armour became available to European knights of fairly modest means by the late 1300s, though never to all soldiers in any army.

The bodkin point eventually fell out of use during the 16th and 17th centuries. Firearms were beginning to dominate the battlefield and would make infantry armour largely obsolete in the coming centuries, though it was still used to a limited extent as late as the First World War.


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