What Types of Weapons Were Used in Mayan Warfare?

The types of weapons the Mayans used in warfare included long-distance weapons, close-in fighting armaments, defensive weapons and some unusual items, such as hornets and wasps. Long-distance weapons included bows and arrows, slings, blowguns and throwing spears. They adopted a spear thrower, called an atlatl, around the 5th century, and it became the weapon of choice. The atlatl increased the range, accuracy and force of the spear and proved effective against Spanish armor.

Mayans used clubs, axes, knives and stabbing spears in hand-to-hand combat, called melees. The Mayan war club was especially formidable because it had rows of obsidian blades along its length. The club was able to cut as well as break bone. The Mayans used axe blades made of obsidian, flint, bronze or stone and often preferred using the thick side of the axe to stun their victims, killing them later in ritual sacrifices.

Defensive weapons included shields and an armor made of thick cotton and rock salt, which was effective against obsidian. Warriors wore headdresses, animal skins and body paint when going into battle. Some cities, like Tikal and Seibel, had fortifications surrounding them.

The Mayans used hornets and wasps as defensive weapons. They filled gourds with the insects and then threw them into the attacking forces. The stinging insects flew out of the gourds and attacked anything within reach. The Mayans released so many insects that the stings killed many warriors and sent more off in retreat.