Bâton de commandement

A bâton de commandement or bâton percé is a name given by archaeologists to a particular prehistoric artifact of uncertain function. The name "bâtons de commandement" was the name first applied to the class of artifacts, but it makes an assumption of function; the name "bâton percé", meaning "pierced rod", is a more recent term, and is descriptive of form rather than any presumed function.cite book
author = Robert Jameson, Ian Shaw
title = A Dictionary of Archaeology
publisher= Blackwell Publishing
year = 1999
id = ISBN 0631235833
]

Description

The bâton percé is made from a length of antler with a round hole made in one end, and often have abstract or animal designs etched into them. They have been found at Aurignacian and Magdelanian sites of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, with examples dating from 23,000 to 12,000 years ago. They have a joint at one end, often forming a T or Y shape, but always with a swelling of the antler at that end. There is a circular hole drilled through the antler just below the swelling or joint. Typical examples range from 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in length.cite book
author = David Wescott, Society of Primitive Technology
title = Primitive Technology: A Book of Earth Skills
publisher= Gibbs Smith
year = 1999
id = ISBN 0879059117
]

The purpose of the bâton percé was originally thought to be as a symbol of power or status, hence the early name "bâton de commandement", or "rod of command". Other interpretations include:
* A symbol of fertility, with the long handle as a male phallic symbol, and the hole as representing the vaginacite book
author = Sir Bertram Coghill Alan Windle
title = Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England
publisher= Methuen
year = 1904
url=http://books.google.com/books?q=%22Remains+of+the+Prehistoric+Age+in+England%22&btnG=Search+Books
]
* An arrow or spear straightener, with the shaft to be straightened passing through the hole
* A dress fastener
* A calendar used by midwivescite book
author = William Irwin Thompson
title = The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light: Mythology, Sexuality, and the Origins of Culture
publisher= Palgrave Macmillan
year = 1996
id = ISBN 0312160623
]
* A spear thrower

The spear thrower hypothesis

The use of the bâton percé as a spear thrower, similar to the later atlatl, has been the subject of experimental archeology which has yielded evidence in support of the hypothesis that the bâton percé was used as a spear thrower.cite journal |url=http://www.jstor.org/stable/2796077?seq=1 |title=Le baton de commandement |author=Leon Underwood |journal=Man |volume=65 |date=September - October, 1965 |publisher=Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, pp. 140-143]

The spear thrower hypothesis was first put forward in a scathing article by artist Leon Underwood in 1965. In this Underwood, who had previously engaged in experimental archeology working with bronze artifacts, rejects the archeology community's classification of the bâton percé as a "magic wand", and draws comparisons between it and more contemporary Eskimo spear throwers. Underwood's hypothesis was that the existing samples of the bâton percé were in poor shape, and may have been missing a hook, such as that found on the Eskimo spear thrower and the atlatl. Underwood built two wooden models, based on different bâton percé in museum collections, but with the addition of a 'nipple' or hook to the end of the shaft opposite the hole. These reproductions were compared against Eskimo designs, and were found to offer superior performance when throwing fletched spears; Underwood pointed out that the Eskimo throwers, which built using driftwood, were necessarily weaker and that the design reflected the available materials.

In another experiment, the bâton percé was used in the other orientation, held so that the end with the hole was outwards, and no hook was added. In this series of tests, a 60 inch (1.5 m) long, 1500 grain (97 g) fletched spear was used. To use the bâton percé as a spear thrower, a length of cord is attached to the spear, near the middle of the spear. Leather would be suitable for lighter spears, while sinew would be required for heavier spears. The addition of the cord turns the spear in to a large Swiss arrow. Using the spear thus equipped as a Swiss arrow resulted in a 43% increase in range, compared to a hand thrown spear.

The bâton percé is used by feeding the cord through the hole, and laying the cord along the length of the shaft. The bâton percé is held in the hand, with the solid end held in the hand near the pinkie, and the pierced end emerging from the other end of the fist. The loose end of the cord is grasped between thumb and forefinger, and the spear is laid along the bâton percé. The spear may be twisted up to one and a half turns, which serves to stabilize the spear during the throw. The bâton percé is held over the shoulder, and thrown overhand. The length of the bâton percé serves to increase the thrower's leverage, providing more speed, and the cord acts as it does in a Swiss arrow, extending the leverage further. Use of the bâton percé in this way results in a 127% increase in range over the same hand-thrown spear.

Experimental observations

Most bâton percé examples are curved to some degree, either from the natural curve of the antler from which they are made, or as the result of deliberate alteration. Straight or curved handles both produce similar gains in range, but the experimenters found that curved handles provided better ergonomics than a straight handle, with left handed throwers preferring one direction of curve, and right handed throwers preferring the other. Straight handles had the advantage of being usable by both left and right handed throwers.

While the T or Y shape is not required for use as a spear thrower, an example with a T or Y shape is less sensitive to the direction and amount of twist in the cord, and thus easier to use. Used in the method described, even the bâton percé's hole can be dispensed with, though the resulting spear thrower would be far more difficult to load and use.

The cord used works well with when it is long enough that about 8 inches (20 cm) of cord extend from the hole of the bâton percé to the knot on the spear. Longer cords, up to 12 inches (30 cm) may provide higher velocities. Cord attachment points can vary from the middle of the spear to the center of mass, depending on the length, and a significantly front-heavy spear works best.

The spear should be long enough to project about a foot (30 cm) in front of the bâton percé when ready to throw. When using a long spear, a longer bâton percé can also be used, though a short version works as well. The longer bâton percé may provide additional velocity over the shorter version.

References


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Baton de commandement — Bâton de commandement Bâton percé Bâton de commandement, ou bâton percé, est le nom donné par des archéologues à un artefact préhistorique dont la fonction reste incertaine. Le terme bâton de commandement est un terme générique qui recouvre… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bâton de commandement — ● Bâton de commandement bâton qui sert de signe de commandement à certains officiers …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • baton de commandement — noun see baton I, 5 * * * Fr. /bah tawonn deuh kaw mahonn deuh mahonn / an Upper Paleolithic instrument possibly used as a shaft straightener, often made from the main beam of an antler and having one or more perforations through which a shaft… …   Useful english dictionary

  • bâton de commandement — Fr. /bah tawonn deuh kaw mahonn deuh mahonn / an Upper Paleolithic instrument possibly used as a shaft straightener, often made from the main beam of an antler and having one or more perforations through which a shaft could pass. [ < F: lit.,… …   Universalium

  • bâton — [ batɔ̃ ] n. m. • 1080; bas lat. bastum, de °bastare « porter » ♦ Long morceau de bois rond que l on peut tenir à la main et faire servir à divers usages. ⇒ baguette, vx verge. Bâton de berger. ⇒ houlette. 1 ♦ (Servant d appui). Se servir d un… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • commandement — [ kɔmɑ̃dmɑ̃ ] n. m. • v. 1050; de commander 1 ♦ Vieilli Action de commander. ⇒ injonction, ordre, prescription. Commandement verbal, écrit. Mod. L habitude du commandement. Dans l armée, Ordre bref, donné à voix haute pour faire exécuter certains …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Baton perce — Bâton de commandement Bâton percé Bâton de commandement, ou bâton percé, est le nom donné par des archéologues à un artefact préhistorique dont la fonction reste incertaine. Le terme bâton de commandement est un terme générique qui recouvre… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bâton percé — – Collection Edouard Lartet Magdalénien – Muséum de Toulouse Le bâton percé, appelé aussi bâton de commandement, désigne un objet préhistorique dont la fonction n est pas connue avec certitude. L expression « bâton de commandement » est …   Wikipédia en Français

  • commandement — COMMANDEMENT. s. m. Ordre que donne celui qui commande, qui a pouvoir de commander. Commandement verbal. Commandement par écrit. Il a fait cela par votre commandement. J obéis à vos commandemens. f♛/b] On dit au Palais Commandement, pour dire, L… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • bâton — BÂTON. subs. mas. Long morceau de bois qu on peut tenir à la main, et qui sert à divers usages. Gros bâton. Bâton noueux. Bâton de fagot. Bâton de cotret. S appuyer sur un bâton. Marcher avec un bâton. Donner des coups de bâton. Il l a menacé du… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798


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