Many people do not know a lot about the macuahuitl, except that it is quite terrifying. It is a bulky club made of wood and spiked with several blades. The blades are made from obsidian, which is a glass-like rock produced when felsic lava from a volcano cools quickly. Nowadays, it is common to hear people referring to the weapon as the obsidian chainsaw.
The Macuahuitl was among the weapons used for attack by the Aztec warriors from back in the 15th century, before and during the Spanish conquest era in Mesoamerica. The weapon was greatly feared because of the extreme pain that it caused, in addition to being lethal. The horrifying tales from the very few who survived encounters with macuahuitl also made more people fear it.
Where the Macuahuitl Came From
Many people associate the macuahuitl with the Aztecs. According to history, however, the Aztecs were not the first people to use the weapon. Obsidian was already being used in Mesoamerican weaponsmithing from before the Aztec empire was formed.
Evidence suggests that the first macuahuitl was made during the first millennium, which was centuries before the Aztec capital called Tenochtitlan was founded. However, during the Spanish conquest, a majority of the Mesoamerican armies had the weapon in their arsenals. The Spanish conquest is what made the entire world know more about the macuahuitl.
Types of Macuahuitl
There are two main types of macuahuitl. The first one has a length of about 70 to 80 centimeters and 6 to 8 obsidian blades on each of its sides. It was designed to be used by two hands. The second one, which is referred to as mācuāhuitzōctli, is much smaller with a length of about 50 centimeters. It has only two blades on each side and is a lot easier to use with one hand. For both types, the size and shape of the blades vary.
The Macuahuitl of Today
There are currently no official records of any original macuahuitl from the Spanish conquest. The only one that was known was destroyed in a fire while in a royal armory in Spain back in 1884. However, numerous macuahuitls have been recreated, which can even be purchased. Nowadays, however, they are not used as weapons. They are more for illustration purposes, with some doubling up as pieces of art. Many people keep collections because of how beautiful they are.