High tech gadgets used to trigger medieval weapon

Mon Feb 28, 2011 3:47pm EST
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By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters Life!) - Workers at a Google data center combined 12 century know how and space age technology to trigger a medieval weapon that was used to hurl rocks, balls of fire and dead animals over castle walls.

They used an Android cellphone, a computer the size of a credit card and a Blue Tooth receiver to trigger the wooden weapon, known as a trebuchet, during the first "Storm the Citadel Trebuchet Competition" in Charleston over the weekend.

The trebuchet was used during medieval times to break down fortifications.

"They also threw dead people," said Dennis Fallon, dean of engineering at The Citadel, a military college with about 2,100 male and female cadets. "What we have done in military history is not always something to be proud of."

More powerful than the ballistas and catapults of ancient empires, the trebuchet used a long swing arm, triggered by the pull of gravity on a counterweight placed at the other end, to slingshot its payload into the air.

The brutal weapon played a large part in the medieval Crusades. According to histories of the time, Richard the Lionheart called his best weapon "Malvoisine." Edward I supposedly brought about the surrender of Scotland's Sterling Castle in 1304 with a giant trebuchet named "Warwolf."

The trebuchet made a comeback in the late 20th century among medievalists, college professors and fans of the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in which a cow is hurled over a castle wall.

In the 1990s in Britain, armament enthusiast Hew Kennedy built a massive machine on his Shropshire estate and used it to throw compact cars and flaming pianos across his field.   Continued...