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Testing Late Roman Plumbatae (2) - Breezand

By Robert Vermaat


Test 2 – Breezand Beach, Zeeland, Thursday 24th February, 2011.A picture of the testing site.
A picture of the testing site.

Plumbatae types:
David Kellenberger I/II.
Both plumbatae are of the ‘Wroxeter’ socketed type and have barbed heads.

1-David Kellenberger I
2-David Kellenberger II

I like these plumbatae a lot. David Kellenberger did a very nice job reconstructing them. They are easy to throw, look great, and would be a nice item for every Late Roman re-enactor.

One of the plumbatae from Wroxeter
One of the plumbatae from Wroxeter
1 - DK I:
Length: 309 mm (tip-tail), 210 mm (shaft), 55 mm (shaft behind stabilisers).
Weight: 66 g, 3 feather stabilisers of 47x13 mm.

2 - DK II:
Length: 297 mm (tip-tail), 207 mm (shaft), 46 mm (shaft behind stabilisers).
Weight: 70 g, 3 leather stabilisers of 40x15 mm.
Two plumbatae by David Kellenberger
The plumbatae from David Kellenberger.


(I have an original plumbatae (no shaft) weighing 146 g, other recorded finds weigh between 40 and 180g).

The main aim of this second test test was to see how far these shorter and lighter plumbatae could be thrown against the longer plumbatae which I tested in 2007.
As a result of that first test, I concluded that the longer, heavier plumbatae did not perform as shorter, lighter darts possibly would, given some distances reached by others in unpublished tests. Somehow this seemed logical because the average weight of these plumbatae (weighing from 220 to 274 grams) was a lot more than the average weight of original finds (between 40 and 180 grams). This second test would find out if that conclusion was right or not.

No attempts were made to aim the plumbatae at a specific target; the tests were purely aimed at achieving maximum distance.
Tests were conducted on a flat beach with a changing SW following wind from an angle.
Throwing was done in modern clothing and from a stationary position, except for throws 11 and 12.

The testing range
The testing range

Test results:

Your test pilot.
Your test pilot.
DK I at a nice angle
DK I at a nice angle.
DK II almost buried.
DK II almost buried.

Test 2.1 – overarm

Throw DK I DK II
1 34.5 36.4
2 31.2 22.4 (came apart)
3 39.8 34.8
4 36.7 37.0
5 33.0 36.9
6 30.0 30.9
7 33.9 27.4
8 30.5 27.6
9 33.3 34.3
10 36.1 34.6
avg. 33.9 33.3

Overarm, running:

11 30.8 34.8
12 32.1 35.7

Test 2.2 underarm

13 31.0 - (came apart)
14 34.8 32.0
15 31.7 33.0
16 (24.0) 31.8
17 32.5 28.9
18 32.3 40.5
19 33.3 37.4
20 32.5 33.4
21 36.3 36.8
22 32.9 36.4
23 35.0 36.0
24 31.9 32.4
25 36.4 40.2
26 36.0 35.5
avg. 33.6 34.9
The testing range.
The testing range.
DK II
DK II
DK II near the 37m mark.
DK II near the 37m mark.
A SW following wind.
A SW following wind.
DK II buried deep.
DK II buried deep.
Both plumbatae on the 36m mark.
Both plumbatae on the 36m mark.

Findings:

Overall, the plumbatae were easy in throwing and flew well. No wobbling, turning over in flight or similarly unstable behaviour could be observed. All throws, except for a few which I was responcible for, or two occasions when DK II came apart in flight, landed very close to the measuring ribbon. Concluding, some amount of accuracy can be achieved, even though the test was not aimed to achieved this.

I attempted a running throw, but discontinued that, as it was not attributing to the distance reached (the main aim of this test).
The missiles landed at roughly the same angles as the heavier ones in 2007. Although this was no surprise, it might have been different, due to differences in flight behaviour.

Almost from the start I reached distances of 33-37 meters which, surprisingly, would prove to be the average of the day. Although I had expected distances of 50 metres or more, this never materialised. The following wind made a difference, but also messed up some throws. These distances were comparable to those reached underarm by the Deepeeka plumbatae in 2007, but less than the maximum underarm distances achieved with the heavier plumbatae. However, they still outperformed every overarm distance reached by the heavier plumbatae.

Overarm throwing resulted in shorter distances, which was no surprise to me – this was similar to the 2007 testing. The maximum range remained underarm 40.5 m (DK II) and overarm 39.8 (DK I).
Although DK II performed better thrown underarm (as expected), both in maximum distance as in average distance, this was not the case with DK I. Unlike 2007, the extra distances varied between 3 extra m (DK II) or even 3 m less (DK I), with the average being hardly different. This was surprising.

Average underarm

dart DK I DK II F II* LM I* LM II* DP I* DP II*
dist. 33.6 34.9 39.4 38.8 36.4 31.4 33.3

Average – overarm

dart DK I DK II F II* LM I* LM II* DP I* DP II*
dist. 33.9 33.3 34.4 32.9 32.3 29.7 32.0

Maximum – underarm

dart DK I DK II F II* LM I* LM II* DP I* DP II*
dist. 36.4 40.5 44.6 41.7 42.8 33.2 37.1

Maximum – overarm

dart DK I DK II F II* LM I* LM II* DP I* DP II*
dist. 39.8 37.0 35.2 36.9 35.4 31.8 33.2

* (distances reached during the 2007 test).

Throwing them 26 times each took about two hours, without any fatigue of the throwing arm (not counting the time I spent looking for the metal part of DK II when it came apart twice, or remodelling the test site). This was different in 2007, and some conclusions could be reached from that.

Conclusions:

1 – The distances of 50+ metres that I had in mind were by no means reached. The reason for that may be that the weight is too small. Or (like in 2007) that I just can’t throw properly.
2 – Based on this test, throwing underarm hardly differed from throwing overarm.
3 - Based on this test, lighter missiles outperform heavier missiles when thrown overarm.
4 - Based on this test, heavier missiles outperform lighter missiles when thrown underarm.
5 – Based on this test, feathered flights may have a positive effect.
6 – Based on this test, lighter missiles allow for a much longer period of continuous throwing.
7 - Lighter missiles may not fly a greater distance than heavier ones.

Aims:

1 - In future I will use shorter shafts for some of the heavier plumbatae.
2 - I will be experimenting with weight as well.
3 - I'd like to test more different models, also from different suppliers.
4 - I would like to use more throwers.
5 - I still want to try the cestosphendron.


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