Behold, one of the most terrifyingly gruesome weapons you’ve ever seen.

The Aztecs were a people of immense wealth, culture, and knowledge. They created one of the most sophisticated aqueduct systems ever seen, built massive pyramidal structures in the middle of thick jungle, had advanced knowledge of medicine and surgical procedures, and were absolutely terrifying in battle.

Knowing they were skilled in engineering, unique design, and in battle, it should come as no surprise that they mastered some of the most terrifying weapons the world has ever known. Especially when you consider their most fearful: The macuahuitl or ‘the obsidian chainsaw’.

What is it?

From the name alone it’s clear this is a terrifying weapon. It really is as horrific as it sounds. The macuahuitl is effectively a large wooden paddle with serrated blades embedded along the sides. If that doesn’t already sound horrific, buckle up because it gets worse.

The macuahuitl was huge compared to the spears and arrows commonly used at the time. With the one-handed version coming in at three and a half feet long and its two-handed counterpart as tall as a man, it was a formidable weapon in close-quarters combat.

It was also extremely sharp. Obsidian, the material used for the blades, is a volcanic glass and one of the sharpest materials in the world. It can be honed to a blade far sharper and durable than any other substance. In fact, due to its superior performance over surgical steel, obsidian blades are still used in surgery today.

Of course there are more quick and efficient weapons in human history, but there are few more gruesome and effective than the macuahuitl, and definitely none as hardcore.

Not only were the blades sharp, but they were also sometimes serrated for maximum damage. Much like the teeth of a chainsaw, the obsidian blades framing the paddle were notched to inflict as much damage to the victim as possible. Not only would the skin easily slice, but it would also rip and shear off the body when the macuahuitl was pulled back. Charming.

How was it used?

With the image of this wonderful weapon in your mind, I’m sure you’ve already conjured a wealth of horrible images and scenarios in which the macuahuitl was employed. It does, however, get worse.

The macuahuitl was primarily used for two purposes – killing in battle and the maiming of enemies to subdue them for live sacrifice.

When used in battle, the macuahuitl was sharp enough to decapitate man and horse. There are many accounts of their effectiveness in battle from numerous Spanish conquistadors, of which many speak of their ability to rend the head from men, the entrails from horses, and in one account, the head from a prize mare.

This may sound terrifying on its own, but it is the second use of the macuahuitl that truly speaks for it’s ingenious, yet horrible design – injuring and subduing live captors for ritual sacrifice.

Niveque Storm/Wikipedia

Human sacrifice was a regular practice in Aztec society, so the collection of specimens (er, humans) was an important part of their culture. Luckily for them, the macuahuitl was uniquely suited to this task.

During battle, the capture of enemies for use in live sacrifice was of prime importance. The serrated blades of the macuahuitl were ideal for maiming enemies, so were a preferred weapon in this pursuit. In instances where live capture was required, it’s likely warriors would inflict many shallow cuts (or rips if we consider the serration). Then, Aztec warriors would club the victim unconscious with the flat side of the weapon and cart them back for sacrifice.

Of course there are more quick and efficient weapons in human history, but there are few more gruesome and effective than the macuahuitl, and definitely none as hardcore.

Thankfully, this weapon is no longer used. You’ll also be hard-pressed finding a working replica as obsidian is remarkably hard to knap. Luckily, it’s unlikely you’ll ever encounter one of these bad boys outside of a museum. And that’s certainly for the best. These hellish weapons can stay tucked away in the history books.

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