The Kamarion for our Elenovo reconstruction is all finished, other than the holes in the main spar that will be the attachment points for the struts per the Kayumov/Minchev paper.





Mr. Kayumov,  along with Samuli and others, have taken exception to my proposed use of vernier plates (i.e. counter washers).  If Phoenix is to gain any credibility as an authentic reconstruction it seems I must do away with them.  Fair enough.  I get it. Some folks think it’s time to lose the training wheels.  Currently there are other plans afoot that will eventually eliminate their encumbrance. Vault forward, work back with your corrections.  It’s not unlike software development.  We’ll figure our old vernier plates are version 1.0 if we can get a wedge system proofed out. Perhaps for the duration of their continued usefulness I should just correct my terminology and start calling them counter washers.  That would make them more consistent with the “narrative” would it not?


training wheels


Little boy goes, “Huh?”


Here is a picture of some “counter washers” on a very handsome reconstruction of a wood frame machine made by Kurt Suleski.   (Many thanks to Mr. Kayumov for forwarding the photo.)



The counter washers are the steel rings with lots of holes for fine adjustment of the washers.    Perception of terminology is a funny thing, often fraught with negatives and positives. Vernier plates/counter washers, global warming/climate change. Start out with an inflammatory  term and soon you are stuck with it.  A trap best avoided.  It only breeds judgementalism where there should be openness.  My bad.  Calling them “Vernier Plates” was a little pretentious, even for me.

The wisest comment I have yet heard on this whole authenticity issue comes from fellow catapultist Murray Hill from New Zealand in his book Codex Catapulte.  “Studying catapults is like trying to rebuild the Second World war with a rifle, a pistol, a howitzer and a stack of Commando Comics.”  In other words, the unknowns are vast.  Thus we all cherry-pick to make our arguments stick.

In experimental archaeology clearly it is best to pursue the simplest solutions.  Up to a point that is.  It is very easy to glibly suggest that a particular approach is over-engineered.  At the moment the field is riddled with machines that proclaim their authenticity based on wrote adherence to certain ancient texts, yet all of these machines (and I do mean all) come no where close to living up to the performance of the originals.  These machines we can conclude are under-engineered.  Paper Tigers I call them.

Samuli Seppanen over at Ballista Wiki may be an exception to this trend as he is closing in on some impressive stats with a small handheld inswinger.   He is not there yet, but I’m rooting for him, and anyone else that can blow the lid off this field of research and generate authentic levels of performance with practical, historically plausible methodologies.

When it comes to understanding catapults, I believe the truly valuable experimental archaeology projects are a balancing act between the pursuit of absolute parsimony (the ivory tower syndrome) versus the minimum innovation needed to build an “authentic” level of performance with modern materials.  Again, with modern materials,  adaptions are inevitable.  Absolutism is not productive, making the perfect the enemy of the good, and all that.

No modern machine will ever be a perfect analog for an original.  When I become uncomfortable with any of the inevitable ambiguities that arise when working on the test-bed aspect of these machines, I try to include specific disclaimers whenever possible.  (e.g. nylon ain’t sinew, vernier plates counter washers are a concession needed to conduct spring tensioning experiments etc.)

In a nutshell, that’s the game I’m playing.  Trying to understand what makes these machines tick, not pretending I’ve created the perfect replica.  If you are a playing a different game, more power to you.



RE: the spelling of Kamerion.  It has been pointed out to me that Kamerion is actually spelt Kamarion.  There seems to be some room for variation here as no less an authority than Battz prefers the “E”.




Illustration from The Late Roman Army by Southern and Dixon

Color/colour, it’s all of a piece isn’t it?  But I’m easy.  If I can remember, I’ll change up to “Kamarion” in future.

2 Responses to “Kamerion complete. (Or is that, “Kamarion”?)”

  1. Charles W. Fink says:

    So how do you spell Aluminum? Or Aluminium? That one is regional, but both are accepted. I don’t care how you spell it, it looks like you built it right.

  2. nick says:

    Why thank you Charles. But in fairness, I’m sure the fellow in question meant well. Spelling bees always got me stung.

    As for the “kamarion”, this one is certainly better made than the cobbled together mishmash I have on Firefly.

    On another note: I have an Excal Micro 335 showing up in a couple of days. To get my precision shooting jollies, I’ve been into match air rifles for decades now. I usually wear gloves when handling the lead pellets. So tired of all that. Hence the zippy little crossbow. Anyway, it looks like I’ll be trying your “confound the bolt” backstop. It’d be great for really long range target shooting. Thanks again for that idea.

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