History paints a bleak picture of the devastating effects that disease, contamination, or poison can have on humans. But with those hard lessons came experience and knowledge, and mankind has effectively harnessed that knowledge to create biological weapons, using them against enemies since prehistoric times.
The deliberate use of biological agents against enemies has been practiced time and time again throughout history to lethal effect.
Acts of ancient biological warfare generally fall into three categories: deliberate contamination of water sources and food supplies with poisons or contagions; the use of toxins and microbes from plants and animals on a weapon; and the purposeful infection of goods and people with disease.
Aboriginals have long coated arrowheads and spear points with plant and animal toxins, from frog or snake. In prehistoric times toxins were used on hunting weapons to quicken the death of enemies or prey. As the advantages of poison became clear, tools and weapons were specifically constructed for poisons. In fact, the word “toxin” itself comes from the ancient Greek term for arrow poison.
The ways in which tribes, nations, and civilizations plotted with biological agents against foes are beyond numerous, and include an ancient Hindu treatise advising poisoning the food of enemies, 2nd century BC writings in China advocating the use of a “soul-hunting fog” through the burning of toxic vegetables, and tactics in ancient Greece encouraging the tainting of vital aqueducts with the harmful hellebore flower.
Tools of Infection, Illness, Disease and Terror
In antiquity there was an incomplete understanding of the spread of disease, but it was believed the rotting corpses of animal or man were sources of illness. Scythian archers dipped their arrows in rotting bodies and in feces-tainted blood as far back as 400 BC. Later, English Longbowmen would stab their arrows in the ground in front of them, arrowheads in the dirt, so not only could they be drawn and fired quickly, but the points would be unclean, increasing the likelihood of infection in the unfortunate target.
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