Museum of Ancient Inventions: Trebuchet

Trebuchet, Siena, early 15th century CE

The Trebuchet was invented by Mariano Taccola, “the Sienese Archimedes.” This war machine was invented during the Middle Ages (around 1400 AD) in order to destroy the great walls of the enemy palaces. The trebuchet was designed to throw heavy stones against the walls and simultaneously kill the enemies. The trebuchet was made of wood and iron. This destructive machine was 15m tall and so heavy that hundreds of strong men were required to carry it. The trebuchet has two crates at the opposite side of the basket in which the stone is to be put. The crates are filled with heavy stones so that when the iron rod, which keeps the basket from flying, is pulled out, the crates will fall down and the basket will throw the stone against the enemy walls. If the crates are heavy, then the basket will fly with a stronger force. After throwing the stone, the basket is brought down by the handle on the base of the trebuchet.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Swan Park ”01, Ae-Ree Nam ’99

Making a trebuchet (although the size was fairly smaller than the actual one) was not an easy task. Three of us worked on this project and it took us approximately three to four hours daily for approximately three weeks. First, we made the base and attached the pulley and the handle. Then we made the crates and the basket. After finishing we decided to see if the trebuchet really worked. The crates that were filled with tiny stones did not have a force enough to throw the stone far away. So instead of the tiny stones, we decided to fill the crates with lead. We also made some changes on the basket. Initially, the basket was hanging from a rope. Because it wasn’t stiff, the basket would turn around and would not be able to throw the stone at the aimed point. Therefore, instead of the rope we changed it to a thin iron string that kept the basket from moving. After several trials, we were able to throw the stone as we wanted.


Mariano Taccola and His Book De Ingeneis by Frank D Prager and Gustina Scaglia (The MIT Press Cambridge Massachusetts, and London England, 1972)

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