Medieval Technology, Agricultural Tools

There has been plenty of visual depictions of tools, The ones that come to my mind are the Bayeux Tapestry, which shows men felling trees and building long ships; the tool depictions are fairly explicit. The Mendel House book has depictions of 14th through 16th century workers of all types, including several types of woodworkers, carpenters and joiners.

Period depictions of Noah building the ark are good sources, as are depictions of St. Joseph at work. The Campin altarpiece has a depiction of St. Joseph's workshop with some really good tools in it including a broadax.

The plough is considered to be one of the most important (and oldest) technologies developed. In fact, the history of the plough stretches back to the Neolithic (New Stone) Age that began about 8000 BC in Mesopotamia. In the Middle Ages, however, the plough was radically improved and was used with multiple-oxen teams.

This innovation facilitated the clearing of the forests of fertile northwest Europe, Before this time because of the nature of the soil, it was difficult to plough these fields. And, obviously, this inability to cultivate these fields reduced the population of northwest Europe. After the redesign of the plough, allowing the plough to plough the heavier and wetter soil of northwest Europe, there was a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity, and subsequently, the population of these areas.

  • Axe
    Use for cutting tree's, defence and food
  • Scythe
    A long-handled scythe enabled the corn to be cut while the worker remained standing. Held with both hands the crop was reaped by a slicing action. The scythe was mainly used for cutting grass and harvesting barley and oats.
  • Flail
    The flail was two pieces of wood joined together. The handle was attached to a smaller piece called the striker. The flail was used to separate the grain from the harvested sheaves.
  • Harrow
    A harrow was used for breaking up the soil and covering over seeds. The harrow had between four and six wooden beams called bulls, into which were set iron or wooden teeth. The bulls were joined together by wooden cross beams
  • Sickle
    A sickle was the main tool used by medieval farmers for cutting corn. The iron blade was angled backwards from the handle to allow a smooth cutting motion. The sickle enabled the corn to be cut without too much strain on the wrist.
  • Haymaking Forks
    Haymaking forks were made of wood with two or three ironed prongs. These were used for ground preparation or for haymaking.
  • Spade
    A spade was made of wood with iron shoes to protect it from wearing out. It was used for preparing the ground, especially on the croft. it was also used for digging ditches when draining land. Before planting seeds it is necessary to breakdown the earth.
  • Moulboard Plough
    A moulboard plough that produced a deep furrow and turned the earth after it had been cut by the coulter and share. The moulboard was the device for guiding the plough and turning the earth over. To get the right depth for the seed the plough has to both cut and turn the earth.
  • Rake
    A rake was used for spreading and collecting grass during haymaking. Those farmers who could not afford a harrow used a rake

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