The University of Pennsylvania recently digitized a fascinating 16th-century treatise showing illustrations of cats and doves with what looks like rocket packs strapped to their backs. Penn historian and digital humanities expert Mitch Fraas set out to unravel the mystery of the high-tech, full-color illustrations. Here’s what he knows so far:
The treatise in question was written by artillery master Franz Helm of Cologne, who was believed to have fought in several skirmishes against the Turks in south-central Europe at a time when gunpowder was changing warfare.
Circulated widely and illustrated by multiple artists, Helm’s manual is filled with all sorts of strange and terrible imagery, from bombs packed with shrapnel to missile-like explosive devices studded with spikes — and those weaponized cats and birds.
According to Fraas’ translation, Helm explained how animals could be used to deliver incendiary devices: “Create a small sack like a fire-arrow, if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.”
Source: Yahoo News