The earliest meaning attributed to macana is a sword-like weapon made out of wood, but still sharp enough to be dangerous. The term is also sometimes applied to the similar Aztec weapon, which is studded with pieces of obsidian in order to create a blade, though some authorities distinguish this item by using the Nahuatl name macuahuitl.
The Inca army also made use of a 'macana spear' which consisted of a wooden shaft with a heavy metal or stone object at the end. This object was often in a star shape to maximise the potential to break bone. They were the most common weapon in the Inca arsenal, and it is possible that gold or silver was used for the star for high-ranking officers.
- Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, Decades de Orbe Novo (written in the early 16th century):
- Cominus hi certant vt plurimum, ensibus oblongis, quos macanas ipsi appellant, ligneis tamen, quia ferrum non assequuntur...
- "In hand to hand combat they generally use long swords, which they call macanas, which are however made of wood, as they don't have knowledge of iron." (p. 127)
- armatum ... arcubus putà & sagittis, machanísque, id est, ensibus amplis, ligneis, oblongis, vtráque manu agitandis...
- "...armed ... for example with bows and arrows, and macanas—that is, with large, wooden, long swords which are wielded two-handedly" (p. 180)
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