Assyrians: the Pioneers with Iron
As it was for other contemporary armies of the region, the bow was at the center of the Assyrian arsenal. But theirs was a carefully crafted composite weapon of extraordinary power, ends characteristically curled forward to resemble the bill of a duck. These bows were primarily in the hands of foot archers, either deployed as skirmishers or in massed formations. But the Assyrians departed from their rivals in their protection and the care which was taken to integrate them with other functions. After the reign of Ashurnasir-pal (885-860 [B.C.E.]), ranks of archers were depicted as not only screened by shield bearers and heavily armed spearmen, but themselves dressed in long coats of mail and conical helmets. Such measures consumed metal on a grand scale, especially iron, which the Assyrians pioneered using in quantity. Yet ironcladding achieved an important result—sufficient stability in these formations to exploit other tactical possibilities.