Hard-Hitting Facts About the History of the Hammer

Wednesday, 19 July
Hand holding wooden mallet-cm

The hammer is humanity’s oldest and most trusted tool. This versatile instrument has millions of practical uses. Whether you need to beat something loose, slam something into place, or even carefully pry something open, the hammer delivers! It’s no wonder you’ll find a hammer in every craftsman’s toolbag. Behind this tool’s massive popularity is a hard-hitting history that every craftsman should know. Here’s some stuff you were never taught in social studies.

Oldie but Goodie

The hammer is so so old that it actually predates human beings. While the species of homo sapiens is about 200,000 years old, the oldest hammers date back to three million years ago. The earliest versions were constructed out of stones for breaking or forming various materials such as bone, wood, or other stones. These ancient hammers didn’t have any handles. Instead, the user’s arm was the primary means of generating force. It might’ve been a crude version compared to today’s technology, but it was revolutionary for the time.

Getting a Grip

It took over 2.5 million years before our early ancestors got a grip (literally) on their hammers. Sticks were the preferred material for constructing handles due to their widespread availability and ease of manipulation. Animal tendons and leather were used to secure the heads. This structurally simple modification had a ground-breaking impact that took the hammer from a handy tool used in a handful of situations to humanity’s primary source of protection, construction, and hunting. Plus, it spared countless thumbs from being crushed.

Hammering Away

Throughout human history, the heads of hammers have been constructed from a wide range of tough materials. The primordial stone versions were eventually swapped out for various forms of metal. Bronze emerged as the material of choice around 3,000 BCE until iron and steel became commonplace around 1,200 BCE. Today, hammers are made of a combination of durable metals to create the sturdiest alloys.

Construction Begins

As the human race’s first real tool, the hammer has played a central role in creating some of the world’s most impressive construction marvels. For example, the Ancient Egyptians are renowned for their adept use of hammers to build the Great Pyramids, the Sphynx, and the Valley of the Kings. Similarly, the Greeks were well-known for their hammer skills when constructing the Acropolis.

There’s evidence that hammers were used in virtually every corner of the earth where ancient civilizations have lived. From the deserts of Northern Africa and the frigid Arctic Circle to the remote islands of the Pacific, hammers have been an integral component of the development of nearly all human societies.

Modern Versions

Today, there are seemingly endless iterations of the hammer. The carpenter’s hammer is the most iconic version, but it’s far from the only type used by craftsmen. Industrial professionals use everything from ball-peen hammers for mechanical projects and dead blow hammers for precision work to jackhammers and sledgehammers for demolition. The variety is as unique as the skills craftsmen bring to the job.

Cultural Impact

The practical uses of a hammer are easy to grasp, but humanity’s most beloved tool has cultural significance too. The hammer shows up in famed myths around the world such as Thor, Hercules, and even America’s own John Henry. As a symbol of strength, authority, and might, the hammer was commonly used on flags and family crests. This meaning has even made its way into our justice system where judges use a gavel to maintain control of their courtrooms.

Having a tough time nailing down the right gig? We’ve got you covered! At Madden Craftsmen, we specialize in helping talented craftsmen like you find work with premier industrial employers across the country. Check out our job search for the most immediate job openings in your area. You can also contact us directly to ask any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

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