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Date > 1500 > 1550-1559

Subject > Weapons, Equipment and Fortifications

Spanish galleons in a North Atlantic storm, circa 1560s-1580s

Type: Image

The weather shown hitting these Spanish ships was encountered by the Basque whalers based in Labrador during the second half of the 16th century. Occasionally, ships were lost. One such was the San Juan, sunk in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565.

Site: National Defence

Portuguese archer and, at left, a crossbowman, early 16th century

Type: Image

Archers and crossbowmen were commonly found on ships and in the early overseas settlements of the first half of the 16th century. Such soldiers were most likely part of the early Portuguese forays to Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)

Site: National Defence

Voyages Of Discovery

Type: Document

Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.

Site: National Defence

Sixteenth-century galleon

Type: Image

The crewmen of this 16th century galleon are using several devices to discover their position. Tools like the arbalete and nocturlabe were used at night to measure the position of the stars in the sky. Based on these measurements, navigators could determine where they were on the globe. (National Library of Canada 18025)

Site: National Defence

Harquebusier, 16th century

Type: Image

Portable firearms such as the one used by this harquebusier became common in European armies during the 16th century even though they were complicated to handle and slow to fire. Pikemen, crossbowmen, archers and swordsmen continued to be present on battlefields in the old as well as the new world.

Site: National Defence

Sixteenth-century Amerindian warriors from central Canada

Type: Image

Three types of costumes common to all Amerindian tribes are shown. Reconstruction by David Rickman. (Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

16th century ‘rondelle’

Type: Image

Some 200 ‘rondelles’ - round shields carried by infantry swordsmen, more commonly called ‘rondaches’ - formed part of the armament sent to Canada in 1541. Swordsmen still formed an important part of infantry contingents in mid-16th century European armies.

Site: National Defence

Spanish steel helmet and breastplate, 16th century

Type: Image

Such armour was found on the Spanish galleons going to Labrador in the second half of the 16th century. (Museo Casa Pizzaro, Trujillo, Spain)

Site: National Defence

Officier wearing armour, 16th century

Type: Image

Armour was worn by senior officers during the 16th century and would have been brought by those in the 1541 Roberval expedition.

Site: National Defence

Changes in Weapons

Type: Interactive Resource

Illustrations and descriptions of various British, French and American firearms used in North America from the 16th century till the end of the 19th century.

Site: National Defence