Unlike the bill which required no special training for its effective use, the halberd had a slender spike and had to be handled deftly. Early on it seems to have been reserved for officers with special training. Over the years the design of the halberd was modified to increase its effectiveness and, because it became a weapon of the gentlemen officers, to incorporate surface decoration. While they could still be used as weapons, halberds in the early 17th century were mainly ceremonial arms carried by officers and bodyguards for important people.

Fifty halberdiers arrived at Jamestown in 1610 to serve as the personal guard of the new governor Thomas West, Lord De La Warr. Although De La Warr returned to England less than a year later, the halberd of one of his soldiers was left behind in the bottom of a James Fort well and found in 2006. The association with De La Warr can be seen in the intricate openwork and engraving on the blade, which incorporates griffin heads. Griffins, mythological creatures with the heads of eagles and bodies of lions, were used as heraldic devices, and the West family crest is the head of a griffin.

Because it had been buried in the anaerobic environment of the well, part of the wooden staff is still attached to the halberd blade with thin metal straps called languets. The heavily reinforced blade had been purposely bent into a hook by the colonists, perhaps to retrieve other objects like this pistol that had been accidentally dropped down the well.

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