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by Archaeology Newsroom

David’s Weapon

The sling was originally used in the 7th millennium B.C. when writing was still unknown. The contemporary research has reached the conclusion that the propagation of the Neolithic way of life coincides with the wide diffusion of the sling’s use. Clay or stone missiles of biconical, sphaerical of elliptical shape, weighing about 30 gr each, are placed in a leather or woven socket; two stripes, attached to its ends, allow the rapid rotation of the missile. As a result, when one of the stripes in let loose, the rotation energy is transmitted to the missile which thus is hurled in a speed of over 100 km/h. Most of the Neolithic missiles are biconical. Their aerodynamic cross-section decreases the air resistance and at the same time increases their range which can reach almost 500 m, that is much longer than the range of an arrow. About the end of the Bronze Age and during the successive historical periods lead missiles are made, which represent a technological achievement in the evolution of war methods. Archaeology cannot easily establish the use of the sling. A large amount of pebbles, found nearby the entrance to the small Protocycladic fortification “Korfari ton Amygdalion” on Naxos, has been interpreted by the excavator Christos Doumas – in relation with the destruction and devastation of the site in the second half of the 3rd millennium B.C. – as a result of enemy invasion. Similar is the case in another fortified settlement of the same period, in “Kastri” on Syros. At Sesklo, Thessaly, Christos Tsountas had already pointed out, during his first excavations, the existence of heaps of clay sling missiles in the ruined houses of the acropolis, a find verified later by Dimitris Theocharis not only in the houses of the acropolis but also in those of the town itself.

This phenomenon finds its parallel in a settlement of the Karanovo II Civilization. The ancient historian Xenophon in his Third Book of Anavasis describes the misfortunes of the Greek expedition force after the Kounaxa battle (401 B.C.). assigning them to the lack of slingers who could have kept the enemy to a far distance. In the course of centuries the sling has been replaced by other weapons, however, in our time, during the Spanish Civil War. It was by slings that grenades were hurled at the Alcazar fortress.