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General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Early development of the sling
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Message started by Chris on Mar 4th, 2004 at 1:05am

Title: Early development of the sling
Post by Chris on Mar 4th, 2004 at 1:05am
It is believed the sling originates with the earliest homo sapiens, even Neanderthals, although it's hard to prove other than knowing their skill set was sufficient to make a sling.  There is that neolithic (could be paleolithic, someone have dating on the art?) cave painting of a supposed slinger.  

I have been thinking about the weapon development sling, and I think it evolved in this fashion:

- The first projectile was the rock, thrown by hand.

- People realized that if a cord was attached to it, greater force and range could be gained. (a kind of tethered rock, like those balls with streamers).  However, cord was time consuming to make and people would have to carry many of these during a hunt, and possibly lose them.  

- The tethered rock evolved into the bola (same weapon, but rocks at both ends, and possibly more than one set), effectively used to bring down quadruped animals by wrapping up their feet.

- The sling would seem like a logical step from the tethered rock.  The physical ideas behind that of a sling (pouch opening up to release the rock tangentially) seems like one step ahead developentally, and would come naturally after experience with the tethered rock.  It was essentially the same weapon, but reusable.  Because the weapon was used repeatedly by an individual, like a bow, the quality and design development would have grown quickly (cord quality and type, pouch type, even projectiles), into what is todays standard sling.  

Chris

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Dan_Bollinger on Mar 4th, 2004 at 7:01am
Chris,  That's the exact evolution I have decided upon, too.

Look no further than my avatar for that neolithic ("New-Stone Age", 9500-4500 BC) petroglyph. It is from Turkey and the first known sling artifact.

Since the sling is a hunting weapon it was probably developed during the earlier paleolithic or even mesolithic period.

The Greek version of the tethered rock is called the librile. Isn't the perdita the same?

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Foner on Mar 4th, 2004 at 7:50am
I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that any attempt to follow the trail of the early development of the sling runs into a difficulty: the lack of direct evedences, due to the fact that the organic materials the slings are made of do not resist the passage of time. Therefore, we can just work with indirect evidences and our own imagination.

Nevertheless, I agree with the evolution process proposed by Crhis. But I would like to add a feeling of mine: that the sling was, just from the beginning, a weapon for the defense against other humans, and not just for hunting. Many professors of Prehistory notice, from the exploration of the human remains of that time, that a lot of people died from traumatisms, specially in the head. I bet a lot of those traumatisms were caused by a sling.

Foner.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Hondero on Mar 4th, 2004 at 5:58pm
Is the tethered rock a Northamerican natives weapon? How was the stone and how was tied? It sounds more primitive than the "bola perdida".

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 5th, 2004 at 7:01am
I am fairly certain that the tethered rock was a weapon used universally, or at least wherever the sling has been found, due to the fact that the tethered rock, being simply a rock on a string, is an ancestor of the bolas, which is itself an ancestor of the sling.  Ergo, it is not a weapon used only in north America.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Douglas on Mar 5th, 2004 at 12:29pm
Dan this is going to sound stupid but I didn't know what I was looking at. Your avatar looked like somebody's nose, until I finally got it!!  ;D

The only aboriginal people who do not know the sling are the Australian natives, so if we come up with the likely date for their entry into Oz, it would be between then and the date of the Turkish cave painting...

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 5th, 2004 at 1:08pm
The aborigines did not know about bows, either.  I think many cultures represent how our culture was before, eg, native Americn culture represents a very advanced stone age culture, such as Europeans were in the Neolithic, whereas the Australian aborigines represent how Europeans were in the earlier stages of development, in the Paleolithic, for example.  By such a means we can look at how our ancestors lived.  If only we had not progressed as we have.  Perhaps we would still be looking at an inhabitable world in the future.  Thanks to modern culture, in particular, the new found (by which I mean, in the last four thousand years +) wastefulness of humanity, fuel emissions and consumer driven life, we are going to basically screw the earth within a few generations.  *sigh*

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Ulrica on Mar 5th, 2004 at 2:09pm

wrote on Mar 5th, 2004 at 12:29pm:
Dan this is going to sound stupid but I didn't know what I was looking at. Your avatar looked like somebody's nose, until I finally got it!!  ;D


Ha ha. He have read  that before. I also saw nothing but a nose for many days until I finally saw that is was a slinger.
     
Feels good, that Iīm not alone  ;D

/Ulrica

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Dan_Bollinger on Mar 5th, 2004 at 2:30pm
LOL!  Funny thing is, I can't see the 'nose'.   ;D

I believe the aborigines arrival to Oz is between 20,000 to 30,000 years ago depending on who you talk to.  One guess was 60,000 years ago. Supposedly, a slow, coastal migration took place out of Africa, across Arabia, the Indian shoreline and into Indonesia. From there they went island hopping to Oz.  Does anyone know if the sling was developed by anyone along that route? It might help to cement the theory.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 5th, 2004 at 2:40pm
I thought that aborigines were in Australia at least 28,000 years ago, because radio carbon 14 dating shows that a body found in Mungo, Australia, of an Aborigine woman, was dated from then.  And that was in southern Queensland, nearer to New South Wales and the southern coast than the northern, where aborigines entered.  To have penetrated that far would have at least required an extra 1000+ years of occupation, and many archaeologists believe that people were in Australia upwards of 50,000 years ago, as you say.  Slings were certainly developed by Arabs, much later, and in pretty much all of Asia at some time.  I suppose that in theory it is possible that the paleo-aborigines from the middle east and Africa did use slings, but as they travelled, they lost the knowledge, or they could no longer find the required fibres to make them, or something.  The main aboriginal weapon is the spear, and woomera, a type of atlatl.  So perhaps these developed from the sling, and they decided that the sling was henceforth useless.  These are all possibilities.  But I think that aborigines came to Australia so long ago that they had never developed the sling.  

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Hondero on Mar 5th, 2004 at 3:01pm

wrote on Mar 5th, 2004 at 7:01am:
I am fairly certain that the tethered rock was a weapon used universally, or at least wherever the sling has been found, due to the fact that the tethered rock, being simply a rock on a string, is an ancestor of the bolas, which is itself an ancestor of the sling.  Ergo, it is not a weapon used only in north America.


Iīve seen single bolas ( or bola perdida) from Argentina XIX century, and even archeological ones from Sudamerica dated more than 12,000 years, but Iīve never seen that  thing named "tethered rock", that I suppose is an irregular stone tied to a cord. Is a real thing or is a concept or general idea? There are some archeological specimen somewere?

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 5th, 2004 at 3:17pm
Well, it is an assumption, really.  If the bolas was developed, and the sling, then the so-called tethered rock would have been developed before.  Otherwise, where would you get the idea for the bolas?  It wouldn't just come out of the air into your brain.  So archaeological evidence is not required, and would be extremely difficult to get hold of.  This is because all you have is a rock, no work done on it, and the fibres would have decayed millenia ago.  A tethered rock would have been used long before the bolas, which itself was used a ludicrously long time ago.  So... difficult to prove the existence of such things.  But assumption tells us they must exist.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Hondero on Mar 5th, 2004 at 4:44pm

wrote on Mar 5th, 2004 at 3:17pm:
So... difficult to prove the existence of such things.  But assumption tells us they must exist.


Yes, is very posible but not necessary. I can imagine other weapons evolution, for instance: first, the man throw stones by hand. Second, he notice than rounded stones were better grasped and more accuratelly thrown. Third, he noticed that was a pity to lost frecuently this well worked and rounded stones and decided to tied them to a long string so that he can recover them and throw again in a few seconds. And we have the single bola very near yet, without pass for the tethered "rock".

Nevertheless, there is an archaeological objet called "lithic polyedron" that exist from european Paleolithic and wich real use is not known and not even suggested for the archaeologist, but that may have been used as the predecessor of single bola. This is also my guess.
I asked after the actual existence of tethered rocks because sometimes Iīve heard of them in a northamerican context, and suppossed it was even an actual weapon seen for pioneers in the hands of natives.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Dan_Bollinger on Mar 5th, 2004 at 4:51pm
Korfmann has a map showing worldwide distribution of the sling. Australia is noticably vacant. There is a heavy concentration around the Mediterranean and the Fertile Crescent. Plus, along the diaspora I mentioned earlier including Yemen, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and the Phillipines not to mention most of the Pacific Rim except Australia and Tasmania.

Aborigines arrive there in 40,000 BC and by 20,000 BC had covered the mainland. This would suggest that the sling is not older than 40,000 years.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 6th, 2004 at 5:13am
The "tethered rock" is basically just a one stone bolas.  

And I agree with most of what Dan says about aborigines and slings; most of the people in the world at that time would have been concentrated in the belt he tells us of.  So, it fits that if one group discovered the sling, other groups would, and we would see that aborigines had the sling.  That they didn't gives us a date for first use of the sling, which is basically anywhere upwards of 40,000 years ago, which is an absolutely massive timeframe.  Most of the weapons used nowadays were developed about a century ago, basic gun designs being developed in the fourteenth century.  So the sling seems so venerable.  Makes me love slinging even more.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Douglas on Mar 6th, 2004 at 1:08pm
Since we know that the Americas were colonized around ? 25,000 years ago (and certainly the Indians knew the sling), so that might begin to give us a bracket for the development of the sling...

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 6th, 2004 at 4:29pm
Native Americans (or as they are known in Canada, First Nation Peoples) colonized the Americas thousands of years ago, and estimates vary, because carbon dating for the time is very innacurate.  And it could be that the native Americans developed the sling once they arrived in America, as it's use is not known to be universal.  The atlatl and bow were developed indepently of everywhere else, the atlatl inumerable years ago, the bow fairly recently, around 100 BCE to 500 CE, dependent on where you are thinking of.  So the native Americans can only give us a rough estimate, or not even that.

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Douglas on Mar 7th, 2004 at 4:52pm

wrote on Mar 6th, 2004 at 4:29pm:
Native Americans (or as they are known in Canada, First Nation Peoples) colonized the Americas thousands of years ago, and estimates vary, because carbon dating for the time is very innacurate.  And it could be that the native Americans developed the sling once they arrived in America, as it's use is not known to be universal.  The atlatl and bow were developed indepently of everywhere else, the atlatl inumerable years ago, the bow fairly recently, around 100 BCE to 500 CE, dependent on where you are thinking of.  So the native Americans can only give us a rough estimate, or not even that.

Wow. I did not know that about the bow in the Americas - if it's true...  ;)

Certainly the atlatl is isolated, in fact isn't it unique to the central American peoples?

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Hondero on Mar 8th, 2004 at 2:37pm

wrote on Mar 5th, 2004 at 4:51pm:
Korfmann has a map showing worldwide distribution of the sling. Australia is noticably vacant.
Aborigines arrive there in 40,000 BC and by 20,000 BC had covered the mainland. This would suggest that the sling is not older than 40,000 years.


It is a good assumption for the discovery date of the sling, although the absence of archaeological specimens donīt implies the nonexistence of the weapon, been perishable its materials. The fact that it donīt exist archaeological projectiles of sling in Australia, could mean that it was not longer used in the times in which manufactured projectiles were used, but not that the first settlers did not take the sling with them, who would use it with natural stones that canīt be identified. It is possible that the sling was not useful in the Australian environment, or who  knows. And also, as you say, it is possible that first Australian settlers did not take the sling with them, but that doesnīt means that  it  didnīt exist previously in other places.

The well-known writer Jean M. Auel, authoress of the prehistorical saga of Ayla (so admired by Ulrica) place the use of the sling in the time in which Neanthertals and Homo Sapiens coexisted, that is to say, around 40.000 years B.C. Of course we canīt grant scientific value to the viewpoint of a novelist who is not antrhopologist, but she certainly counted on the advising of archaeologist and anthropologist to write his novels.
Nevertheless, the archaeological evidences place the appearance of the "bolas" long before, around 200.000 years B.C. when other previous human species, the Homo Erectus, had spread from Africa to everywhere. If we admitted that the sling could be derived from the bolas, it would locate its discovery long before the  40.000 years. But this is only a possibility, the invention possibility of the sling, because its archaeological evidence  does not appear until the Neolithic, around the year 7.000 B.C., date in which are dated the clay projectiles.


Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Chris on Mar 8th, 2004 at 2:56pm

wrote on Mar 5th, 2004 at 4:44pm:
Third, he noticed that was a pity to lost frecuently this well worked and rounded stones and decided to tied them to a long string so that he can recover them and throw again in a few seconds.


I don't think they actually had them tied onto themselves.  When I said tethered rock, I meant a sting tethered to the rock only.  The purpose of the cord was to gain additional mechanical advantage, and thus range and power.

Archeological evidence is not the best factor for understanding the distribution for sling use.  The primary evidence for slings are large numbers of sling glands, either in caches or left after a big battle.  The first civilizations which we know that used the sling were in mesopotamia (Sumerians, Babylonians, etc.), northern africa (Egypt), Mediterranean (Greece, Roman), so it's not surprising we find lots of evidence for slings there (almost always in the forms of ceramic or lead projectiles used for battle).  But using only such evidence excludes less dramatic uses, like hunting, or cultures that used only rocks as their primary projectile.  These would be hard to find and then to distinguish from other debris, especially in hunter-gather groups which hunted in large areas.  I think the sling existed in many places, most we'll never know about.  

Chris

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by english on Mar 8th, 2004 at 3:48pm

Quote:
Wow. I did not know that about the bow in the Americas - if it's true...  

Certainly the atlatl is isolated, in fact isn't it unique to the central American peoples?

Yes, the thing about the bow is true.  And atlatls are/were used literally the world over.  Every single culture in the world is thought to have used atlatls at some time.  In Australia, aborigines still use them (they call them woomeras), Inuits use them, and they use the phrase throwing board, rather than atlatl.  Atlatl is a nahuatl word, the Aztec language, which is why many people believe the atlatl to only have existed in the Americas.   The oldest atlatls in the world are from north west Africa, dated at 25,000 years old, although many believe that atlatl use was widespread in Europe and Africa around 40,000 years ago.
What I meant was that the atlatl was developed by most native American groups without influence from elsewhere, despite the fact that everyone was using them.  The atlatl is the weapon I like the best, especially my newest one, a Tlingit style atlatl.  Looks nice as well as practical.  Anyways....

Title: Re: Early development of the sling
Post by Hondero on Mar 8th, 2004 at 7:12pm

wrote on Mar 8th, 2004 at 2:56pm:
I don't think they actually had them tied onto themselves.  When I said tethered rock, I meant a sting tethered to the rock only.  The purpose of the cord was to gain additional mechanical advantage, and thus range and power.
---------------
Archeological evidence is not the best factor for understanding the distribution for sling use.   But using only such evidence excludes less dramatic uses, like hunting
Chris



There are historical references on the use of a weapon of this sort in South America. I think that initially it could be used a long cord to recover labored projectiles simply sent by hand, and that in the practices of recovery by means of the cord it was found the utility of the turn around to obtain greater reach, appearing the bola of a single stone.
----------------
It is certain that the archaeological and historical evidences do not describe all the places and times in which the sling was used, or any other weapon, but that is the only way we have to be completely sure. Often what it is possible is not made due to a lot of circumstances, and any supposition or speculation aside from evidences has probabilities of being erroneous. Even the archaeological objets have been sometimes interpreted wrong, been confuseds with objects of other uses, like the famous clay balls of Catalhoyuk, which use is still not known, but that someones confuse with sling projectiles


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