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General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Origin of the sling
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Message started by Woody on Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:14pm

Title: Origin of the sling
Post by Woody on Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:14pm
From the research I have done it appears that the sling probably originated during the early Neolithic era(8,000 B.C.-4,000 B.C.) but there is some contention that it may have been in use as early as the upper Paleolithic era/Mesolithic era somewhere around 10,000 B.C.-8,000 B.C. Does anyone have an opinion on this? I tend to lean toward saying it probably originated during the Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic era simply because that is when we see the arrival of the bow and arrow. That does not really mean anything accept that this shows the discovery of the idea of launching a projectile from a string. The only difference in the bow and the sling in my simple observation is that with the sling the induviduals arm and hands are minipulating the string used to launch the projectile where as with the bow the stick it is attached to is used to put power into the string. In addition a sling stone is a much simpler and previously used(just thrown by hand) form of ammunition so it seems only natural to look for better ways to use the ammo they had as opposed to developing a new ammunition(an arrow even though it is only a scaled down spear or shorter Atle) and a new launcher(bow) all together. I would tend to believe that the sling would have preceeded the bow. What do you think or is the answer already around here somewhere and I just missed it?

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by curious_aardvark on Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:20pm
I doubt there will ever be any archaeological correlation but I would imagine the sling was created very shortly after man started making cordage.
A rotted sling that old will just show up as a bit of cord if it shows up at all.

Slings and bows are very very different. the level of thought and technology that goes into a bow is on a much higher level than that in a sling. So I would suspect that slings predate bows by some considerable length of time.

What's the oldest recorded atlatl ? I can see the idea for a sling coming from someone who's used an atlatl. could be an age correlation there and an atlatl is essentially a simpler concept than a sling.  

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by winkleried on Jan 4th, 2008 at 1:08pm
I'm of the opinion that the sling was developed much earlier than the bow. The method of construction is just so much more simplier than that of the bow. Now this is opinion only. I also Concur with C-A aboove that any vegitable fiber sling created that early would either completely rot of show up as only a fragment of what it actually was. The smae aguement also applies for those sings that were made from Leather. We are having problems properly identifying leather portions of slings that date from the medieval/rennisance eras.

Marc Adkins



Woody wrote on Jan 4th, 2008 at 12:14pm:
From the research I have done it appears that the sling probably originated during the early Neolithic era(8,000 B.C.-4,000 B.C.) but there is some contention that it may have been in use as early as the upper Paleolithic era/Mesolithic era somewhere around 10,000 B.C.-8,000 B.C. Does anyone have an opinion on this? I tend to lean toward saying it probably originated during the Upper Paleolithic/Mesolithic era simply because that is when we see the arrival of the bow and arrow. That does not really mean anything accept that this shows the discovery of the idea of launching a projectile from a string. The only difference in the bow and the sling in my simple observation is that with the sling the induviduals arm and hands are minipulating the string used to launch the projectile where as with the bow the stick it is attached to is used to put power into the string. In addition a sling stone is a much simpler and previously used(just thrown by hand) form of ammunition so it seems only natural to look for better ways to use the ammo they had as opposed to developing a new ammunition(an arrow even though it is only a scaled down spear or shorter Atle) and a new launcher(bow) all together. I would tend to believe that the sling would have preceeded the bow. What do you think or is the answer already around here somewhere and I just missed it?


Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by Woody on Jan 4th, 2008 at 5:10pm
The atlatl is believed to have appeared also in the Upper Paleolithic era which would be somewhere close to the proposed appearance of the sling followed thereafter by the bow. I agree with both of you in that the sling and atlatl would have definately preceeded the bow. In fact the bow may be a combination of the atlatl and sling, i.e. using a stick and string to propel a dart/arrow. I also agree that in its modern form bow making would have been infanately more difficult but the first bows were probably just sticks picked up and a string tied to each end, hence my comparison of simple sting launcher being a common link. The major advance from the atlatl and the sling to the bow is that the bow uses the flex of the stave(created by the string) to propel the arrow where as both the atlatl and sling both only amplify the power of a persons own throw. I think this shows a pretty distinct change in thinking which is why I think the bow came later. In short, I agree. :) As far as archaeological records go, that was already said; the materials used in sling making are easily degraded over time so it is not surprising that not too many are being found in tact. I am merely proposing speculation(connect the dots), which is always fun and makes up a large part of historical discussions IMO.

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by DesertPilot on Jan 4th, 2008 at 8:41pm
Here's an interesting question: we know that early hominids used tools.  Indeed, chimpanzees manufacture and use tools today.  Is it possible that slings might actually precede humanity -- that somewhere, more than 200,000 years ago, some Neanderthal, Homo Erectus, of Homo Habilis might have used a sling?  I rather doubt it myself.  And as many of you have pointed out, such a thing would be unlikely to show up in the archaeological record.  But it is food for thought...

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by Mr.Joel on Jan 5th, 2008 at 3:03am
Some reckon neanderthals were as intelligent as humans, or possibly even more so. Remember no one has ever met any of these extinct models, just because they have a apish-looking skull and a larger bone structure doesn't mean they were dumb monkeys. Many think we humans killed them for the usual reason:being different. They didn't survive perhaps because they were outnumbered. After all, we barely tolerate each other(and all too often don't) for having different skin colors or nationalities or even football teams, let alone having different shapes. I think it is entirely possible neanderthal may have used it, if so probably could do more effectively than us,imagine that guys' arm.

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by wanderer on Jan 5th, 2008 at 4:43am
I think that archaeologists may have been guilty of taking 'abscence of proof is proof of abscence' line with the sling.

It seems more plausible to me that the sling long preceded the bow and arrow.

Remembering the times when these researches were started, it may just have not been considered seriously by the academics of the time, who probably had never seen a sling in action.

As C_A remarks, once you have cordage, it is quite a small step to a sling. A bow takes a lot of work to become anything more than a toy, and is then no use for anything but as a weapon. It is awkward to carry and easily broken, or harmed by getting wet.

A sling is trivial to carry, doesn't get ruined by getting wet, can be made relatively quickly from any number of different sources, and is also still a piece of rope which if you need to carry back your kill is useful, and weighs almost nothing - unless you have to lug the rocks around :D

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by aussieslinger on Jan 5th, 2008 at 7:58am

wanderer wrote on Jan 5th, 2008 at 4:43am:
I think that archaeologists may have been guilty of taking 'abscence of proof is proof of abscence' line with the sling.

It seems more plausible to me that the sling long preceded the bow and arrow.

Remembering the times when these researches were started, it may just have not been considered seriously by the academics of the time, who probably had never seen a sling in action.

As C_A remarks, once you have cordage, it is quite a small step to a sling. A bow takes a lot of work to become anything more than a toy, and is then no use for anything but as a weapon. It is awkward to carry and easily broken, or harmed by getting wet.

A sling is trivial to carry, doesn't get ruined by getting wet, can be made relatively quickly from any number of different sources, and is also still a piece of rope which if you need to carry back your kill is useful, and weighs almost nothing - unless you have to lug the rocks around :D



I love than line about absence of proof and vice versa. Though to give archaelogists there due, unless you've seen a good slinger in action they look fairly innocuous. When my dad made me a sling when I was around five years old and told me how they had been used in ancient warfare I questioned him, "But Dad you couldn't actually kill anyone with one of those?"

Even though the sling is in itself a simple device and much simpler to make than a working bow, it is still a pretty clever idea to come up with just out of the blue. I wonder if there was a "stepping stone" in its discovery, ie. whether the the original "sling" was just a weight tied onto a cord, thrown as a unit. One day the string breaks or the knot comes undone and the stone flies off. Our clever little Neanderthal gets the prehistoric equivalent of a lightbulb coming on in his head and tries to think of a way of replicating the event reliably. Lots of the world's greatest discoveries have been made by accident. Just a thought. Absolutely impossible to prove one way or another. But then again absence of proof..............

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by curious_aardvark on Jan 5th, 2008 at 9:05am
Neanderthals were more intelligent and had a much more developed culture than their contemporary sub species.
Evidence from caves in france shows that they indulged in burial rituals. Such rituals usually infer religion and gods, which puts their level of culture much higher than the other branch of homo sapiens around at the time. They also used some very well made tools. So slings and atlatls are quite probable.


Quote:
but the first bows were probably just sticks picked up and a string tied to each end

And would have been less use then just throwing the stick and quite probably discarded for a couple of centuries.
To make an effective (the operative word here if it has to replace a sling or atlatl - both highly effective weapons) bow requires a high degree of skill.

Most green or seasoned woods just don't make good bows. They generally have to be treated or seasoned correctly or laminated to both have and retain the springiness necessary to reliable bow.
This is why the bow only became prominent as late in human history as it did.

But aussie is probably right. A clear line of logic can be drawn from a rock tied to a piece of string as a throwing club and producing a sling.
Once you work out that a rock on a string travels further than just a rock - you want to reproduce the effect without actually losing your precious string. After all they couldn't just wander down the hardware store and buy in another 100 metres. they had to make it themselves. So there would have been a strong incentive to achieve the same effect as rock with string and still keep the string.
Which is a sling. :-)

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by wanderer on Jan 5th, 2008 at 9:22am
I'm in agreement with Aussie and C_A.

When it comes down to it, the step of genius was fabricating cord and tying the first knots.

Seems entirely reasonable that the first step was a 'captive' stone on a string. But I wonder whether this came before or after the stone ax.

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by slingbadger on Jan 5th, 2008 at 10:15am
The earliest known reference to the sling is from the cave painting at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia Turkey. That can be seen in the picture section. It does predate the bow, as well as all metal weapons.
 As for exactly how early it was invented, right now there is no way to tell. There is no archeological evidence for the use in any of the Paleolithic or Neolithic ages.
 Another interesting question is this-- it has been found in every continent except for Antartica ( naturally) and Austrailia. Did all these develop it individualy, or was there some kind of passing on of technology. Even remote Pacific islands had sling, and they had had no contact with anyone other than a few other islands.

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by Ethan on Jan 5th, 2008 at 10:25am
I think the sling is simple enough to be invented multiple times, by multiple people. This isn't to say that some didn't travel, but I don't think every sling is descended from the same prototype.
However, on the Pacific Islands, it could very well have traveled, because of the "sailing skills" of many of those peoples. Also, once someone had a stroke of genius like that, I would think they would want to share. (Many of them weren't very bright in the invention business back then. Come on guys, the Wheel!?!?)

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by wanderer on Jan 5th, 2008 at 12:29pm

slingbadger wrote on Jan 5th, 2008 at 10:15am:
The earliest known reference to the sling is from the cave painting at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia Turkey. ..

 Another interesting question is this-- it has been found in every continent except for Antartica ( naturally) and Austrailia. Did all these develop it individualy, or was there some kind of passing on of technology. Even remote Pacific islands had sling, and they had had no contact with anyone other than a few other islands.


Readers of this forum may be distressed by the following link :( :

http://www.smm.org/catal/mysteries/clay_balls/comic/


Many of the Pacific islands seemed to use specially shaped sling bullets, which seems to point to a common origin at least among those islands which share this trait.

Also, I recall reading somewhere that the techniques used to braid slings used in Tibet are similar to those employed in the Andes, ie. they both braid upwards 'out of the hand'. That might suggest a cultural connection which would surely be rather ancient.

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by winkleried on Jan 5th, 2008 at 7:34pm
I'm being lazy on this first question, Does anybody have a reasonable idea on what the timeline is on the Catal Huyuk find is???

On the continents do we have any when Antartica became the ice locked frozen wasteland that it is?
And I have always wondered why Austrailia never developed the sling with it being located where it is......but thats just me

Marc Adkins  


slingbadger wrote on Jan 5th, 2008 at 10:15am:
The earliest known reference to the sling is from the cave painting at Catal Huyuk in Anatolia Turkey. That can be seen in the picture section. It does predate the bow, as well as all metal weapons.
 As for exactly how early it was invented, right now there is no way to tell. There is no archeological evidence for the use in any of the Paleolithic or Neolithic ages.
 Another interesting question is this-- it has been found in every continent except for Antartica ( naturally) and Austrailia. Did all these develop it individualy, or was there some kind of passing on of technology. Even remote Pacific islands had sling, and they had had no contact with anyone other than a few other islands.


Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by winkleried on Jan 5th, 2008 at 7:36pm
Another possibilty was introduction through tribal warfare.

Marc Adkins


Ethan wrote on Jan 5th, 2008 at 10:25am:
I think the sling is simple enough to be invented multiple times, by multiple people. This isn't to say that some didn't travel, but I don't think every sling is descended from the same prototype.
However, on the Pacific Islands, it could very well have traveled, because of the "sailing skills" of many of those peoples. Also, once someone had a stroke of genius like that, I would think they would want to share. (Many of them weren't very bright in the invention business back then. Come on guys, the Wheel!?!?)


Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by Ethan on Jan 5th, 2008 at 7:59pm
Well, in the Historical Gallery, it is said to be c. 7,000 B.C.

Assuming that is correct...

Title: Re: Origin of the sling
Post by DesertPilot on Jan 6th, 2008 at 1:13am

Ethan wrote on Jan 5th, 2008 at 7:59pm:
Well, in the Historical Gallery, it is said to be c. 7,000 B.C.

Assuming that is correct...

As fate would have it, I just happened to be rereading The Leopard's Tale, Ian Hodder's book about the archeology of Catalhoyuk.  According to his chronology on page 20, the Neolithic Catalhoyuk East Mound (try saying that ten times fast!) was occupied between 7400 and 6000 BCE while occupation of the West Mound started around 6000 BCE, so that sounds about right.

Unfortunately, I can't find a reference in his book to that particular image, darn it.


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