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Stone Age Slingers (Read 3469 times)
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Stone Age Slingers
Aug 12th, 2004 at 11:13pm
I'm already signed up to work on the preface, but I also wanted to commit to working on the section titled "ORIGINS OF THE SLING", which includes Neolithic, Mesolithic, and Paleolithic period (AKA, the stone age).  I've been working on gathering some sources online to get me going in the right direction.  I often find I can locate books this way, which then references other books an articles, and so on.  I also hope to find some good academic contacts who I can email and call.  I'm rather looking forward to working on this section. 

Anyway, I thought I'd post some of my snippets as they are kind of interesting. 



“The depiction (left) from the early Neolithic settlement at Çatal Hüyük in modern Turkey shows that the sling was used in Neolithic times.”(3, p.25)



It is possible that the bow and arrow and the sling go back into the Paleolithic Age, perhaps as far back as 50,000 years ago, but again there is no definite proof of their use that early. Stone darts, sometimes called "arrow heads," were made during the Paleolithic Age, but they were not necessarily attached to arrows fired from a bow. They may simply have been points inserted in spearheads or throwing darts. No one knows where the bow and arrow were invented, but it appears most likely that they first came into use at the end of the Paleolithic Age (12,000 to 10,000 BC), after the period of the cave paintings.


The Neolithic of the Levant (1978)
A.M.T. Moore (Oxford University)
Chapter 6: Neolithic 4 Tell Khazzami (Page 449-450)

Stone sling bullets and beads were present but the only bone tools found were two bone spatulae.



Long-range weapons in Southeast Europe.
The Neolithic to Early Bronze Age.
Internationale Archäologie 4, 1991

By Nikos Vutiropulos

Long-range weapons are an invention of Homo sapiens sapiens and increased security in hunting or fighting. Lances were the first projectiles used, while spear-throwers and bows occured only in the late glacial. The throwing technique of the sling and the mechanics of bow and arrow were not under control before the Neolithic. The sling was the usual long-range weapon on the Balcan in the Neolithic (6th and 5th millennia) and was used for military purposes. The projectiles consisted of dried clay and already had biconical shape. In the 4th millennium the sling becomes less common, perhaps because wet climates allowed thick vegetation to develop. The bow and arrow appeared in south-eastern Europe in the 5th millennium and were mainly used for hunting. They were closely combined with nomadic populations and obsidian trade. The opinion, that the sling occured with painted pottery, while the bow was confined to black burnished wares, can no longer be held upright. On the middle and lower Danube harpoons survived from Palaeolithic into Neolithic times. The Eneolithic brought forth technologies such as cyclopic fortresses and chariots, beside which the sling and bow kept their old importance.



The Neolithic Cultures of Thessaly, Crete, and the Cyclades


Clay sling bullets are more common than stone arrowheads.



The Early Neolithic I settlement at Sesklo

 Evidence that the use of clay was already known –e.g. clay figurines and ill-fired sling bullets- have been discovered at some of the sites. This does not necessarily mean that they had also acquired the knowledge of pottery manufacture.



Anthropology 4123 History of the Ancient Middle EastOverhead #2

Tell Madhhur
contents: 70 pots, baked clay mullers, grindstones, stone hoes, flint  blades, clay spindle whorls, animal figurines, 3,800 baked clay sling pellets



The rise of states

No one disputes that war played a central role in the rise of states and civilizations after the Neolithic Revolution. In 12,000 to 8000 BC "there was a revolution in weapons technology... Four staggeringly powerful new weapons make their first appearance...: the bow, the sling, the dagger... and the mace, [and]...produced true warfare." The bow and arrow were inexpensive and reached 100 yards versus 50 for spears, and an individual could carry more arrows than spears. It "spread rapidly around the Mediterranean. Neolithic cave paintings clearly reveal their use against men as well as animals." The sling had double the range of the bow and arrow (200 yards), and was also extensively used in Neolithic times. Along with the new weapons came the invention of military tactics, especially the organization of soldiers in columns and lines. With these changes in the offensive power of armies, the fortification of settlements began, which then spread around the eastern Mediterranean from 8000 to 4000 BC. Jericho--one of the earliest fortified sites with 13-foot-high stone walls and a tower--may have started as a hunting site (around an oasis), with the walls coming next as defense against armed enemies (thereby committing the inhabitants to a sedentary life), and agriculture following. Evidence from the earliest historical societies shows warfare well ensconced. War played a central role in the rise of the early Middle Eastern civilizations, and was already strongly gendered.



Ancient Siege Warfare
by Paul B. Kern
Indiana University Press
Copyright © 1999


Two technological revolutions combined to spur the neolithic inhabitants of Jericho to build such fortifications. The first was the introduction of projectile weapons, such as the bow and the sling. Mesolithic cave paintings at Morela La Vella in Spain show that bows were in use as early as 20,000 B.C. Every offensive weapon produces a defensive reaction, and the obvious defense against a projectile weapon was to impose a barrier between the projectile and its intended victim. In the beginning, warriors undoubtedly sought natural cover, hiding behind whatever protection they could find. Frequently it would have been necessary to improve natural defensive positions by constructing primitive ramparts from earth and stone. But nomadic mesolithic peoples did not remain in one place long enough to build fortifications on the scale of neolithic Jericho. The second technological revolution, the development of agriculture, provided the steady food supply necessary to support a permanent settlement and made possible the construction of permanent fortifications.
Egyptian paintings of sieges show support fire coming from siege towers, whose height gave archers and slingers a much better angle of fire at the defenders atop a wall than the angle from below on the ground. The effects of such tactics could be devastating: Ishme-Dagan reported taking a city in a single day.

Prehistoric England A-Z
Maiden Castle
1 m SW Dorchester off A35
The largest and most famous pre-Roman fortress in Britain. The site is nearly 100 acres in size, with banks as high as 80 feet enclosing a hill-top site of some 45 acres. It was inhabited as early as the Bronze Age, but most of the visible ramparts were erected in the 1st century BC. In 43 AD the Romans besieged the "castle". The defenders huge store of some 40,000 sling stones proved useless against the Roman's leather shields, and the site fell to the invaders. A mass grave of defenders who died in the assault was found in 1937 near the eastern entrance. A site worth seeing.


Dorset Walks
Badbury Rings

he rings of the name are the ditches and ramparts of a later Iron Age fort. When first constructed the fort had two ditches and ramparts, an extra defence being added later, probably because of the advent of the sling. The sling was a phenomenal weapon, better than the bow. A skilled user could hurl a 15-50gm (0·5 - 2 ounce) pebble 200m, though the effective distance was probably only half that. At 50m a good slinger could hit a stick, or a man’s head. The slinger could fire his pebbles far more quickly than the archer could loose his arrows, and so a large number of men could create a hailstorm of stone. An army of slingers could now decimate the defenders of a hill fort without even approaching the ditch and ramparts. The answer to the sling was obvious enough - wider defences. But the Iron Age folk did not blindly enter into a phase of furious digging. What was needed was that a defender, with the advantage of the slope, should be able to hit the attacker, while the attacker, working against gravity, should consistently fall short. That a scientific approach was used can be seen in the dimensions of other Dorset forts. At Pilsdon Pen where the natural slope is steep the defences are narrow, but at Badbury Rings the slope is less steep and the defences are wider.


The Halaf and Ubaid periods in Mesopotamia

Other artefacts on the Hassuna sites included clay sling pellets,  stone hoes, spindle whorls for use with flax (linen) or wool and stone stamp seals


The emergence of civilization in Mesopotamia
© Copyright Bruce Owen 2000

     ?      one room had 2,400 baked clay sling missiles and 100 large baked clay balls: a hunting arsenal?
     ?      maybe the site was a specialized hunting center, exchanging animal products for cultivated foods??


Las sociedades originarias
(The Indigenous societies)
Teresa Rojas Rabiela (Mexico)

Chapter 2: The Original Peopling of Latin America
Alan L. Bryan

Asiatic Technological Origins

In contrast, a technological stage recognizable as Upper Palaeolithic never evolved in many densely forested areas where isolated animals could be hunted most effectively with nets, traps, slingstones, and wooden spears sometimes mounted with simple bone or stone flake tips. This is why the Upper Palaeolithic is readily recognized in the open steppe and savannah grassland regions of northern Eurasia but is difficult to define in heavily forested Southeast Asia. By analogy, it can be assumed that specialized flaked stone technologies, including bifacial projectile points, evolved in and can most readily be recognized in open grassland ecosystems of the Americas, but will continue to be difficult to define in densely forested areas because most hunters normally used other devices for killing forest animals. It can further be assumed that a coastal adaptation that did not involve the hunting of terrestrial herd herbivores may not include bifacially flaked stone projectile points


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Re: Stone Age Slingers
Reply #1 - Aug 13th, 2004 at 4:27am
That will make an excellent article.  I could go to Maiden Castle some time, or Danebury hillfort, and take some pictures so you have some images to back up some of the sections, that kind of thing.  I live quite near it.  Actually, Maiden Castle is one of the places I go slinging.  What a nice coincidence.  I go there on the way to Lulworth cove, where I get my rocks for slinging, so I sometimes exhaust my stone supplies before going and collecting more.  Interesting.
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Re: Stone Age Slingers
Reply #2 - Jul 1st, 2005 at 10:26pm
yeah...  i learned about the sling in the Earth's Childrens series. they're set in the prehistoric era.[color=Blue][/color]
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