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Balearic slingers: arms (Read 5989 times)
Thearos
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Balearic slingers: arms
Apr 22nd, 2009 at 7:07am
 
I have not seen

J. Cameron "The Humerus of the Ancient Slingers of Minorca", in J. Cameron (ed.), The skeleton of British Neolithic Man (1934), 209 ff

(quoted in Anochin and Rolle, Griechische Schleuderbleu bei den Mauern von Olbia, in Rolle et al, Archaologische Studien in Kontaktzonen der Antiken Welt, Gottingen 1998, 838-9)

but apparently, examination of skeletons from the Baleares shows deformation of the right arm, probably a trace of specialization in use of the sling. (no indication on dates, will have to look up the original publication).

FWIW
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wanderer
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #1 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 7:40am
 
That looks an interesting lead.

I suppose the distinguishing feature of the Balearic bodies would be that the modifications would be attributable to slinging as opposed to other missile throwing activities.

I wonder if spiral fractures were ever found, or adaptions indicative of torsion on the bone.
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David Morningstar
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #2 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:11am
 
If its different from 'atlatl elbow' which is well-known in many places, this would be interesting.
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #3 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:46am
 
David Morningstar wrote on Apr 22nd, 2009 at 8:11am:
If its different from 'atlatl elbow' which is well-known in many places, this would be interesting.


I don't throw with atlatls (or even woomeras Wink), so I've never heard of that. I would guess there would be quite similar adaptations between such dart throwing and overhand slinging. I think one would see different adaptations if the throwing style were more sidearm.

I had no idea people were looking at such things back in the 1930's If anyone locates the original reference, please let us know. I'd love to read it.
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Thearos
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #4 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 9:34am
 
Usually, fighters have big left arms-- because of hefting a shield around.

I suppose it is interesting to see this kind of work in the  1930s. Work on battlefield trauma from Wisby is 1941. I read a book on human bones and archaeo, which paid homage to an English pioneer who died int he 1950s, in fact I read that pioneering book (Bones and disease ??) five years ago-- and can't remember who it was by.


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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #5 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 10:30am
 
Quote:
Usually, fighters have big left arms-- because of hefting a shield around. 

And big right arms from swinging swords, Smiley
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #6 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 4:09pm
 
My right arm is deformed from all my slinging. Look at pictures of tennis players and you'll noticed one arm is thicker than the other
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Thearos
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #7 - Apr 22nd, 2009 at 4:40pm
 
For an example of a skeleton of an ancient fighter, the "soldier" found at Sardis (e.g. When a Mighty Empire Was Destroyed: The Common Man at the Fall of Sardis, ca. 546 B. C.
Crawford H. Greenewalt, Jr.
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 136, No. 2 (Jun., 1992), pp. 247-271)

--20-26 year old man, killed in capture of Sardis (546 BC), very strong left arm (shield), also traces of repetitve rotative activity on left arm; healed wound to the head; compressed neck vertebrae from wearing helmet. Pretty typical, perhaps, of what a heavy infantryman's bones looked like
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #8 - Apr 27th, 2009 at 4:47am
 
I realize C-A's comment above was tongue in cheek but seriously just how heavy is the "average" shield and why would it need to be so substantial that it would cause skeletal deformation? Wouldn't such a heavy shield limit the user's speed and ability to defend himself? And seriously, why wouldn't his right arm be equally developed from fighting and training with whatever weapon he was armed with?
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Fundibularius
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #9 - Apr 27th, 2009 at 6:10am
 
The shield was actually more important than the sword, at least for "civilised" infantry soldiers like hoplites or legionaries. The most essential aspect in a battle after the "missile phase" was to maintain one's own order and formation intact and break the enemies' by pushing against it - mainly with the shields.

Surely the sword had its part, and legionaries were also trained in "fencing" (whatever that meant at the time), but ancient battles were no swashbuckling competitions, as Hollywood has them. That would have been a "barbarian" way to fight, and it usually proved ineffective against Greek or Roman well-organised shield-protected lines.

It makes sense that training the handling of the shield (which, if I remember correctly, was quite heavy in most Greek armies) had a greater impact on a professional fighter's anatomy (i.e. his left arm) than the use of javelins or swords for his right. The shield had to be in use during the whole time or at least long periods of a battle (which could mean several hours), whereas spears, lances, swords etc. probably came into action only in relatively short phases.
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #10 - Apr 27th, 2009 at 8:17am
 
Thanks for the reply. Do I understand you correctly that the idea was to virtually knock the enemy over and then presumably slaughter them on the ground?
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Thearos
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #11 - Apr 27th, 2009 at 6:11pm
 
I agree with what Fundibularius writes. Ancient shields can be two griped (a hoop through which the arm goes, a grip on the edge of the shield) or single gripped (a handle in the centre of the shield board). The Greek "aspis" (called "hoplon" only after the Classical period) is an example of the first type, the Roman scutum (and Celtic shield) of the second. Weight > Say 8 kgs. The sword might weigh 2 kg or less.

The shield stays "up" during manoeuver and battle; arm muscles locked into place (as any Dark Ages or earlier reenactor will tell you). Not clear what actually happens at the sharp end of edged weapon combat; e.g. Adrian Goldsworthy v. good on this. Probably front-fighters, in loose but not too lose formation, two deep, jostle and fight behind raised shields, with spear and sword, aiming for vulnerable bits and aiming for the knock out blow (throat; arteries in thigh. groin). Possibly men fall back to catch breath, and odd pauses happen. A lot of shoving with shields. As melee progresses, lines grow closer, spears break and sword work means fighters step in and can't fall back away from the killing zone anymore-- and eventually the two masses square off. But the actually mechanics by which one battle line physically drives away the other not clear (do people start panicking at the back ?).

Anyway, this is the model now proposed (Goldsworthy, Krentz, van Wees-- see e.g. the recently publishee Cambridge Companion to Ancient Warfare)-- rather than the old model of battle lines physically crashing into each other (Keegan, Hanson). But all the while, men are lugging contraptions the weight of small suitcases with their left arms.
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #12 - Apr 27th, 2009 at 6:45pm
 
Theros,
DO you by any chance have electronic copies of the articles that you mentioned. I would love to see them and no longer have the unlimited academic access that I once had.
Thanks

Marc Adkins
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #13 - Apr 28th, 2009 at 5:57am
 
Quote:
Do I understand you correctly that the idea was to virtually knock the enemy over and then presumably slaughter them on the ground?


Thearos' description says it. Not really knock over, but push back, keep your own line in order and seek opportunities to inflict damage on the enemy. The main idea was to break the cohesion in the enemy's army. It was a lot more collective work than individual martial art.

An "exemplary" battle in my opinion would be like this: First, there is the "missile phase" with far distance weapons like slings and bows which test the other one's "structural integrity". Quite a few battles in antiquity already ended at this point when one side suffered too heavy losses  and fled to fight another day. If not, there may be a second missile phase (e.g. for Roman armies) when infantrymen throw spears at each other from a short distance (<15 m).

If, after that, both sides are still willing and able to continue, the hand-to hand-phase follows, or better shield-to-shield-phase, and this is indeed a lot more shoving and pushing against each other than picturesque sword duels. Shield lines clash, each side tries to impose pressure on the other, and out of the cover of one's (and one's neighbour's) shield, the fighters seek an opportunity to inflict wounds with the sword on unprotected parts of enemy bodies if possible. Short, biting stings rather than blows (which would expose your own arm dangerously to the enemies' blades). It is not necessary to kill an opponent; one successful hit with your sword to his arm or leg or face will stop him from fighting (even if the injury is not very serious), and while he retreats to seek shelter, he disturbs the order of his own ranks. One can as well imagine blows with the edge of the shield towards enemy shinbones, feet etc which can have a similar consequence. Maybe there are not even many killings in this phase, but losses due to wounds, pain, or the impossibility to use one's own sword or shield (because of exhaustion, or as it may be damaged or have a few of these damned pila sticking in it). At one point, the order of the front line is dissolved when the warriors see the men next to them go back and leave them unprotected from the sides, so they get nervous and start withdrawing too, and the order collapses and turns into a hasty retreat which is quickly adapted by the fellow soldiers at the rear. The side with the stronger cohesion, better protection of the individual soldier by his shield and his comrades and more effective system of exchanging its wounded or exhausted fighters from and to the front line will prevail.

After this, with the enemy running, comes the hour of the cavalry pursuit (which causes most of the killings as they generally hack the poor ones down from behind and above).

The Greeks and, even more, the Macedonians, were masters of the "cohesion aspect" during infantry battle (heavy hoplites, phalanx) whereas the Romans added a lot more flexibility to the whole system and gave a lighter yet larger and probably more versatile shield to its legionaries (edge just above ground which can be used to flatten enemies' toes).

Sorry for the abundance of words. I guess we drifted a bit away from the topic Balearic slingers' arms  Huh
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Noch weiz ich an im mere daz mir ist bekant
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do badet er in dem blvote  des ist der helt gemeit
von also vester hvte  daz in nie wafen sit versneit.
 
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Re: Balearic slingers: arms
Reply #14 - Apr 28th, 2009 at 8:05am
 
Sorry to veer off the topic just that little bit more but it's connected.

In Chess the pawns advance in a straight line but capture diagonally. They represent infantry who would have trouble striking the enemy directly in front of them but have a better chance stabbing out the side of their shields. Also pawns cannot retreat same as in real battle where retreat is just a step away from rout.
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