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Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera (Read 11978 times)
David Morningstar
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Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Mar 1st, 2011 at 3:41pm
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkCtNaO1W6Q

Interesting claims - piercing bronze armour at 160 meters?

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Thearos
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #1 - Mar 1st, 2011 at 7:38pm
 
Allow me to put on my pedant's cap.

Cerigotto / Antikythera is one of the sites that have produced lots of sling bullets (some published e.g. by the Greek archaeologist and collector Rhosopoulos in the late C19th, some published by Clive Foss). Those marked "BASILEWS"-- might date to 330 BC, the Persian counter offensive against Alexander the Great (so says the military historian N. Sekunda). Others might date to the Rhodian anti-piratical expedition to the island (possibly in v. late C4th). The new excavations (and we're listening to the Greek guy digging there, if I understand rightly) are turning up more of them.

I do wonder about the figures given. The litt. evid. for ancient Greek slinging is pretty minimal (Thuc, on the Akarnanians especially, on Rhodians; Xen. on the Anabasis; Diod. on Baleares; Polybios on the Achaians; lots of casual references of the type "... and 500 slingers".

Thuc. says that getting sniped at by slings (with stones) was so bad that you had to walk around in armour.

Xen., the Anabasis passage, which has been discussed often in this forum (3. 3. 16–18; 3. 4. 16), says that slingers shoot lead twice as far as archers, so apparently 400m.

Livy reproducing Pol says that sling bullets sink into unprotected flesh.

-- but breaking or penetrating bronze armour at 160m ? That sounds like the sort of thing a lecturer says to impress, but not completely thought through; at least, I can't think of any evidence (and I've done a fair bit of work on Greek sling bullets).
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #2 - Mar 1st, 2011 at 9:50pm
 
I also noticed the gentleman repeats the claim that sling bullets heated up in flight, presumably repeating the ancient claims of them actually melting. As you know I consider this claim entirely fantastic. Even if all the kinetic energy was  converted to heat the temperature rise would be minimal, only a few degrees at most.

However the claim that they pierced bronze armour could be tested fairly readily by building a small rubber band powered catapult/ballista and shooting lead bullets at a sheet of  metal. Bronze may be hard to get but sheet copper should give a reasonable approximation. With such a fixed device aiming and velocity measurement would be greatly simplified. Don't know if you can interest anyone in academia to fund such an experiment but it shouldn't cost more than a couple of hundred quid. Smiley

BTW who's doing the interviewing? Sounds like one of my countrymen.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #3 - Mar 2nd, 2011 at 2:12am
 
I think we should remember the fact that lead glandes have very little air resistance so they lose very little kinetic energy over long distances.I would "guesstimate" 15-20% depending on weight (heavier ones retaining velocity better of course) at 160m.It sounds realistic for me that lead glandes slung by ancient slingers could pierce through bronze armor,if I assume correctly that bronze armor had a thickness of 1-2mm.I would love to try slinging at bronze sheet,at maybe 20m so I can hit it...but I don't have any bronze sheet.Anyways I'm going to try on a steel\iron sheet someday on a right spot.Playing with the calculator I found out that well slung sling bullets can reach the kinetic energy of a 9mm bullet at around 350 J. Even if we take 200 J of energy that would definitely pierce through a 2mm bronze sheet,but I wouldn't try to guess how much energy it would be left.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #4 - Mar 2nd, 2011 at 6:34am
 
Thearos wrote on Mar 1st, 2011 at 7:38pm:
Thuc. says that getting sniped at by slings (with stones) was so bad that you had to walk around in armour.



This, for me, disproves the armour-piercing claim. Also, if armour piercing sling bullets were possible then we would have seen Agincourt-style battles where large bodies of armoured men were destroyed by companies of slingers.

When a lead bullet hits bronze armour, the lead will deform and the bronze will dent. It wont get through.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #5 - Mar 2nd, 2011 at 11:05am
 
I mostly have to agree with Aussie, but copper wouldn't be a great substitute for bronze, as it's a lot softer. There was a reason the ancients went all the way to the "tin isles" to bring back the alloying agent. Maybe a sheet of a hard alloy of alumin(i)um would be a good approximation.

I'm not sure what the loss in velocity with a lead glande would be at 160 meters but the 9mm bullet would lose a fair amount. And remember that energy varies as the square of velocity. A 10% loss in velocity translates to 19% in energy.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #6 - Mar 3rd, 2011 at 1:11am
 
I understand that copper would be a lot softer than bronze. But it still might give an indication, if it doesn't work with copper it sure won't with bronze. Have no opinion on the aluminium, just don't know enough about it's resistance to punching shear. Of course sheet steel should also be tried.

I follow all your calculations about KE but there's more to it than that. KE is only one factor. Sure lead is softer than copper or steel but that doesn't preclude its penetrating a sheet if the velocity is high enough. (When I was a kid my old airgun would happily punch lead pellets through two sheets of roofing iron when the spring was still new.)

It wouldn't be necessary to shoot at 160 m, the bullet doesn't know how far it's gone only how fast it's travelling when it hits. To reach 160 m, a lead bullet would have to have been launched at a min. velocity somewhat over 40 m/s, assume 10 % loss, so shoot from closeup at a velocity of 36 m/s and see what happens. With a rubber band powered catapult and a chronograph like those slingshotters use controlling and measuring speed should be relatively easy.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #7 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 3:57am
 
40m\s is a relatively low velocity for slingers slinging lead glandes.I'm not not an ancient slinger trained from boyhood and I measured about 70m\s at 20m.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #8 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 4:09am
 
jlasud wrote on Mar 4th, 2011 at 3:57am:
40m\s is a relatively low velocity for slingers slinging lead glandes.I'm not not an ancient slinger trained from boyhood and I measured about 70m\s at 20m.


I agree that 40 m/s is a conservative estimate, based only on the minimum speed needed to achieve a 160 m range. But if that works then even faster is going to be even better!

How did you measure your slinging speed?
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #9 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 10:08am
 
Hi Everyone,
My name is John, I live in Sydney, Australia but help Greek archaeologists organise digs in Kythera & Antikythera in July & August.

I took this video, I'm the guy with the Aussie accent you can hear behind the camera.

I'm not an archaeologist but learn a lot from helping organise digs.

It's probably easiest to explain in point form...

Background
* Antikythera is a small island, strategically located in Mediterranean shipping lanes; North/South from Greece (technically Europe) to Africa & the Middle East, and East/West from modern day Turkey as far as Gibraltar. Type Antikythera into Google Earth to see.

* Due to its strategic location it was the home to pirates from perhaps around 400BC, to about 90BC.
It definitely functioned during Alexander the Great's time. It is thought that the Persians were involved, but their actual role is yet to be proven.
At this stage the hypothesis is that Antikythera operated as a Pirate's Lair and/or Persian Naval base. The Persian influence is thought to have diminished after the initial phase of establishing the fortress.

* The fortress has a circumference of about 1000m, with walls that stood up to 9 metres in height. This would have been very expensive to build, another signal re. a tie with the Persians (perhaps financing construction, at a minimum).

* The pirates who occupied Antikythera for several hundred years are thought to have come from/retained ties with Phalasarna in North Western Crete.

* The main business model of such pirates was a bit like the way the Somalians work today, capturing ships for ransom.

* Lots of evidence of conflict has been found by the archaeologists.
They believe that the population was wiped out in approx 89BC when the Romans attacked them to stamp out piracy in the Med. There is also evidence that the Rhodeans also attacked - most likely in retaliation for shipping losses etc. as they were a significant shipping power during the period.

* Lots of lead sling bullets, arrow heads, catapult stones (a headless statue was once found and the archaeologists told me it's head was probably used as a catapult missile at some stage) etc.

Sling bullet references
* I don't know where Aris, the archaeologist interviewed in the video got the figure of piercing armour at 160m. Will ask him when I speak to him in a couple of weeks.
Don't forget though, soldiers/pirates using sling bullets at the time were professionals, perhaps with skill levels that are very rare today. And it's almond shaped lead projectiles that we're talking about.

* One of the references in the interview was to Ovid, the Latin poet, saying in a poem that someone's heart was likened to the heat of a sling bullet thrown by a Balearic slinger.

* The reference to a Vasseleos (sp?) means a king... that some sling bullets found in Antikythera & other places have had king's names inscribed on them.

* They have found sling bullets in Antikythera with inscriptions on them, saying something along the lines of "from the Phalasarnanians"

* In Cyprus, a sling bullet has been found with an inscription that roughly translates to "we are entering (screwing) you, become pregnant". A bit like how pilots write on bombs with chalk.

* They found and excavated a grave in Antikythera, were a sling bullet was found next to the buried person's skeleton. The assumption is that this sling bullet was lodged in the guys body when he was buried.

* Velocity wasn't the only thing that made lead sling bullets lethal, heat was too. Have heard a couple of different explanations from engineers & archaeologists but they agree, heat affects the destructive force upon impact. Don't quote me on this, I'm not an expert.

Other
I had an interesting chat with some Australian re-enactors, who simulated the advance of Hoplites into Persian arrow fire during the Battle of Marathon - which helped produce a little qualitative data that being showered with arrows, probably didn't produce many fatalities.
Slings bullets, if used instead (which isn't the case) would have had the potential to inflict greater damage.

I'm no expert but after trying on replica Corinthian helmets, I get the impression a sling bullet hit to the head in full flight would have caused a pretty major concussion, if not much worse.

Antikythera Field Research
Never know, if anyone from this forum is keen enough, there might be opportunities to volunteer to go and dig with the archaeologists in Antikythera in August - perhaps helping Greek  archaeologists find more ancient sling bullets from in the dirt.

Below is a link to a research paper in Greek re. sling bullets in Antikythera.
Sorry my written Greek isn't good enough to translate it.
http://www.krg.org.au/antikythera-horos.pdf


Cheers,

John
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #10 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 10:31am
 

Welcome so slinging.org!

If you are interested, I have two videos of biconical clay sling bullets being launched with the axial 'rifle' spin that gives maximum range and lethality:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atj_FM0AjA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1JPTA5TaHM

Note that the name 'Greek style' given to some types of throw is hypothetical, based on the many coins & vases etc that depict the starting position. There is no text from that period that describes how the Greeks actually used the sling. It is a good style though, fast and powerful and in the vertical form it does not need much space around you. I have slung in rank with guys two paces to each side of me  without whipping either of them.

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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #11 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 10:47am
 
I agree that 40 m/s is a conservative estimate, based only on the minimum speed needed to achieve a 160 m range. But if that works then even faster is going to be even better!

How did you measure your slinging speed? [/quote]
By measuring out the 20m distance from the point of slinging to the target,slinging,filming and watching the hundreds of a seconds on a video editing program.It was with a long sling (40-50") and a 57g lead biconical.This method isn't the most precise one but fairly accurate,at least for me.40m\s is more fitting for shorter slings and heavy stones.But here we're talking long range lead slinging.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #12 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 5:28pm
 
Putting an even larger pedant's cap on--

the Cyprus sling bullet is mentioned in P. PERDRIZET, Inscriptions de Chypre, BCH 20, 1896, 336-63, quoted at 356— no. A2 (priv. collection). The article is available on various sites, e.g. Cefael or persee. It reads KYE, which means "be pregnant". But it could also be something else, e.g. Kye(ston), the name of an ethnic group; or something else; or a fake. The "picturesque" iscirbed bullets are actually pretty problematic ("catch that", "blood",etc). Though the sling bullets saying DEXAI, "receive" are in fact well attested archaeologically (from Athens) 

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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #13 - Mar 4th, 2011 at 9:39pm
 
jlasud wrote on Mar 4th, 2011 at 10:47am:
This method isn't the most precise one but fairly accurate,at least for me.40m\s is more fitting for shorter slings and heavy stones.But here we're talking long range lead slinging.


I wasn't doubting you, I've seen your videos and don't doubt you could sling at that speed, merely curious about the measuring method. And I think that reviewing video is quite an accurate one, I suspect within 10% or so.
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Re: Video - Ancient Sling Bullets in Antikythera
Reply #14 - Mar 5th, 2011 at 10:36am
 
Quote:
* Velocity wasn't the only thing that made lead sling bullets lethal, heat was too. Have heard a couple of different explanations from engineers & archaeologists but they agree, heat affects the destructive force upon impact. Don't quote me on this, I'm not an expert.


Okay lets put this to bed for once and all.
Lead is very soft with a very low melting point - much much lower than bronze or copper.

Lead bullets do not heat up in flight - they however do heat up a ON IMPACT (noticeably so but nt enough to get 'hot' or melt). THis is because lead is soft and deforms on impact, it is the compression from the deformation that heats the lead up not friction from flight.

Now assuming the preceeding FACT is wrong and lead bullets do get red hot in flight - what you then have is a mass of molten lead. All this will do against ANY armur is splatter. Hot led is just about the worst missile you could use if you wanted to penetrate armour.

So if the fact that glandes don't heat up in flight doesn't convince you then maybe the fact that hot lead is much too soft to penetrate even thin armourn should.

Cold lead might conceivable shatter thin bronze armour.
And that's all that anyone can say in reality.   

And to put this into ultimate perspective. lead bullets fired from guns reach much higher velocities and spin rates than sling bullets and while bullets are hot - they do not get glowing read hot or even hot enough to deform in flight.

This myth is totally busted - let's move on to reality shall we ?
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