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Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help! (Read 4543 times)
Plumbata
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Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Aug 21st, 2017 at 11:18pm
 
Hello! I'm new to the forum but have been a collector of ancient martial artifacts since 8th grade, or a bit over half my life at this point. Watching "The Gladiator" ignited an obsessive interest in at first Roman, and then Neolithic through Medieval warfare-related artifacts and ancient coinage. Building and practicing (playing) with weapons including slings goes hand-in-hand with collecting the real-deal, though I'm sure any of the men that once used the items I hoard would smoke me in 2 seconds flat, hah.

One of the sub-collections is sling bullets, with unusual or inscribed examples being most interesting (as one would expect).

While we know that ancient bronze bullets were made and used on occasion, particularly in Cyprus, I'd like to share with you all a particularly special and rare bullet I obtained recently (and inexpensively) from a metal-detectorist/seller of authentic artifacts and coins including regular lead bullets, also found in Cyprus like my 2 solid bronze examples.

As I recall, I had only ever read about the existence of bi-metallic bladed sling bullets and had certainly never seen a picture of such a nigh-legendary artifact, but finally I owned a superb example of an item I never actually expected to find or be able to afford.

Hopefully the attachments work, first there is an image of the special bladed bullet with 2 other Cypriot bronze bullets, then multiple views of the bladed bullet. It may seem strange that the bronze portion is orange, almost looking more like rusty iron, but that is just the soil/clay encrusted to the green patina, which shows through in a few small areas if you look closely.

What strikes me is the exquisitely deadly symmetry and craftsmanship, indicating that it was manufactured by a true master that would likely only be afforded by (or for) the most skilled marksmen. Really breathtaking compared to the typical blunt lead bullets. I'd love to know what the bronze portion looks like inside the lead as it clearly took skill to cast, but unless my house burns down I'm not likely going to find out, hah.

It is 58.05 grams and almost exactly 40mm from end to end.

What I'd like help with is finding relevant documentation regarding bladed sling bullets; I don't remember if it was on the internet 10 or 15 years ago and long gone, in a book or article I've forgotten the name of, or somewhere else but I've spent hours scouring Google with no success and it's been exceptionally frustrating. I'll happily repay any efforts with pictures/details regarding other inscribed or noteworthy bullets in my collection. Smiley
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« Last Edit: Aug 22nd, 2017 at 7:08pm by Plumbata »  

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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #1 - Aug 21st, 2017 at 11:41pm
 
Wow. That looks it could do some damage. That's a pretty amazing find. Someone needs to recreate it. It would really interesting to see how it moves through the air.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #2 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 3:00am
 
Great stuff
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #3 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 3:43am
 
Forgive my ranting. As an archaeologist, I disapprove of private collecting of objects circulating on the market without provenance because they have likely been produced by destructive uncontrolled excavation. That also holds for metal detectorists. (it also produces the collector mentality "since I paid for this, it must be beautiful", "exquiite craftsmanship on this piece", that distorts our knowledge of the past and reduces it to baubles rather than whole societies)

That said, a lot of these sling bullets are found without context anyway

But that said, having them found and sold this way means that we potentially lose a lot of info. For instance, if they were found in caches we might date them; if they're found in places we might relate them to specific campaigns or battles; if plotted on the ground we might relate them to battle tactics (as in the famous find of ugly sling bullets from Vetren, where you can see lead used at very short range and concentrated fire); if they're found in context we can actually say something about production. I.e. the more provenanced examples we have of this "flying saucer" type (which I remember seeing in the literature, perhaps published by Ino Nicolaidou in the 1970s), the better our specific, non-speculative knowledge will be.

There, I've said it. I have posted on this before and apologize, again, for the rant.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #4 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 5:36am
 
Another problem is also that the antiquities market is full of fakes. Collectors buy fakes, and fakes get into the archaeological record.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #5 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 12:51pm
 
Thank you all for the comments!

I studied in the field of Historic Archaeology here in the states, but 2 factors discouraged pursuing a doctorate: I determined that such a career wouldn't be as remunerative as what I do in my spare time, and I learned to my great dismay that the post-doctoral "professionals" couldn't tell the difference between an "Iron Pontil" and an Owen's machine scar on the base of a bottle (among other things), and considering that discarded bottles and jars are of great utility in the dating and interpretation of sites in the USA, such ignorance destroyed whatever faith I might have had left in the education I would receive at that university and I decided to just collect and appreciate all the artifacts I could get my hands on without regard for the nearly universal opinion that only those professionals are qualified enough to handle and interpret the residues of history. I'm certainly not condemning the field or genuinely talented practitioners and I do wish you the best, but have made my decision.

That said, I agree that the destruction of edifices and necropoli (as in Bulgaria) in search of ancient treasures is heartbreaking, but the items I collect are essentially all "everyday" items found by detectorists in woods and fields; not fine ceramics, jewelry or art looted from graves. While theoretically erosive to the potential corpus of archaeological knowledge, unless funding is obtained to turn half of the landmass on earth into an archaeological dig 99.9% of those detected items would remain buried until they completely rotted away.

And fakes are an enormous problem for collectors, though many archaeologists interpret the prevalence of fakes as a buffer against the further looting of archaeological resources, as the money spent on garbage isn't being spent on the authentic items. Essentially all of the "legionary" roman rings, inscribed fibulae, stone seals, figurines and amulets are fakes, and probably 3/4 or more of the stone, bronze and iron artifacts are outright fakes or purposefully misidentified for profit, so I've learned to avoid many dealers and classes of artifact like the plague and develop relationships with honest sources. I do feel sorry for all those getting duped, but at the same time that means there is less competition for the genuine articles. I can't prove anything to y'all but I've been collecting antiques and old coins since age 5, started selling them at 11, and expanded to ancient European items at 14 so over time have developed a pretty solid and nuanced instinct regarding such things.

For those interested in collecting sling bullets, be exceptionally careful of inscribed examples coming from Spain, as there are many forgery workshops there churning out fakes; some more deceptive than others. Do your research and if it "smells fishy" it's best to avoid it. Never implicitly trust the dealer/seller and go by your own "empirically-informed instinct" instead.

Anyway, the "Ino Nicolaidou" lead is a helpful start, thank you! Here is a very interesting bullet from Bulgaria, inscribed with  what I presume to be the bust of a (Corinthian?) helmeted soldier with exaggerated nose-guard, facing left. I haven't found any documented examples of people depicted on bullets so it's quite unusual. 31.43 grams, 29mm long.
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« Last Edit: Aug 22nd, 2017 at 3:22pm by Plumbata »  
 
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #6 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 12:57pm
 
Wow those images are huge my apologies, let's try that again:
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #7 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 1:58pm
 
yeah would appreaciate it if you could resize them a bit.
800x600 (ish) works best.

If you don't have anything simple to use, scroll to bottom of first post here: http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1258292684
and download photo resizer.

If you've got a mac - you've got my sympathy, but no clue on resizing programs Smiley 
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #8 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 1:59pm
 
I'm sorry to hear you didn't pursue a PhD based on the fact that you had specialized knowledge-- no one knows everything...
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #9 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 2:05pm
 
so you think the image on the stone is deliberate and ancient ?
Could just as easily be caused by random breakage.

I can see someone going to the trouble putting bronze blades inside lead - that's serious armour piercing.
But why would you spend hours putting a picture of a soldier on a single sling bullet intended for battle  ?
When that time would be better spent making more sling bullets.

Given that a skilled slinger can easily throw 10 shots a minute. More stones would be more valuable than really pretty ones.

Doesn't make a lot of sense.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #10 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 2:24pm
 
Well were they actually used in battle? Similar to ornate swords not actually being intended for use in a battle but for ceremonies, gifts, presentations etc. could the more ornate bullets just be to put on the mantelpiece?
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #11 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 2:42pm
 
Just for clarification, the bullet with the helmeted bust is made out of lead and the design is raised/embossed, so while it may have taken hours to carve the mold it was cast in, casting multitudes of them would have taken no more time than the regular plain bullets.

As I understand, the inscriptions would either convey information that would express the identity of the shooters and their origins or commanders to the enemy forces, or insult/taunt the enemy. I'd suspect that the person depicted expressed some sort of autobiographical information. And yes, they would most certainly have been used in battle.

To further illustrate the casting process (you've read about the cast "trees" of bullets") here is a text-only example showing a very obvious offset casting sprue. I don't know Greek but based on my toying with internet "ancient greek keyboards" and online translations the text on the first side may translate to "Cereal" or a "(Kernel of) Grain" which suggests a taunt of some sort. I could of course be completely wrong and happily invite any corrections or insight. 27.25g, 29mm.

And I'll try to edit the gigantic images with more reasonable ones, don't want to hog bandwidth.  Smiley
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #12 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 3:12pm
 
Interesting... Armor piercing, certainly harder and sharper than just a lead glande.  The one thing I really dont get though is the shape. How is this a beneficial shape for a sling projectile? All of this flatish almond cross-sectioned bullets make no sense to me.

The ones Ive made were inferior to the typical bullet or biconical shape in practice. I wonder if there was some other advantage we dont know about.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #13 - Aug 22nd, 2017 at 3:35pm
 
I have no idea about any perceived advantage, maybe it could be placed in the pouch and released in such a way that the bullet would spin on the same plane as the blades (shuriken style). Maybe the flatter sides would allow for fine-tuning of its placement in the pouch to allow for a football-style spin upon release, whereas the biconical ones would just roll to the center. My skills are lacking in this department so it's all just loose speculation; maybe it's just another example of their lack of familiarity with the principles of aerodynamics.
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Re: Rare ancient Cypriot lead sling bullet with bronze blades, need help!
Reply #14 - Aug 23rd, 2017 at 7:53am
 
okay - looked like stone not lead Smiley
That also explains the shape - lead glandes deform on impact.


It is interesting that most ancient glandes are slightly flattened.

If they were intended for close to medium quarters engagement - say 50-150 metres. Then it makes sense.
The flattened shape will make a lot more noise in flight, it will also make a much larger hole in the victim.

Both traumatic and psychological benefits for the attackers.

And at short distances (yes 150 metres is short for lead glandes) you won't lose any velocity due to the shape.
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