Sling (weapon)
Overview
 
A sling is a projectile weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 typically used to throw a blunt projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

 such as a stone or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling.

A sling has a small cradle or pouch in the middle of two lengths of cord. The sling stone is placed in the pouch. The index finger is placed through the loop, the other string has a tab that is placed between the thumb and forefinger.
Encyclopedia
A sling is a projectile weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 typically used to throw a blunt projectile
Projectile
A projectile is any object projected into space by the exertion of a force. Although a thrown baseball is technically a projectile too, the term more commonly refers to a weapon....

 such as a stone or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling.

A sling has a small cradle or pouch in the middle of two lengths of cord. The sling stone is placed in the pouch. The index finger is placed through the loop, the other string has a tab that is placed between the thumb and forefinger. The sling is swung and with a flick of the wrist the tab is released at the precise moment. This frees the projectile to fly to the tangent.The sling derives its effectiveness by essentially extending the length of a human arm, thus allowing stones to be thrown several times farther than they could be by hand.

The sling is very inexpensive and easy to build. It has historically been used for hunting
Hunting
Hunting is the practice of pursuing any living thing, usually wildlife, for food, recreation, or trade. In present-day use, the term refers to lawful hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species contrary to applicable law...

 game
Game (food)
Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or...

 and in combat. Film exists of Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 combatants using slings to throw grenades over buildings into enemy positions on the opposite street. Today the sling interests sportsmen as a survival tool and as an improvised weapon. Modern rioters can be seen using slings to throw stones or to return tear gas canisters.

Origins

The sling is an ancient weapon. It is certain that slings were known to Neolithic
Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

 peoples around the Mediterranean, but it seems likely that the sling is much older. It is quite possible that the sling was invented during the Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
The Upper Paleolithic is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age as it is understood in Europe, Africa and Asia. Very broadly it dates to between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of behavioral modernity and before the advent of...

 at a time when new technologies, such as the atlatl
Atlatl
An atlatl or spear-thrower is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in dart-throwing.It consists of a shaft with a cup or a spur at the end that supports and propels the butt of the dart. The atlatl is held in one hand, gripped near the end farthest from the cup...

 and the bow and arrow, were emerging. With the exception of Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, where spear
Spear
A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

 throwing technology such as the woomera
Woomera (spear-thrower)
A woomera is an Australian Aboriginal spear-throwing device used for when there is a greater distance to be overcome. It is highly efficient and made of wood. Similar to an atlatl, it enables a spear to travel much further than by arm strength alone...

 predominated, the sling became common all over the world, although it is not clear whether this occurred because of cultural diffusion
Cultural diffusion
In cultural anthropology and cultural geography, cultural diffusion, as first conceptualized by Alfred L. Kroeber in his influential 1940 paper Stimulus Diffusion, or trans-cultural diffusion in later reformulations, is the spread of cultural items—such as ideas, styles, religions, technologies,...

 or independent invention.

Archaeology

Whereas sling-bullets are common finds in the archaeological record, slings themselves are rare. This is because a sling's materials are biodegradable and because slings are low-status weapons, rarely preserved in a wealthy person’s grave.

The oldest known extant slings were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, who died about 1325 BC. A pair of finely plaited slings were found with other weapons. The sling was probably intended for the departed pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 to use for hunting game
Game (food)
Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or...

.

Another Egyptian sling was excavated in El-Lahun
El-Lahun
Located in the Faiyum, Egypt, el-Lahun or Kahun is the workers' village associated with the pyramid of Senusret II . It is located near the modern village of el-Lahun , and is often known by that name...

 in Al Fayyum
Al Fayyum
Faiyum is a city in Middle Egypt. Located 130 km southwest of Cairo, it is the capital of the modern Faiyum Governorate. The town occupies part of the ancient site of Crocodilopolis...

 Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in 1914 by William Matthew Flinders Petrie
William Matthew Flinders Petrie
William Matthew Flinders Petrie FRS , commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artifacts...

. It now resides in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, England, which is part of University College LondonMuseums & Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material...

. It was found alongside an iron spearhead. Petrie dated it to about 800 BC. The remains are broken into three sections. Although fragile, the construction is clear: it is made of bast fibre
Bast fibre
Bast fibre or skin fibre is plant fibre collected from the phloem or bast surrounding the stem of certain, mainly dicotyledonous, plants. They support the conductive cells of the phloem and provide strength to the stem...

 (almost certainly flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

) twine; the cords are braid
Braid
A braid is a complex structure or pattern formed by intertwining three or more strands of flexible material such as textile fibres, wire, or human hair...

ed in a 10-strand elliptical sennit
Sennit
Sennit is a type of cordage made by plaiting strands of dried fibre or grass. It can be used ornamentally in crafts, like a kind of macrame, or to make straw hats...

 and the cradle seems to have been woven from the same lengths of twine used to form the cords.

Ancient representations

Representations of slingers can be found on artifacts from all over the ancient world, including Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

n and Egyptian
History of Egypt
Egyptian history can be roughly divided into the following periods:*Prehistoric Egypt*Ancient Egypt**Early Dynastic Period of Egypt: 31st to 27th centuries BC**Old Kingdom of Egypt: 27th to 22nd centuries BC...

 reliefs, the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, on coins and on the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

.

Written history

The sling is mentioned by Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 and by many other Greek authors. The historian of the famous retreat of the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...

, 401 BC, relates that the Greeks suffered severely from the slingers in the army of Artaxerxes II of Persia
Artaxerxes II of Persia
Artaxerxes II Mnemon was king of Persia from 404 BC until his death. He was a son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis.-Reign:...

, while they themselves had neither cavalry nor slingers, and were unable to reach the enemy with their arrows and javelins. This deficiency was later rectified when a company of 200 Rhodians, who understood the use of leaden sling-bullets, was formed. They were able, says Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

, to project their missiles twice as far as the Persian slingers, who used large stones.

Ancient authors seemed to believe, incorrectly, that sling-bullets could penetrate armour, and that lead projectiles, heated by their passage through the air, would melt in flight. In the first instance, it seems likely that the authors were indicating that slings could cause injury through armour by a percussive effect rather than by penetration. In the latter case we may imagine that they were impressed by the degree of deformation suffered by lead sling-bullet after hitting a hard target.

Various ancient peoples enjoyed a reputation for skill with the sling. Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 mentions the Acarnanians and Livy
Livy
Titus Livius — known as Livy in English — was a Roman historian who wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people. Ab Urbe Condita Libri, "Chapters from the Foundation of the City," covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome well before the traditional foundation in 753 BC...

 refers to the inhabitants of three Greek cities on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus as expert slingers. Livy also mentions the most famous of ancient skillful slingers: the people of the Balearic Islands
Balearic Islands
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.The four largest islands are: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The archipelago forms an autonomous community and a province of Spain with Palma as the capital...

. Of these people Strabo
Strabo
Strabo, also written Strabon was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher.-Life:Strabo was born to an affluent family from Amaseia in Pontus , a city which he said was situated the approximate equivalent of 75 km from the Black Sea...

 writes: And their training in the use of slings used to be such, from childhood up, that they would not so much as give bread to their children unless they first hit it with the sling.

The late Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 writer Vegetius
Vegetius
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, commonly referred to simply as Vegetius, was a writer of the Later Roman Empire. Nothing is known of his life or station beyond what he tells us in his two surviving works: Epitoma rei militaris , and the lesser-known Digesta Artis Mulomedicinae, a guide to...

, in his work De Re Militari
De Re Militari
De Re Militari , also Epitoma Rei Militaris, is a treatise by the late Latin writer Vegetius about Roman warfare and military principles as a presentation of methods and practices in use during the height of Rome's power, and responsible for that power...

, wrote:
Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling. The inhabitants of the Balearic Islands are said to have been the inventors of slings, and to have managed them with surprising dexterity, owing to the manner of bringing up their children. The children were not allowed to have their food by their mothers till they had first struck it with their sling. Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armour, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood. It is universally known the ancients employed slingers in all their engagements. There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any encumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city.

Biblical Accounts of Slings

The sling is mentioned in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, which provides what is believed to be the oldest textual reference to a sling in the Book of Judges
Book of Judges
The Book of Judges is the seventh book of the Hebrew bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its title describes its contents: it contains the history of Biblical judges, divinely inspired prophets whose direct knowledge of Yahweh allows them to act as decision-makers for the Israelites, as...

, 20:16. This text was thought to have been written about 1000 BC, but refers to events several centuries earlier.

The Bible also provides one of the more famous slinger stories, the battle between David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

 and Goliath from the First Book of Samuel
Books of Samuel
The Books of Samuel in the Jewish bible are part of the Former Prophets, , a theological history of the Israelites affirming and explaining the Torah under the guidance of the prophets.Samuel begins by telling how the prophet Samuel is chosen by...

 17:34-36, probably written in the 7th or 6th century BC, describing events alleged to have occurred around the 10th century BC. The sling, requiring few resources and easily produced, was the weapon of choice for shepherds in the field due to its usefulness for fending off animals. Due to this fact the sling was a commonly used weapon by the Israelite militia. Goliath was a tall, well equiped and experienced warrior champion. In this story, the shepherd David convinces Saul
Saul the King
According to the Bible, Saul was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel and reigned from Gibeah. He commited suicide to avoid arrest in the battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, during which three of his sons were also killed...

 to let him fight Goliath on behalf of the Israelites. Unarmoured and equipped only with a sling, David defeats the warrior champion Goliath with a well-aimed shot to the head. The story serves to emphasise that although the sling may be a low-status weapon, in the hands of an expert it is not to be underestimated.

Use of the sling is also mentioned in Second Kings 3:25, First Chronicles 12:2, and Second Chronicles 26:14 to further illustrate Israelite use.

Combat

It is clear that many ancient peoples used the sling in combat and that organised armies included specialist slingers as well as equipping regular soldiers with slings as a backup weapon. As a weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

, the sling had several clear advantages. In general, a sling bullet lobbed in a high trajectory can achieve ranges approaching 400 m; the current Guinness World Record distance of an object thrown with a sling stands at 477.0 m, set by David Engvall in 1992 using a metal dart. Larry Bray held the previous world record (1982), in which a 52 g stone was thrown 437.1 m. Modern authorities vary widely in their estimates of the effective range of ancient weapons and of course bows and arrows could also have been used to produce a long-range arcing trajectory, but ancient writers repeatedly stress the sling's advantage of range. The sling was light to carry and cheap to produce; ammunition in the form of stones was readily available and often to be found near the site of battle. The ranges the sling could achieve with molded lead glandes was only topped by the strong composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

 or, centuries later, the heavy English longbow
English longbow
The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow about 6 ft long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare...

, both at massively greater cost.

Caches of sling ammunition are frequently found at the sites of Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill forts of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. 40,000 sling stones were found at Maiden Castle, Dorset
Maiden Castle, Dorset
Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age...

. It is proposed that Iron Age hill forts of Europe were designed to maximise the effectiveness of defending slingers.

The hilltop location of the wooden forts would have given the defending slingers the advantage of range over the attackers and multiple concentric ramparts, each higher than the other, would allow a large number of men to create a hailstorm of stone. Consistent with this, it has been noted that, generally, where the natural slope is steep, the defences are narrow and where the slope is less steep, the defences are wider.

Construction

A classic sling is braided from non-elastic material. The classic materials are flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

, hemp
Hemp
Hemp is mostly used as a name for low tetrahydrocannabinol strains of the plant Cannabis sativa, of fiber and/or oilseed varieties. In modern times, hemp has been used for industrial purposes including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, construction, health food and fuel with modest...

 or wool
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

; those of the Balearic islanders were said to be made from a type of rush
Juncaceae
Juncaceae, the rush family, are a monocotyledonous family of flowering plants. There are eight genera and about 400 species. Members of the Juncaceae are slow-growing, rhizomatous, herbaceous plants, and they may superficially resemble grasses. They often grow on infertile soils in a wide range...

. Flax and hemp resist rotting, but wool is softer and more comfortable.

Braided cords are used in preference to twisted rope because a braid resists twisting when stretched. This improves accuracy.

The overall length of a sling could vary significantly and a slinger may have slings of different lengths, the longer sling being used when greater range is required. A length of about 61 to 100 cm (2 to 3.3 ft) would be typical.

At the centre of the sling, a cradle or pouch is constructed. This may be formed by making a wide braid from the same material as the cords or by inserting a piece of a different material such as leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

. The cradle is typically diamond shaped and, in use, will fold around the projectile. Some cradles have a hole or slit that allows the material to wrap around the projectile slightly thereby holding it more securely; some cradles take the form of a net.

At the end of one cord, a finger-loop is formed. This cord is called the retention cord. At the end of the other cord it is common practice to form a knot. This cord is called the release cord. The release cord will be held between finger and thumb to be released at just the right moment. The release cord may have a complex braid to add bulk to the end. This makes the knot easier to hold and the extra weight allows the loose end of a discharged sling to be recovered with a flick of the wrist.

Polyester
Polyester
Polyester is a category of polymers which contain the ester functional group in their main chain. Although there are many polyesters, the term "polyester" as a specific material most commonly refers to polyethylene terephthalate...

 is an excellent material for modern slings, because it does not rot or stretch and is soft and free of splinters.

Modern slings are begun by plaiting the cord for the finger loop in the center of a double-length set of cords. The cords are then folded to form the finger-loop. The cords are plaited as a single cord to the pocket. The pocket is then plaited, most simply as another pair of cords, or with flat braids or a woven net. The remainder of the sling is plaited as a single cord, and then finished with a knot. Braided construction resists stretching, and therefore produces an accurate sling.

Ammunition

The simplest projectile was a stone, preferably well-rounded. Suitable ammunition is frequently from a river. The size of the projectiles can vary dramatically, from pebbles weighing no more than 50 g (2 oz
Ounce
The ounce is a unit of mass with several definitions, the most commonly used of which are equal to approximately 28 grams. The ounce is used in a number of different systems, including various systems of mass that form part of the imperial and United States customary systems...

) to fist-sized stones weighing 500 g (1 lb
Pound (mass)
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...

) or more.

Projectiles could also be purpose-made from clay
Clay
Clay is a general term including many combinations of one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter. Geologic clay deposits are mostly composed of phyllosilicate minerals containing variable amounts of water trapped in the mineral structure.- Formation :Clay minerals...

; this allowed a very high consistency of size and shape to aid range and accuracy. Many examples have been found in the archaeological record.

The best ammunition was cast from lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

. Leaden sling-bullets were widely used in the Greek and Roman world. For a given mass, lead, being very dense, offers the minimum size and therefore minimum air resistance. In addition, leaden sling-bullets are small and difficult to see in flight.

In some cases, the lead would be cast in a simple open mould made by pushing a finger or thumb into sand and pouring molten metal into the hole. However, sling-bullets were more frequently cast in two part moulds. Such sling-bullets come in a number of shapes including an ellipsoidal form closely resembling an acorn - this could be the origin of the Latin word for a leaden sling-bullet: glandes plumbeae (literally leaden acorns) or simply glandes (meaning acorns, singular glans).

Other shapes include spherical and, by far the most common, the biconical, which resembles the shape of the shell of an almond
Almond
The almond , is a species of tree native to the Middle East and South Asia. Almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree...

 nut or a flattened American football
American football
American football is a sport played between two teams of eleven with the objective of scoring points by advancing the ball into the opposing team's end zone. Known in the United States simply as football, it may also be referred to informally as gridiron football. The ball can be advanced by...

.

The ancients do not seem to have taken advantage of the manufacturing process to produce consistent results; leaden sling-bullets vary significantly. The reason why the almond shape was favoured is not clear: it is possible that there is some aerodynamic advantage, but it seems equally likely that there is some more prosaic reason such as the shape being easy to extract from a mould or that it will rest in a sling cradle with little danger of rolling out.

Almond shaped leaden sling-bullets were typically about 35 mm (1 3/8 in) long and about 20 mm (3/4 in) wide weighing approximately 28 g (0.987670938943135 oz). Very often, symbols or writings were moulded into lead sling-bullets. Many examples have been found including a collection of about 80 sling-bullets from the siege of Perusia
Perusia
The ancient Perusia, now Perugia, first appears in history as one of the 12 confederate cities of Etruria. It is first mentioned in the account of the war of 310 or 309 BC between the Etruscans and the Romans...

 in Etruria
Etruria
Etruria—usually referred to in Greek and Latin source texts as Tyrrhenia—was a region of Central Italy, an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria. A particularly noteworthy work dealing with Etruscan locations is D. H...

 from 41 BC, to be found in the museum of modern Perugia
Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

. Examples of symbols include a stylised lightning bolt, a snake, and a scorpion - reminders of how a sling might strike without warning. Writing might include the name of the owning military unit or commander or might be more imaginative: "Take this," "Ouch," and even "For Pompey
Pompey
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, also known as Pompey or Pompey the Great , was a military and political leader of the late Roman Republic...

's backside" added insult to injury, whereas dexa (catch!) is just sarcastic.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 writes about clay shot being heated before slinging, so that it might set light to thatch.

Europe

By the Middle Ages the shepherd's sling was largely militarily extinct outside the Iberian peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

, where the Spanish and Portuguese infantry favoured it against light and agile Moorish troops; a sling projectile, while dangerous even against an armoured opponent, would be lethal against a light and unarmoured foe. The staff sling (see below) continued to be used in sieges and the sling was used as a part of large siege engines
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

.

The sling continued in use for the hunting of game.

The Americas

The sling was known throughout the Americas.

In the ancient Andean civilizations such as Inca Empire
Inca Empire
The Inca Empire, or Inka Empire , was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century...

 slings were made from llama wool. These slings typically have a cradle that is long and thin and features a relatively long slit. Andean slings were constructed from contrasting colours of wool; complex braids and fine workmanship result in beautiful patterns. Ceremonial slings were also made; these were large, non-functional and generally lacked a slit. To this day, ceremonial slings are used in parts of the Andes as accessories in dances and in mock battles. They are also used by llama herders; the animals will move away from the thump of a stone. The stones are not slung to hit the animals, but to persuade them to move in the desired direction.

The sling was used for hunting and warfare. One notable use was in Incan resistance against the conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

s. These slings were apparently very powerful; in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, historian Charles C. Mann
Charles C. Mann
Charles C. Mann is an American journalist and author, specializing in scientific topics.He is the coauthor of four books, and contributing editor for Science and Atlantic Monthly. In 2005 he wrote 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, followed in 2011 by 1493: Uncovering the New...

 quoted a conquistador, who said that an Incan sling "could break a sword in two pieces" and "kill a horse." Some slings could hurl massive stones and its span could be as much as 86 inches (2.18 m) and could weigh an impressive 14.4 ounces (408g).

Variants

Staff sling

The staff sling, also known as the stave sling, fustibalus (Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

), fustibale (French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

), consists of a staff (a length of wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

) with a short sling at one end. One cord of the sling is firmly attached to the stave and the other end has a loop that can slide off and release the projectile. Staff slings are extremely powerful because the stave can be made as long as two meters, creating a powerful lever
Lever
In physics, a lever is a rigid object that is used with an appropriate fulcrum or pivot point to either multiply the mechanical force that can be applied to another object or resistance force , or multiply the distance and speed at which the opposite end of the rigid object travels.This leverage...

. Ancient art shows slingers holding staff slings by one end, with the pocket behind them, and using both hands to throw the staves forward over their heads.

The staff sling has a similar range to the shepherd's sling, and can be as accurate in practiced hands. It is generally suited for heavier missiles and siege situations as staff slings can achieve very steep trajectories for slinging over obstacles such as castle walls. The staff itself can become a close combat weapon in a melee. The staff sling can throw heavy projectiles a much greater distance and at a higher arc than a hand sling. Staff slings were in use well into the Age of Gunpowder, as grenade launchers; and were used in ship-to-ship combat to throw incendiaries as well.

The mechanism of action of the staff sling is the same as that of the launching arm of several pre-gunpowder siege engine
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

s, such as the trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

. A trebuchet is essentially a large staff sling powered by a falling weight, rather than by direct muscle power.

Kestros

The kestros
Kestros
A kestros or kestrophedrone, also known as a cestrus or cestrosphendone, is a specially designed sling that is used to throw a heavy kind of dart....

 (also known as the kestrosphendone, cestrus or cestrosphendone) is an intriguing sling weapon mentioned by Livy and Polybius. It seems to have been a heavy dart
Dart (missile)
Darts are missile weapons, designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelins by fletching and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible, and from arrows by the fact that they are not of the right length to use with a normal...

 flung from a leather sling. It was invented in 168 BC and was employed by some of the Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ian troops of King Perseus in Third Macedonian war
Third Macedonian War
The Third Macedonian War was a war fought between Rome and King Perseus of Macedon. In 179 BC King Philip V of Macedon died and his talented and ambitious son, Perseus, took his throne. Perseus married Laodike, daughter of King Seleucus IV Keraunos of Asia, and increased the size of his army...

.

Catapults

The trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

 was a siege engine which uses the power of men pulling on ropes or the energy stored in a raised weight to rotate what was, again, a staff sling. It was designed so that, when the throwing arm of the trebuchet had swung forward sufficiently, one end of the sling would automatically become detached and release the projectile. Some trebuchets were small and operated by a very small crew; however, unlike the onager
Onager (siege weapon)
The onager was a Roman siege engine, which derived its name from the kicking action of the machine, similar to that of an onager , it was created as a simpler, cheaper version of the ballista. The Onager is a type of catapult that uses torsional pressure, generally from twisted rope, to store...

, it was possible to build the trebuchet on a gigantic scale: such giants could hurl enormous rocks at huge ranges. Trebuchets are, in essence, mechanised slings.

Slings today

Classic traditional woolen slings are still in use in the Middle East by Arab nomads and Bedouins to ward off jackals and hyenas. They were also used during the various Palestinian Intifada
Palestinian Intifada
The Palestinian Intifada may refer to:*The First Intifada began in 1987. Violence declined in 1991 and came to an end with the signing of the Oslo accords and the creation of the Palestinian National Authority...

s against modern army personnel and riot police.
The sling is used today as a weapon primarily by protestors, launching either stones or incendiary
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

 devices, such as Molotov cocktails. International Brigades
International Brigades
The International Brigades were military units made up of volunteers from different countries, who traveled to Spain to defend the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939....

 used slings to throw grenades during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

. Similarly, the Finns
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 made use of sling-launched Molotov cocktails in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 against Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 tanks. Slings were used in the 2008 disturbances in Kenya.

The sling is of interest to athletes interested in, for example, breaking distance records. Traditional slinging is still practiced as it always has been in the Balearic Islands. And competitions and leagues are common. In the rest of the world the sling is primarily a hobby weapon and a growing number of people make and practice with them. In recent years 'slingfests' have been held in Wyoming, USA, in September 2007 and in Staffordshire, England, in June 2008.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the current record for the greatest distance achieved in hurling an object from a sling is: 477.1 metre, using a 127 cm (50 in) long sling and a 62 g (2.2 oz) dart. This was achieved by David Engvall at Baldwin Lake, California, USA on 13 September 1992. Those of a more traditional bent may prefer the Guinness record for slinging a stone: 437.1 metre, using a 129.5 cm (51 in) long sling and a 52 g (1.8 oz) ovoid stone, set by Larry Bray in Loa, Utah, USA on 21 August 1981.

The principles of the sling may find use on a larger scale in the future; proposals exist for tether propulsion of spacecraft, which functionally is an oversized sling to propel a spaceship.

Sling methods

A skillful throw requires just one rapid rotation. Some slingers will rotate the sling slowly once or twice to seat the projectile in the cradle.

One makes an overhand throw, using the sling to extend one's arm. The motion is similar to bowling a cricket ball. This is relatively accurate, instinctive and quite powerful. One faces 60 degrees away from the target, with one's weak hand closest to the target. The coordinated motion is to move every part of the body, legs, waist, shoulders, arms, elbows and wrist in the direction of the target in order to add as much speed as possible to the stone. One releases the projectile near the top of the swing, where the projectile will proceed roughly parallel to the surface of the earth.

Another method of release said to be favoured by slingers firing into grouped or massed targets is an underhand throw. The motion is similar to that of throwing a softball. The trajectory arc is relatively high. The thrower stands 60 degrees away from the target, and takes one step forward from the trailing foot, letting the sling swing forward. Range is said to be increased with this method, sacrificing accuracy. Several historians have conjectured that this was the most commonly used method in ancient warfare due to its practicality.

There are also sideways releases, in which the swing goes around. These throws make it very easy to miss the target by releasing the projectile at a slightly wrong time. Other slinging methods can be seen, but many authorities deprecate them.

Further reading

  • Richardson, Thom, "The Ballistics of the Sling", Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol. 3 (1998)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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