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Evidence of Mass Weapons Production Found in Stone Age Israel

Ancient slingstone weapons were unearthed in 'En Ẓippori and ‘En Esur.
Ancient slingstone weapons were unearthed in ‘En Ẓippori and ‘En Esur. Credit: Emil Aladjem / Israel Antiquities Authority

A new study by researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority reveals that conflicts in the Southern Levant have deep historical roots involving the use of mass weapons production, tracing back to the late Stone Age.

The research focused on analyzing slingshot stones discovered at two significant ancient sites in Israel: Ein Zippori in the lower Galilee and Ein Esur in the northern Sharon plain. These stones, dating back approximately 7,200 years to the Early Chalcolithic period (around 5800–4500 BCE), were remarkably similar in size, shape, and composition.

The findings suggest a systematic production of these stones, indicating a purposeful organization likely geared towards warfare. This sheds light on the early origins and weapons of organized conflict in the region.

The earliest evidence of warfare in the Southern Levant

Archaeologists have determined that these stones were crafted for slingshot use, possessing a smooth surface and a distinct biconical aerodynamic shape so as to ensure precise and effective projection.

Ancient slingshots for warfare.
Ancient slingshots for warfare. Credit: Emil Aladjem / Israel Antiquities Authority

Labeling these stones as the earliest evidence of warfare in the Southern Levant, the researchers emphasize the widespread production of these sling stones. The deliberate attention to creating an aerodynamic shape and smoothing the surface suggests a concerted effort to fashion lethal and accurate weapons.

Production of ammunition for weapons

While similar stones have been discovered throughout Israel, the recent discovery of a substantial collection of these weapons is unprecedented. This finding strongly supports the presence of a coordinated community engaged in the production of ammunition.

The authors of the study have come to the profound conclusion that “the proliferation, formalization, standardization and labor-intensive manufacturing all point toward an organized production of weapons, interpreted as an escalation in the preparations for war, attesting to the probable existence of local power centers in the region.”

Ancient slings were lethal and accurate weapons

The research paper titled “Up in Arms: Slingstone Assemblages From the Late Prehistoric Sites of ‘En Ẓippori and ‘En Esur” was authored by Dr. Gil Haklay, Enno Bron, Dr. Dina Shalem, Dr. Ianir Milevski, and Nimrod Getzov from the Israel Antiquities Authority. It has been recently published in the latest edition of the IAA’s journal, ‘Atiqot.

Ancient slings, distinct from modern slingshots, were known as lethal and accurate missile weapons utilized for hunting, self-defense, and warfare. Notably featured in the biblical tale of David and Goliath, slings continued to serve as military weapons until the Roman period.

Specialized Roman sling units known as funditores played a pivotal role in the Roman conquest of Britain in the first century CE. In more recent times, both enthusiasts of ancient weaponry and academic researchers have confirmed the effectiveness of the ancient sling.

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