The sling was typically formed of a piece of leather with a small hole in the center with two strong strings or small ropes attached. A stone was placed in the hole in the leather and the sling was swung around forcibly then released expertly so that the stone flew away.
It was a powerful military weapon (Ju. 20:16; 2 Ki. 3:25; 2 Ch. 26:14).
“In Old Testament times, slingers were regular components of an army and were often used together with archers; during siege warfare their role was to pick off the enemy from the besieged city’s ramparts. Such slingers were capable of hurling a projectile at over one hundred miles an hour and their effective range was well in excess of one hundred yards” (Alfred Hoerth, Archaeology and the Old Testament).
The Victory of Utu-hegal, which dates to about 2100 BC, describes ancient warfare as follows: “From the city it rained missiles as from the clouds; slingstones like the rain falling in a [whole] year whizzed loudly down from the walls of Aratta” (Reading Sumerian Poetry, p. 130).
Consider the following description of sling warfare which describes the potential power of this weapon: “A sling works by increasing the effective length of a stone-thrower’s arm. Modern cricket bowlers or baseball pitchers can achieve maximum ball velocities of over 150 kilometres per hour. A slingshot as long again as the thrower’s arm will double the projectile’s speed, making the velocity of the bullet when it leaves the sling nearly 100 metres per second. This is already considerably greater than that of a longbow arrow, at only about 60 mps. Intensively trained from childhood onward, there is no reason to believe that a professional slinger could not beat 100 mps (meters per second) fairly easily and perhaps even begin to approach the muzzle velocity of a .45 calibre pistol round: about 150 mps. What is more, a smooth slingshot projectile has a far greater range than an arrow, as much as half a kilometre, because an arrow’s flight feather’s produce so much drag. The modern world-record distance for a stone cast with a sling was achieved by Larry Bray in 1981, who managed 437 metres, and thought in retrospect that he could surpass the 600-metre mark with a better sling and lead projectiles” (Paul Kriwaczek, Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, Kindle location 1633).
Ancient projectiles discovered at Hamoukar (in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border) were actually egg-shaped, but more pointed, and made out of clay. More than 2,000 of these sling bullets were found in 2005 in excavations co-sponsored by the Oriental Institute and the Syrian Department of Antiquities. One of the stones had pierced into a mud brick wall (“Evidence of battle at Hamoukar,” University of Chicago Chronicle, Jan. 18, 2007). Excavators found a room in which new sling bullets were made and two dozen of the projectiles were found lined up ready to use; apparently the city fell before they could be fielded. “[The pointed shape of the Hamoukar projectiles] tells us two things: that they could be armour-piercing; and that the slingers must have had a technique for sending them off with a spin, like a rifle bullet, so as to keep them properly oriented during their flight to the target” (Kriwaczek, Kindle location 1633).
The Greeks and Romans used lead sling projectiles made in molds. “Writers tell of the terrible wounds that slings would inflict, especially [lead] bullets. The Romans developed a special pair of tongs designed for getting bullets out of people. ... Pompey in the civil wars favoured the use of very large units of slingers. They were used beside archers, at sea, and in sieges. Scipio used them against elephants, and Caesar comments that the sling was particularly effective against them” (“Great Weapons of the ancient World: The Sling”).
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