Photo Credit: Emil Eljam, Israel Antiquities Authority
The ancient sling stones - the earliest evidence of warfare in Israel and the Levant.

Research carried out by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists and published in the journal Atiqot pp. 1-22 (Up in Arms: Sling Stone Assemblages from the Late Prehistoric Sites of Ein Ẓippori and Ein Esur) revealed the earliest evidence of warfare and organized arming in the Southern Levant, specifically in the area of modern Israel. The research project shows that there was mass production of weapons as far back as 7,200 years ago.

Undertaken by Dr. Gil Haklay, Enno Bron, Dr. Dina Shalem, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the IAA, the research examined 424 sling stones from the Early Chalcolithic period (5800–4500 BCE) that were uncovered at two large archaeological sites excavated by the IAA: at Ein Esur in the northern Sharon plain, and Ein Zippori in the Lower Galilee.

The structure in Ein Asor where a assembly of sling stones was discovered. / Asaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

The research revealed that the hundreds of sling stones were almost identical. They were mostly manufactured from hard limestone/dolomite, and are almost all uniform in size: average length 52 mm, width 321 mm, and an average weight of 60 g.

“The stones, which were intended to be projected using a sling, are smoothed, with a specific biconical aerodynamic form, enabling exact and effective projection,” say the archaeologists. “Similar sling stones have been found at other sites in the country, mainly in the Hula Valley and Galilee in the north to the northern Sharon in central Israel, but this is the first time that they were found in such large concentrations.”

The ancient sling stones. / Emil Eljam, Israel Antiquities Authority

“These stones are, in fact, the earliest evidence of warfare in the Southern Levant,” say the archaeologists. “The uniformity of the sling stones points to large-scale industrial production. The effort put into the aerodynamic form and the smoothing of the stones’ surface indicate that they were intended to be precise and deadly weapons. The large number of sling stones and the effort put into producing them point to organized preparation for battle, and it may have been a community effort to produce ammunition. If so, it appears that in the Early Chalcolithic period, there was an escalation in preparations for warfare, involving a change from individual to large-scale production, employing many people.”

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