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AssyrianSlingers

A troop of Assyrian slingers ca. 701 BCE from the Lachish Relief.

The sling is a simple weapon, made of a small cradle, or pouch, in the middle of two lengths of cord. A projectile is placed in the pouch. The middle finger or thumb is placed through a loop on the end of one cord, and a tab at the end of the other cord is placed between the thumb and forefinger. The sling is swung in an arc, and the tab released at a precise moment. This frees the projectile to fly to the target. The sling essentially works by extending the length of a human arm, thus allowing the projectile to be thrown much farther than they could be by hand. The projectile launched can specially crafted to be shot from the sling, such as a bullets made of clay or lead, usually almond-shaped; but it also can be as simple as a stone retrieved from the ground. The sling itself can be made of all sorts of materials, usually natural fibers and/or leather.

The simplicity in design, portable size and ease of procuring projectiles made the sling one of the most practical and long-lasting weapons in history. Since ancient times, shepherds from all over the world used slings to tend their flocks by launching a stone close to a straying animal, preventing them from going to an undesired direction, and the weapon became associated with the profession. It was also commonly used to hunt small game. The simplicity of the sling also means that it saw combat quite often. The oldest-known surviving slings, radiocarbon dated to ca. 2500 BCE were recovered from South American archaeological sites on the coast of Peru. Since slings were made of biodegradable materials however, it's difficult to find slings in the archaeological record, and their use goes way back; The first illustration of a slinger is found on the site of Çatalhöyük in Southern Anatolia, dated ca. 7000 BCE.

Corps of slingers were common in the armies of Antiquity, since the very first organized armies of the Sumerians and earlier. The best known mention of a sling is the Biblical story in the Book of Samuel, where the future king of Israel, David, a young man armed only with a sling, challenges and defeats the heavily armed Philistine champion Goliath with a single shot to the head.

Classical Era forces such the Greek, Persian, Celtic, Roman or Carthaginian armies had organized corps of slingers. A sling could fire faster and farther than most bows, and despite being generally non-lethal, the projectiles could be felt through armour, and cause broken bones and severe concussions that could disable the enemy. The annoyance of being pestered by sling shots even if well protected meant that slingers were excellent to harass enemy troops and provoce a reckless attack on their part. The most famed slingers in this period were the natives of the Balearic Islands, which had a deeply ingrained tradition of sling use from infancy and exceptional expertise with it, and were very sought-after as mercenaries by the rival armies of Rome and Carthage during the Punic Wars. The same principle of the sling was the basis for many of the Artillery Weapons fo the era, such as the Onager, which used a large sling to launch projectiles, a much more effective mechanism than the wooden spoon it's all too commonly depicted as using, Rise of Nations among the examples.

From the Middle Ages onward the sling would decay in use in the organized conflicts of most of the "Old World", but it was never to fall out of use completely, specially as one of the few weapons a levied peseant could bring to a battlefield. by these times a variation of the sling is seen in illustrations of the era of the Crusades; the fustibalos, or staff-sling, a pouch on the end of a two-handed staff intended to launch stones over walls, larger that those a sling could, sort of a "hand catapult". Like the old Onagers, the newer Mangonels and Trebuchets also used the principle of the sling to great effect.

IncaSling

Peruvian sling from the Inca Period.

The sling had also a prominent role in pre-Columbian American warfare, seeing extensive use throughout the continent. The nightmarish hail of clay balls that Aztec slingers produced made the sling one of the most detested weapons by the Spanish invaders, which could feel the impact even through armour; Cortés' accounts telling that the dents Aztec sling projectiles made in plate looked just like Arquebus shots. Historically, Peru was one of the regions which saw the most frequent and continuous use of the sling in the world. Slingers of the Inca Empire also left a great impression of the invading Spaniards. Their slings, weaved of Alpaca wool made a formidable weapon, gaining a fearsome reputation as seen in Spanish accounts, where it is claimed that an Inca sling could break a sword in two, or kill a horse in one shot.

Even today, despite the innumerable advances in ranged weapon technology, the practical nature of the sling has allowed it to endure. Modern conflicts all over the world, from wars to riots, have been witness of the undying principle of the sling; these modern combatants have, and continue to use them, to launch grenades and/or homemade bombs farther than the arm could achieve.

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