Several hundred stone projectiles found in two archaeological sites in Israel indicate the existence of the oldest known factory for the production of standardized combat weapons.
Researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (ISA) published their study in the journal Atiqot. In it, they argue that the projectiles found in En Esur and En Tzipporah were made to standard specifications, indicating highly organized weapons production approximately 7200 years ago.
The stones have an average length of 52 millimeters, a width of 31 millimeters and a weight of 60 grams. They have a biconical shape, which is optimal for accurate and efficient launching from a sling.
"These stones are the earliest evidence of warfare in the South Levant. The similarities between them point to large-scale industrial production," the researchers write.
The authors of the study believe that the transition from informal slings to highly standardized weapons may indicate the spread of organized warfare during the Early Copper Age. This possibility is reinforced by the increase in the size of settlements in the Southern Levant at this time.
The fact that the slings were often found in clusters also provides clues as to how they were used. According to the researchers, this arrangement indicates that the projectiles were often fired en masse, with "a group of slingers possibly representing barrage munitions that would be launched by a group of slingers."
"In combat operations, this can cause the formation of the opposing line to break," they say.
Interestingly, this mass-produced weapon suddenly disappears from the archaeological record after about a millennium, although it is unclear whether this indicates a decrease in regional feuds.
As a reminder, a temple where Alexander the Great was worshipped was discovered in Iraq.
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