Sling Bullet with 2,200-Year-Old Inscription Discovered in Israel

The ancient sling bullet, dated to the Hellenistic period, bears a magic inscription in Greek: ‘Victory of Heracles and Hauronas.

The 2,200-year-old lead sling bullet from Yavne, Israel. Image credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 2,200-year-old lead sling bullet from Yavne, Israel. Image credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

The 2,200-year-old sling bullet was unearthed by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Yavne, a city in the Central District of Israel.

The 4.4-cm-long artifact was made of lead and likely belonged to a Greek soldier.

“The inscriptions were part of psychological warfare, the main purpose of which was to terrorize the opponent, and in addition, to unite the warriors and raise their spirits,” said Ben Gurion University of the Negev archeologist Yulia Ustinova.

“The pair of gods Hauron and Heracles were considered the divine patrons of Yavne during the Hellenistic period.”

“The inscription on this sling bullet is the first archaeological evidence of the two guardians of Yavne, discovered inside Yavne itself.”

“Until today, the pair was only known from an inscription on the Greek island of Delos.”

“As a couple, the gods Heracles and Hauron were a perfect team of victory-givers.”

“The announcement of the future victory of Heracles and Hauron was not a call addressed to the deity, but a threat directed towards the adversaries,” Professor Ustinova said.

“Lead sling bullets are known in the ancient world beginning in the 5th century BCE, but in Israel, few individual sling bullets were found with inscriptions.”

“The inscriptions convey a message of unifying the warriors to raise their spirits, scare the enemy, or a call intended to energize the sling bullet itself magically.”

“These inscriptions were part of psychological warfare, the main purpose of which is to terrorize the opponent, and in addition, to unite the warriors and raise their spirits.”

“It seems that we will not be able to know for sure if the sling bullet belonged to a Greek soldier, but it may be related to the conflict between the Greeks and the Hasmoneans,” said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists Pablo Betzer and Daniel Varga.

“In the 2nd century BCE, pagan Yavne — an ally of the Seleucids (the Greeks who ruled Eretz-Israel) — were subject to attacks by the Hasmonean armies.”

“The Hasmoneans sought to subjugate the other nations and create a homogeneous and ‘pure state’ from a religious-ritualistic point of view.”

“The tiny lead sling bullets, announcing the imminent victory of the gods of pagan Yavne, are tangible evidence of a fierce battle in Yavne at that time.”

“One can only imagine what that warrior who held the sling bullet 2,200 years ago thought and felt as he held on to the hope of divine salvation,” said Dr. Eli Escusido, director-general of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The Yavne excavation is a ‘mega’ excavation — one of the largest conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority — has yielded fascinating discoveries that testify to a rich and varied history of 7,000 years, and we eagerly await future findings.”

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