Israel Antiquities Authority research, recently published in the journal ‘Atiqot111, has exposed the earliest evidence for warfare and organized arming in the Southern Levant, and specifically in the area of modern Israel.

The research project has shown that there was mass production of weapons as long as about 7,200 years ago.

The research, undertaken by Dr. Gil Haklay, Enno Bron, Dr. Dina Shalem, Dr. Ianir Milevski and Nimrod Getzov of the Israel Antiquities Authority, examined 424 slingstones from the Early Chalcolithic period (c. 5800–4500 BCE) that were uncovered at two large archaeological sites excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority: at ‘En Esur in the northern Sharon plain, and at ‘En Zippori in the Lower Galilee.

The research revealed that the hundreds of slingstones were almost identical. They were mostly manufactured from hard limestone/dolomite, and they were almost all uniform in size, with an average length of 52 mm, a width of about 321 mm, and an average weight of 60 g.

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

“These stones are in fact, the earliest evidence of warfare in the Southern Levant. The similarity of the slingstones 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 exact and deadly weapons,” the researchers say.

The large quantity of slingstones, 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 seems 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.

The large concentration of slingstones provides evidence for the more intensive preparations for warfare in the Early Chalcolithic period in our region, possibly between local powers.

“Yet again, archaeology teaches us that history does repeat itself,” says Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “The IAA researchers’ understandings open a window to a deeper understanding of the life and relationships between groups of people in prehistoric periods.”