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Hanukkah Reveal: A 2,200-Year-Old Sling Bullet Bearing Greek Inscription

December 9, 2022

by: Kate Norman

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Friday, 9 December 2022 | In time for Hanukkah (Festival of Lights), the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently revealed a 2,200-year-old sling bullet from Yavne in central Israel bearing a Greek inscription.

A lead sling bullet with the word “Victory” written in Greek on one side

The coin reads “Victory of Heracles and Hauronas,” a victory declaration most likely used as psychological warfare, the IAA said.

The 4.4-centimeter (1.73-in.) sling bullet was discovered in the central city of Yavne, the IAA said, during the Israel Lands Authority’s expansion project for the city.

At the time, the Greek gods Hauron and Heracles were considered the divine patrons of Yavne, Prof. Yulia Ustinova from Ben Gurion University of the Negev said in the IAA press release. Ustinova was responsible for deciphering the ancient inscription, which she said is “the first archaeological evidence of the two guardians of Yavne, discovered inside Yavne itself.”

The inscription on the bullet was likely a tactic of psychological warfare, Ustinova said, “not a call addressed to the deity, but a threat directed towards the adversaries.”

The IAA told the Times of Israel that it had discovered the sling bullet around a year ago and has been studying it in the meantime and saving the reveal for yesterday, just 10 days before the start of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah commemorates the miraculous victory of a small band of Jewish fighters against the Seleucids, Syrian Greeks who were occupying the Land of Israel and forcing Hellenization upon the Jewish people.

A lead sling bullet with the names of Greek gods, Hauron and Heracles, on the other side

The Greek gods inscribed on the sling bullet, Hauron and Heracles, implies that the item could have belonged to a Greek soldier during the Hellenistic occupation of Israel, though it is not certain.

Lead sling bullets date back as early as the fifth century BC, though few were found in Israel with inscriptions, Ustinova said.

“The inscriptions convey a message of unifying the warriors with the aim of raising their spirits, scaring the enemy, or a call intended to magically energize the bullet itself,” the professor added. “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 is impossible to definitively determine whether the sling bullet belonged to a Greek soldier, said Pablo Betzer and Dr. Daniel Varga, who directed the excavation.

But it is not impossible either, the IAA directors added. Yavne, they pointed out in the IAA press release, was pagan and allied with the Seleucid Greeks who were ruling the Land at the time.

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

IAA director Eli Escusido ventured, “One can only imagine what that warrior who held the sling bullet 2,200 years ago thought and felt, as he held onto the hope of divine salvation.”

Archaeological excavations at Yavne

Escusido called the Yavne project a “mega” excavation, one of the largest excavations conducted by the IAA. The site, Escusido added, “has yielded fascinating discoveries that testify to a rich and varied history of 7,000 years, and we eagerly await future findings.“

Posted on December 9, 2022

Source: (Bridges for Peace, December 9, 2022)

Photo Credit: Lead sling bullets: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Photo Credit: Archaeological excavation site: Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority

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