A 4.4-centimetre-long lead projectile has been discovered in the Israeli town of Yavne, known to the Ancient Greeks as Ἰαμνία (Iamneea).
Inscribed upon one side of the bullet, which was used as ammunition for a sling, is the Greek word NIKH (Victory).
The reverse face bears the names of the mythical Heracles, son of Zeus and Charon, the ferryman of Hades, ostensibly to invoke the power of the figures.
These clues suggest it may have belonged to a Greek soldier in the war against the Hasmoneans which took place during the Hellenistic Period; according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
According to Prof. Yulia Ustinova from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Heracles and Charon were considered the divine patrons of Yavne during that period.
“Actually, the inscription on a 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,” she told the Jerusalem Post.
It seems the writing of messages on tools of war is a tradition as old as war itself, with the sling being among the first ranged weapons employed by humanity: though the oldest extant examples have been dated to c. 2500 BC, archaeologists suspect they may be a far more ancient invention.