We believe this small spherical stone object, 3cm in diameter, to be a sling-shot. It was found in 2019 about 50m outside the ramparts of the Iron Age Cliff Castle at Chynalls Point, near Coverack, at the depth of a spade, by volunteers at work repairing steps on a nearby path. The stone has evidently been worked by someone to create a passable missile!
Slings were a common weapon from the Bronze Age, right through the Iron Age to the Mediaeval period, so it is therefore impossible to date this find and we cannot necessarily assume it is Iron Age, like the nearby ramparts. The slings themselves would have been made of leather more than likely, and no early examples survive in a British context, but finds overseas give an idea of shape and use. Slings, although simple, were surprisingly effective weapons in the hands of a skilled user. The slinger would place the shot inside, whirl the leather strap in a circle until sufficient speed was created, and then abruptly stop, releasing the stone. Slings were used for hunting wild animals, and for defence, and sling-shot, either stone or clay, is a relatively common find around Iron Age Hillforts and Cliff Castles.
This sling-shot appears not to be made of local Lizard rock; that is it is not serpentine, gabbro, schist or gneiss. It may be granite. This would indicate that this stone had been carried some miles, and was perhaps high-quality ammunition, prized for an accurate shot.
It’s intriguing to wonder who shaped, carried and used this particular stone, and how it came to be lost one day many, many generations ago. Perhaps it scored a glorious fatal bloody blow on a sworn enemy, intent on attacking the Castle. Or perhaps it was mislaid as a poor shot that allowed a plump deer to make its getaway and escape from being dinner that night! The sling-shot can be seen on display at Poltesco, in the cabinet in the barn.
Thank you to Rachel Holder, National Trust Area Ranger for the photo and information about this fascinating find at Chynalls Point. Some more information about Chynalls point and the cliff castle can be seen below: