What if these forged loops from the Elenovo finds actually were the tips of ballista limbs?

….Cue the shivers!


limb tips


…. Excuse me if I get a case of the vapors here. The most challenging part of high-performance ballista design lies in the limbs.   It’s kind of the Holy Grail in this game.

If this hypothesis is correct, and this rod is from a ballista limb, then it seems to be missing a part; very likely a high tensile steel pin that goes through that forged eye.  I know from experience that a projecting crosswise pin can be used to secure the bowstring to the limb tips of a ballista. When we were trying our paddle limbs,  back in 04/28/2009 (see archives), we used projecting pins to form the bowstring nocks on the limb tips.  The pins worked very well in this role, although the rest of these Mk. IV limbs, seen below, were too beastly heavy to have any useful speed.  A real goofenator of a design, that one.




But the pins did work well.  In this photo there are two of them rather that one, and they stick out horizontally rather than vertically, as probably appeared on the original. However, our experiments have shown that with an inswinger, only a single forward pin  is needed to stop the bowstring flying off the limb as it bounces around after the power stroke.   It would make no difference to the bowstring if the pin that locked it in place was vertical or horizontal.   Here is a video of  limb bounce, made back when Firefly was just a pup:  click for vid.   whiplash5  )

On  the limb tip, a 1/2 inch tall shoulder, possibly built up from a cordage seizing  (much like Firefly has now)  is all that is needed to stop the bowstring sliding down the limb.  This seizing would also bind the end of the tension rod to the limb.  These thick bindings of high tensile thread, especially if soaked in hardening resin (natural or otherwise), form lightweight, immensely strong compression bands that hold up well to the rigors of life aboard a ballista limb.  The seizings on Firefly’s Mk. X limbs have been thumping along for several hundred shots now with nary a burble.

So to sum up, our data shows that with an inswinger,  a single projecting pin out on the limb tip, and a thick cordage seizing, is all that’s needed to attach the bowstring to the limb.  From where I’m sitting it’s a simple and proven solution that would work very well with a tension rod made just like the one from Elenovo.


It is interesting that the loop on the tension rod artifact appears to be just hammered closed, rather than forge welded closed.  Again, experience suggests that this approach would be quite sufficient for the pin’s purpose.  A cordage tip binding, mentioned earlier, would create a powerful pinching effect on a properly sized pin  if used with an unwelded loop.  Easy maintenance?   –Probably nothing.  Maybe something.

Suspension of disbelief, at least for a time, can advance one’s thinking when all else fails. Investing a little faith in any particular premise is essential to muster the focus needed to explore it.


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