An Inscribed Ballista Stone from Apollonia-Arsuf, Israel, and Stone-throwing Siege Machines in the Medieval Near East


  • Stefan Heidemann Universität Hamburg
  • David C. Nicolle Royal Asiatic Society, London
  • Oren Tal [email protected]



inscribed ballista stone, 13th century, Naskhī script, Palestine, Arsūf, Crusader, Mamluk


This article presents a unique example of a roughly round ballista stone (ca. 32 x 31 cm) retrieved during excavations at Apollonia-Arsuf. It bears a two-line (one horizontal, the other vertical) Arabic inscription. Given the context of the ballista stones found at the site, it can be dated to March–April 1265, when the town and castle of Arsur were under siege by the Mamluk army headed by Baybars. The ballista stone is analyzed in relation to the site history and archaeology, its inscription, and the Mamluk sultanate 13th-century stone-throwing siege-machine artillery.

Author Biographies

Stefan Heidemann, Universität Hamburg

Stefan Heidemann is Professor of Islamic Studies at Universität Hamburg since 2011. Formerly, he served as Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum and Professor of Islamic History and Material Culture at The Bard Graduate Center, New York. He received his PhD at the Free University Berlin in 1993 and his Habilitation at Jena University 2001. He has worked with German, British, French, and Syrian archaeological missions.

David C. Nicolle, Royal Asiatic Society, London

Dr. David Nicolle is an independent scholar and has over one hundred books to his name. He is an Honorary Research Fellow attached to Nottingham University as well as being a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Asiatic Society. Dr. Nicolle has also worked for television in the UK, the USA, Germany and Syria as an advisor and contributor.

Oren Tal, [email protected]

Oren Tal has worked for Tel Aviv University since 2007, where he is currently full professor, researching and teaching classical Near Eastern archaeology in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures. He is also the Director of the Apollonia-Arsuf Excavation Project and Co-Director of the German-Israeli Tell Iẓṭabba Excavation Project.


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How to Cite

Heidemann, S. ., Nicolle, D. C. ., & Tal, O. . (2022). An Inscribed Ballista Stone from Apollonia-Arsuf, Israel, and Stone-throwing Siege Machines in the Medieval Near East. Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 8(2), 239–254.




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