Catapults Invented Before Theory Explained Them

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Ancient Greek craftsmen didn't need fancy math to cobble together the first catapult, a new study of ancient texts suggests. Archimedes' laws and theories just helped make the weapon better.

The first catapult in Europe flung into action around the fourth century B.C., prior to the invention of mathematical models that revolutionized ancient technologies, said Mark Schiefsky, a Harvard University classics professor who led the study.

"It seems that the early stages of catapult development did not involve any mathematical theory at all," Schiefsky said. "We are talking about so-called torsion artillery, basically an extension of the simple bow by means of animal sinews into something like the crossbow."

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