Some people argue that the name for this lovely archipelago, Islas Baleares, has its roots in the word Balearides which apparently means ‘stone slingers’. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this opinion but I can tell you that honderos (stone slingers in Castellano) or foners (in Catalan) did play an important role in the history of Mallorca, as far as I know.
Stone slinging (or sling shooting) has existed in the Mediterranean world approximately since about 6oo B. C.. Originally this technique is said to have been used for hunting purposes on an everyday basis. Later on, the slings and bullets were used as a defense method against attacking intruders. It is understood that the stone slinging people from the Balearics acquired some exceptional talents in this activity, especially once it had turned into a military profession. Rumour has it that even Hannibal employed honderos from Mallorca as mercenaries for his Punic wars.
The fona (sling) is a simple rope woven of natural fiber with a leather pad which is integrated to be used to launch the bullet. The object used as such was most often a stone, a piece of ceramics or a piece of lead. The range for the projectile can be up to 150 metres; between 6 to 12 bullets can be thrown per minute by an accomplished slinger.
Not much hunting is nowadays being done with fonas here in Mallorca, but in Ibiza the practice is apparently still used for hunting, as well as in some South American countries. In the Balearic Islands, the Federació Balears de Tir de Fona is promoting sling shooting as a sports activity. I believe that for sports purposes a tennis ball is now being used as the bullet. A championship event of Tir amb fona will be held today, June 28th, at 11h00 in the pueblo of Campanet as part of the local Festes de Sant Victorià; the XXVIII Campeonat de Balears will be held in Son Servera on October 11th.
The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 26th, 2009. The time was 15:31:43. The photos (centre and bottom) were taken from the Internet. Moltes gràcies to Plàcid Pérez Bru and to Historia Clasica.