Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Leapin' Olympians Volume 56 Number 1, January/February 2003
by Jarrett A. Lobell

Historians of the ancient Olympics have always questioned how hand-held weights called halteres depicted on many Greek vases and found at sporting sites all over Greece were used. Now sports scientists at England's Manchester Metropolitan University think they have solved the puzzle. Computer simulations and experiments with volunteers have shown that ancient athletes would swing the 20-pound lead or stone halteres forward as they jumped and backward as they landed. Using the weight of the halteres in this way allowed an ancient athlete to increase his jump by at least 6% over a weightless one.

© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America