When Was the Javelin Invented?

Updated April 17, 2017

It is hard to pinpoint the time period, let alone the year, in which the javelin was invented. Variations on the javelin have been used for thousands of years throughout the world.


A javelin is a light spear that is thrown, rather than being used in a thrusting manner. The word "javelin" is of 15th century Middle English origin; "chafeveleyn" is derived from the Middle French "javeline," which is a diminutive alteration of "javelot" ("spear"). It is suggested that "javelot" is of Celtic origin.

Earliest Javelins

Archaeologists' findings suggest that the earliest javelins -- or throwing sticks -- were found in a coal mine in Schoningen, Germany. They are believed to be almost 500,000 years old.

Pre-Modern Age Uses

Before the 20th century, javelins were used for war and hunting by societies throughout the world, most notably the pilum, used by the Roman Empire, and the assegai, used in Southern Africa. However, the most popular javelin use (and the earliest example of their use for sport) was at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece in the eighth century B.C.

Javelins Today

The use of javelins today has been restricted to track-and-field events, most notably the modern Olympics. Formerly made of wood, Franklin Held invented the hollow javelin in 1953 -- an instrument of increased flight capability that is used to this day.

Famous Javelins

A well known throwing spear in history and mythology is the "Spear of Destiny," the biblical spear of a Roman soldier used to pierce Jesus' side during the Crucifixion.

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About the Author

Based in the D.C. area, Andy Joseph works full-time as a data analyst and technical writer. He has been writing articles about technology, health, politics, music, culture and automobiles since 2007. His work has appeared in The Express, Congressional Report and Road & Track. He has a master's degree in journalism and technology management.