“Bulging with veins, the right hand is holding what remains of a terrible weapon used in antiquity until the 17th century,” art historians Sergio Risaliti and Francesco Vossilla wrote in the book “L’Altro David” (“The Other David).
Called a fustibal, or staff-sling, the weapon was used to throw stones.
“With a leather sling attached to the end, the staff acted like a portable trebuchet (a large catapult-like device),” classical folklorist Adrienne Mayor, who was not involved in the study, told Discovery News.
The Bible says that when David went to fight Goliath, he took up his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones and his sling.
Of these, only the latter is represented in Michelangelo’s sculpture, as David holds the pouch of the sling in his left hand, above his shoulder.
Crossing his back down to the right hand, the straps of the rather long sling appear to be attached to a mysterious object.
“We believe the object is actually the handle to which a staff had to be mounted, much alike a golf pole,” Risaliti told Discovery News.