Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student Builds Ancient Weapon; Design Details Scarce for Class Project

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Student Builds Ancient Weapon; Design Details Scarce for Class Project

Article excerpt

Byline: Shawna Sundin, Times-Union staff writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Part craftsman, carpenter and engineer, a 19-year-old St. Augustine student is constructing one heck of a weapon similar to one used by the ancient Romans.

Jesse Parkhurst, a freshman at New College in Sarasota, is building the catapult-like ballista that fires nasty, iron-tipped bolts. Little information on the design of the ancient Roman siege weapon exists.

"I'm trying to make it the way the Romans probably would have made it because none of those have ever been found," Parkhurst said from his work site at a St. Augustine custom cabinet shop. "None of the texts are complete. They're all missing parts. They refer to engineering documents but those never made it to us in a very usable form."

Parkhurst has had to figure out what size and type of material to use for each piece of the ballista and how to fit the pieces together so the weapon will work for his independent study project for college. He used red oak for the front frame, maple for the arrow slider, fir for the stock and ash for the arms.

"The type of woods are loosely based on what they probably would've used," Parkhurst said. "It follows the same dimensions given by Roman engineers."

The ballista will be about 6 feet long, 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He spent about two months researching, another month building the weapon and expects it'll take another month of periodic returns from school to finish it. His professor gave him an extension to finish the project, which students were supposed to complete by the end of January.

"It'll give us hands-on understanding on the problems the Romans may have had putting that together and a better understanding of how it works," said David Rohrbacher, a classics professor at New College who is overseeing Parkhurst's project. …

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