Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Halteres used in ancient Olympic long jump

These athletes worked out for themselves the optimal size of hand-held weights.


Halteres1 (αλτηρεζ) are hand-held weights that were first used in the standing long jump in the eighteenth ancient Olympiad in 708 bc, and may have been introduced either to make the challenge more difficult or to extend the jumping distance2. Here we use computer and experimental simulations to determine the optimal mass of halteres that would be needed to maximally extend a standing long jump, and find that this corresponds closely to the size range of actual archaeological specimens. These halteres were made of stone or lead and weighed 2–9 kg, which we calculate would increase a 3-metre jump by at least 17 cm, indicating that their purpose was to boost the performance of pentathletes. Halteres may therefore be the earliest passive tool that was devised to enhance human-powered locomotion.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Use of halteres in the standing long jump.
Figure 2: Effects of the mass of hand-held loads on a jumper's take-off speed and maximal wrist height during the flight.


  1. British Museum (GR 1837.6-9.83, GR 1867.5-6.48), London, UK; National Museum, Athens, Greece; Archaeological Museum, Olympia, Greece.

  2. Ebert, J. in Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Akad. Wissensch. Leipzig VIII 66, (Akademie, Berlin, 1963).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Beazley collection at

  4. Wassmannsdorff, K. Monatsschrift für das Turnwesen 4 (1885).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Hill, A. V. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 127, 136–195 (1938).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Westing, S. H., Seger, J. Y., Karlson, E. & Ekblom, B. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 58, 100–104 (1988).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Perrin, D. H. Isokinetic Exercise and Assessment (Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Minetti, A. E., Ardigó, L. P. & Saibene, F. J. Physiol. 472, 725–735 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Aristotle Problemata 3, 705 a, 12–19.

  10. Jüthner, J. Antike Turngeräthe (Vienna, 1896).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alberto E. Minetti.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Minetti, A., Ardigó, L. Halteres used in ancient Olympic long jump. Nature 420, 141–142 (2002).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing