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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bow and Arrow

The major preoccupation for pre-historic man was killing whatever moved, and devising ever more efficient means to do it. For centuries hunters relied only on what missiles they had the strength to throw, breaking bones with sticks and stones. That changed somewhere in Africa, sometime more than 30,000 years ago, when the earliest archers emerged with bows and arrows.

The earliest recovered weapons, dating from around 9,000 BC, were unearthed near Hamburg. with the bow made of pine and points of flint on the arrows.

The cross bow was invented by the Chinese and records of its usage goes back to as far as the Three Kingdom Period (220 AD-280 AD).

Crossbows were built in Europe about 800 years ago. The bow had a rifle-like stock and was held sideways. It was so strong that sometimes it took two men to hook the string and arrow to the trigger. The arrow was fired by pulling the trig­ger.

The fifteenth-century English longbow was best. It was made of wood. A good archer could shoot it accurately for 400 yards (364 meters).

During the Middle Ages Oxford University in England had rules that specifically forbid students from bringing bows and arrows to class.

In 1403 Prince Henry, the 15-year-old son of England’s Henry IV was in command of the English forces battling the Percys and Neville at Shrewsbury. Unfortunately an arrow hit the prince and an arrowhead was lodged in his cheekbone. His father’s surgeon, Bradmore stretched the gash in his cheek with sticks wrapped in linen dipped in white wine, a natural disinfectant. Then a pair of special tongs was inserted, the arrowhead found and withdrawn. The wound was washed with more white wine and covered with honey. Six weeks later the prince’s face had healed.

In 1415 a medieval knight Sir Dafydd Gam was hit by an arrow in his eye at Agincourt. From this unfortunate incident comes the expression “gammy” meaning “lame or crippled”.

The arrows used by English longbowmen at Agincourt were a ‘clothyard’ long, about 94cm (just over 3ft).

After about 1500, guns became more useful than bows and arrows for hunting and war.

A Japanese bow is about 7 to 9 feet in length, much longer than Western bows.

The modern recurve bow used in the Olympic archery competition is based on a design from 1500 BC.

Sources The Independent 3/11/07,

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