Have you ever wondered about the history of archery? how archery was invented and for what purpose?
There is an undeniable mystical power to the bow and arrow. This weapon has played a major role in the survival of our species for centuries. My personal journey as an archer has included extensive research on everything related to this art. I have been thinking of writing a post that gives readers the knowledge about the history of archery, so now the time has come to publish some essentials.
It took our species over two million years of evolution to create the bow and arrow. That is a long time to use nothing but sticks and stones to defend ourselves and hunt for food. That was very surprising to me as I would have expected this to be easier to figure out in our evolution, but that is an interesting fact to know for sure.
The accuracy of the information that tracks the origins of this ancient instrument is a little shaky, but there is enough information to reveal how this particular weapon evolved over the years. Now. Let’s go over some of that history.
The origins of the bow and arrow
There is no way to tell exactly when someone in this world came up with the first bow and arrow. Discovering this would be quite hard, but there is plenty of evidence showing that the Egyptians were the first people to use the weapon for hunting and warfare. This seems to have occurred sometime in 3,000BC.
This first version of the bow was quite different from what we know today. Made out of wood, but the tips used animal horns and sheep intestines made the bowstring. It sounds exotic, to say the least, but it did the job and it gave way to the evolution of the weapon.
Chinese records for the bow and arrow date back to the Shang Dynasty. This was between 1766 and 1027BC. This led to the creation of tournaments and competitive archery was born. Then, the Chinese brought the art of archery to Japan, and this was the beginning of an incredibly powerful cultural phenomenon worldwide.
The beginning of Japanese Archery
Kyudo is one of Japan ancient martial arts, and this means “the way of the bow”. The spiritual development of the archer was a huge part of the training. This makes perfect sense when you consider how steady and calm you need to be when shooting. It was very important for Samurai warriors to be skilled archers so they could help defend their territory with long-range weapons.
They had a competitive game called Yabusame and they would try to shoot arrows targets while riding horses. Some regions of Japan maintain this tradition to this day and I definitely want to try this out one day. I can only imagine the level of difficulty when trying to aim your bow while a horse is galloping. This is something I need to do at least once in my life, even if I don’t hit the targets.
The power of Roman Archery
The Romans always considered the bow and arrow to be an extremely important part of the war tactics. They trained many archers for deadly accuracy and their often possible thanks to their ability to intercept the enemy from a safe distance. Sagittarii was the name given to the archers in the military of ancient Rome. A good number of these archers would go on foot, while some of them would ride horses.
The composite bow was their weapon of choice and their bows had the peculiar feature of being asymmetric, which seems to have been a tradition of Roman Bow craftsmanship. It’s not clear if this was done just for aesthetic purposes, or if they feel it helped improve their accuracy.
The accuracy of Mongolian Archery
Very few cultures seem to have a cultural history that is so integral to their evolution. The Mongols had a very nomadic way of life. They had to get used to hunting in foreign lands and fighting other tribes during their travels. Their archery skills allowed them to hunt efficiently and to win many of the battles they had to engage with tribes that didn’t want any other tribes to hunt in their lands.
It was very common for children to learn how to shoot the bow from a very young age. By the time of Genghis Khan, the use of archery was essential for the creation of their empire. Wars started and wars ended thanks to the bow and arrow, but most importantly, skilled archers achieved prevention of several confrontations.
The moment when archery evolved
There was a need for a more powerful version of the composite bow. This gave way to the creation of the Long Bow and the Crossbow. Both of the versions of the weapon gained notoriety for allowing the arrow to travel for a longer distance. This evolution gave the weapon an even higher value in terms of hunting and warfare. It allowed archers to fire their weapons effectively from safer distances.
While there are some people who have preferences between the longbow, the short bow, and the crossbow, some would argue that the crossbow is not really an archer’s weapon, but a completely different instrument that resembles a gun more than a bow. I completely agree with that statement. The way to use the bow is entirely different and so are the techniques used to shoot them.
The creation of firearms was the beginning of the end. It marked the end for the bow and arrow as a weapon for war. Archery was the last of the ancient arts removed from the battlefield in most armies all over the world. It was once the main long-range weapon of choice, but it was eventually unable to compete with firearms in terms of power and convenience.
The use of the bow and arrow was still very prominent in the American continent around 500CE. Native American tribes maintained the use of this particular weapon. They used bows and arrows to hunt their food and to fight for their land. This weapon is a very important part of their history.
The birth of modern archery
It’s quite safe to say that modern archery was born back in 1900 when it was first presented as one of the competitive disciplines in the Olympic games. Now the modern bow uses durable materials and they have all kinds of added components. These additions help improve accuracy, but the essence of archery remains the same as it was back when it was used for the first time.
Archery has always been a very important cultural addition to most regions of the world. The weapon is now only useful for the purposes of sports hunting and competition. There are still tribes in remote areas of the world that use the bow and arrow as a means for survival. This is definitely a minority of the world’s population, but one that definitely needs to remain as untouched as it is to this day.
Modern archery is mainly for competitive reasons, but there are hunters who prefer this method of hunting. The fact that the bow and arrow are no longer associated with war is great. It has turned into an instrument that is popular for the precision it requires.
Korean archers have become a dominant force in modern archery. Their dedication to the sport has been notorious and this makes them an unstoppable force. I have mentioned their superior archery skills in past publications. The top ten archers or the world includes both men and women from Korea. Some American archers and some Europeans have been part of this lost, but the Koreans have always been a majority.
The American continent has also been the home of a large share of talented archers. The United States only sees archery as part of a sport and hunting culture. This is one of the reasons why most dominant archers are not American. There are areas of South and Central America that used archery for hunting purposes and for protection, but they are not part of the modern competitive scene.
It seems like most regions that maintain archery as a sport has used the bow and arrow for survival and for warfare at some point in their history.
It’s quite clear that every region and every culture in this world has been involved in archery at some point. The long-lasting cultural value of the bow and arrow continues to attract people of all ages. Being that this is such a simple weapon, it makes perfect sense that it has so much appeal.
It’s very important to consider the value of the history behind the things that we love. I feel very passionate about archery and I love the way that the bow and arrow have evolved. I’m sure if you feel the same way I do. I’m grateful that can make a small contribution in regards to the history of archery.