Bows and Arrows - History

History

The bow and arrow was not the first composite projectile weapon to be invented. It was preceded by the sling and by spear throwers such as the atlatl of the Americas and the woomera of Australia. A number of cultures in historical times lacked the bow and arrow, and in others oral history records a time before its acquisition.

The earliest potential arrow heads date from about 64,000 years ago in the South African Sibudu Cave. By 16,000 BCE flint points were being bound by sinews to split shafts. Fletching was being practiced, with feathers glued and bound to shafts.

The first actual bow fragments are the Stellmoor bows from northern Germany. They were dated to about 8,000 BCE but were destroyed in Hamburg during the Second World War. They were destroyed before carbon 14 dating was invented and their age is attributed by archaeological association. The oldest bow in one piece, are the elm Holmegaard bows from Denmark which were dated to 9,000 BCE. High performance wooden bows are currently made following the Holmegaard design.

The bow and arrow are still used in tribal warfare in Africa to this day. An example was documented in Kenya when the Kisii-tribe and Kalenjin-tribe clashed resulting in four deaths.

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