A History of Archery

Let's look at a little history about archery. Archery dates back to the beginning of time. Archery is referenced in the Bible in many books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It was used for gathering food and for protection. Some cultures in the world today still use archery for both food gathering and protection. Archery is one of the oldest arts of ancient times which is still practiced today. From its first development until the 1500s, the bow was man's constant companion and has been the most widely used of all weapons in recorded history. The bow allowed man to become an efficient hunter, providing him safety, food and raw materials such as bone, sinew and hide.

Archery is first referenced in the Bible in Genesis 21:20 , "And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became and archer." This dates archery to over 6000 years ago. Archery was the chief means of hunting and protection until the development of gunpowder. The development of archery followed a course of key innovations by many historical cultures. About 3500 BC., Egyptians were using bows as tall as themselves. Their arrowheads, originally constructed of flint, were later made of bronze. Almost 2000 years later, the Assyrians developed the shorter recurve bow, which provided more power and easier handling. One central Asian clan, the Parthians, became famous for their ability to shoot backwards from a galloping horse, making the Parthian shot a meaningful phrase to us today. At about 1200 BC, the Hittites developed the skill of shooting from moving chariots, and around 500 AD, the Romans, formerly second-rate archers, began to draw the arrow to the face rather than the chest, giving the shot more accuracy.

Archery was improved upon in first in Asia and again in England. Archers played a great part in the fall of the Roman Empire shortly after when Jesus was here on earth. The English made archery famous in war and legend in the 1300 & 1400's. Much of what we think about archery today is due to the English. The English longbow, was capable of shooting an arrow 300 yards and at closer range could put an arrow through a solid wood door. Starting with the reign of William the Conqueror, the bow was England's principal weapon of national defense for several centuries. Around the year 1200, Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes conquered much of the known world employing short, powerful bows.

There are many legendary stories and heroes which find their roots in archery. Homer's hero, Odysseus, reclaimed his wife and household upon his final return through his ability with his bow. The ancient Olympic games, tradition holds, were founded by an archer named Hercules. The Games featured archery with tethered doves as the targets. Target archery is also seen in the ballads of Robin Hood and William Tell, which show the respect that the English had for great archers. In Japan, the practice of Kyudo has raised archery from mere discipline to an art form and a philosophy of life. Crossbows and the later developed longbow were the primary defense against massed cavalry. In the battles of Crecy and Agincourt in France, in the 14th century, English longbows overcame frightful odds against mounted, fully armoured knights to win the advantage. These longbows had draw weights of from 60 to 120 pounds, and were often used at ranges up to 250 yards. The advent of gunpowder lead to a decline in popularity for archery as a tool of war, but it never competely died away, particularly among peasant poachers in the King's woods.

The American Indians adopted the bow and arrow after the Spanish and English brought them here in the 1500's. Today we have many different kinds of bows and arrows, thanks to new technology and materials, but the use of the bow and arrow still remains the same. For Native Americans, archery was the means of subsistence and existence during the days of English and later American colonization. Finally, after the bow's replacement by firearms as a weapon of war, archery became a favored sport, thus securing its continuous practice throughout history.

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