I’ll try to summarize in this article the history of archery, today it is a sport that is both exciting and fun and once you try the archery is hard to stop practice it. However throughout history there have been more than that, in fact archery was decisive in the history of mankind.
Origin of archery
Today we talk about a sport, but the origin of archery is lost in remote antiquity of mankind, we know that archery is practiced for thousands of years, as there are numerous cave paintings that shows primitive hunters with bows and arrows.
When studying the history of archery it must be borne in mind that the bow was perhaps the first machine built by man since transforms the stored energy to draw the bow in the movement of the arrow.
The bow is considered by historians as one of the three greatest inventions of mankind, along with fire and language, since its use became man in the most perfect hunter of all nature and represented a breakthrough in our evolution.
That is, we have to consider that when we take a bow and arrow in our hands we are repeating an act that were already made by our ancestors at least 40,000 years ago, in the Upper Paleolithic and this can be felt, there is something atavistic in the action of take a bow, draw it and shoot an arrow.
Unfortunately for the study of the history of archery, unlike other tools and prehistoric weapons, have not preserved bows of this age because they were made of wood and tendons of animals and none has been preserved to the present day. We can only get an idea of how they were through these cave paintings.
We do not know how or who invented, what if we know exactly is that once invented the bow quickly spread worldwide, as it appears in all the world’s civilizations in similar times.
The Archery in the Ancient World
The bow continued to be used as a weapon for hunting and of course, for the war. Virtually all cultures of the ancient world used the bow. There is evidence that at least 5,000 years ago Egyptian civilization was already using archery as much for hunting like the war, the domain of the archery was essential for this societies
Archery was widely used by all ancient cultures, it is impossible in a short post like this one detailing the history of archery and all civilizations that have used it, we can highlight the Persians archers represented in the in the magnificent frieze in Darius´ palace in Susa.
The Assyrians took a further step in the evolution of the bow, because instead of manufacture it of a single piece, their bow was made out of composite materials and they gave it a curved shape to the limbs, is created in this way the recurve bow, which thanks its shape gives a greater amount of energy and speed to the arrow and also this kind of bows are shorter allowing use it on horseback.
The Roman army also had archers in their ranks, although most of them were mercenaries from differents parts of the empire, but no less fearsome, however romans suffered defeats at the hands of nations who had a greater mastery of archery as the parthians who developed the ability to shoot from horseback while retreating at a full gallop, turned their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy this type of shot is still called today “Parthian shot“. Thus in the battle of Carrhae, 9000 parthians horse archers massacred to 42,000 Roman legionaries.
To the end of the Roman Empire, romans suffered serious defeats especially caused by the superiority of the troops of horse archers of the barbarian tribes such as the Huns, with great skill in archery on horseback.
The History of Archery in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages in Western Europe is the English army who appears strongly into the history of archery, as with its magnificent “longbows” they took the bow, as a weapon of war, to its maximum splendour. In the war of 100 years it was demonstrated the huge superiority of one group of archers well trained in archery against medieval knights, In the war of 100 years it was demonstrated the huge superiority of one group of archers well trained in archery against medieval knights at Agincourt in which according to some sources the French army was six time the size of English army and still was defeated by the effectiveness of the English longbows.
The armors of the crème de la crème of French chivalry could do nothing against the English arrows. It is said that with the bow in the Middle Ages the war was “democratized” because so far in medieval warfare few nobles died, the vast majority of the fallen were privates and poor peasants, however with the bow this situation changed, as groups of archers, without armor and with poor equipment, formed by members of the lower classes, they massacred well equipped and armed nobles.
Since that time the war was no longer a game for nobles and became more dangerous for first time they had a lot of possibility to die in battle and besides at the hands of a commoner.
The Archery in Asia
Outside Europe the history of archery is very interesting, Asia is where archery reached its maximum splendour worldwide with the development of the recurve bow and the ability of the nations of the steppes for use on horseback, armies such as the Mongolian nomadic armies under the command of Genghis Khan were invincible. In China the use of the bow goes back at least to the Shang Dynasty in 1766 BC.
Korea deserves special mention, the people archer par excellence, the bow is to Koreans what the is the Japanese katana, today the archery remains the national sport of Korea.
We also have to keep in mind that archery is the only sport in the world that has developed its own philosophy, the Zen archery, with origin in China and later developed in Japan.
The bow in America
In the American continent was also used the bow profusely. It is known that the Mexicans were skilled archers, as well were able to verify the Spanish conquerors. However once completed the conquest, the new authorities banned that indigenous could use weapons, so the archery was disappearing.
But without doubt were the Indians of the American prairies who gave the greatest halo of romanticism to the archery, we all have in mind the images of these brave warriors astride their horses shooting their bows to hunt bison on the prairie and of course to fight against well-armed American cavalry, coming to defeat the 7th cavalry in the famous battle of Little Big Horn.
As you can understand an activity like archery, which has been present in humans for at least 40,000 years is impossible to summarize here, I just tried to give you a brushstrokes of which has involved the history of archery in the history of mankind and to encourage you to practice this amazing sport.
And if you are already an archer and you love the archery, you have to test our archery app.
Source of picture 1: wikimedia
Source of picture 2: wikimedia
Source of picture 3: dynamosquito
Source of picture 4: Facebook Mounted Archery
Source of picture 5: wikimedia
Source of picture 6:The passing of Korea
Source of picture 7: Facebook Mounted Archery