Archery is one of the oldest sports and forms of warfare. It has traceable evidence dating back to 3000 BCE, and many experts believe it was common even before. Numerous developments changed the course of archery, from new bow inventions to arrow improvements.

A Brief History

Archery was first recorded around 3000 BCE by ancient Egyptians. These recordings depicted archery being used for hunting and war. There is also evidence of archery in China during the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1027 BCE).

It is thought archery was used for entertainment and was accompanied by music and other festivities. China introduced Japan to archery in the 6th century (501 to 600 CE), and it had a large cultural impact.

Archery was used for Kyujutsu, now known as Kyudo, meaning “the art of the bow.” Its main aim was to improve focus and spirituality.

In the Greco-Roman civilization, archery was mainly used for war and hunting, based on depictions found on pottery. Archery was used by many to attack enemies and defend lands.

The Assyrian army consisted of mainly archers, with kings depicted on artifacts holding bow and arrows—signifying it as a high-class weapon.

Attila the Hun and his underlings used a unique bow, far stronger than the typical bow of the era. They used thumb rings to release their bowstrings. The Huns also conquered most of Europe and Asia with archers on horseback.

Early Developments in Bow and Arrows

The first known bow, likely created by Egyptians, was made of wood. The wood materials varied, but wood bows remained the most commonly used material from the advent of archery until 1800 BCE.

That’s when Assyrians invented the recurve bow, made of a combination of leather, wood, and animal horns.

After this development, another major development was not made until the longbow regained popularity after the English made their own version. The English longbow was made of a single piece of yew wood.

Fun fact: a law was put in place in England requiring all men of adult age to practice archery for two hours a week, usually on Sundays. This law was never repealed, although it is widely ignored now.

Modern developments in bow and arrows

More modern developments in bow and arrows continued, even after the advent of gun powder in 9th century China and the popularization of firearms through the 11th century to today.

In 1939, arrows began to be manufactured using aluminum rather than the traditional wood. Today’s arrows are made of a composite of aluminum alloy or carbon.

The fletching on arrows is now made of plastic or vinyl, while it was traditionally made of turkey feathers in the past. In the late 1950s, there was an unexpected development in arrows with the invention of heat shrink tubing.

Although invented for industrial usage, this tubing was proven to increase shaft straightness and improve the taping tension of arrows. Although this weapon is used almost entirely for sport now, there continue to be developments in archery to this day. 

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