The Bit of Archery History

The history of archery is an interesting one, by following the evolution of archery we also follow the history of mankind which is so closely linked.

Throughout the world we have found evidence of ancient archery, even in places where in the past it was thought that the bow and arrow was not used, such as Australia.

It is thought that archery most likely dates back to around 20,000 BC which is in the Stone Age, but the ancient Egyptians are credited as being the oldest known people to have used the bow and arrow. Archery was adopted by the ancient Egyptians at least 5000 years ago for the purpose of both hunting and warfare.

In 1200 BC the Hittites, an ancient people who lived in what is what is now known as Turkey and northern Syria, used the bow and arrow from fast, light chariots that enabled them to become dreaded opponents in Middle Eastern battles.

Their neighbors known as the Assyrians, who originated in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria also used archery extensively. They reshaped the bow to a recurve shape that was shorter and much more powerful enabling them to be handled at lot easier by an archer on horseback. They also used several different types of material to build bows including horn, tendon and wood.

In China archery can be traced back to the Shang dynasty which was between 1766 and 1027 BC when war chariots carried a three man team consisting of a driver, lancer and archer.

It was during the ensuing Zhou dynasty between 1027-256 BC that the Chinese nobles at court liked to attend archery sporting tournaments that were accompanied by music and much fanfare.

The Chinese introduced civil archery to Japan around the six century and it had an overriding influence on later techniques and etiquette. One of Japan's martial arts now known as kyudo (way of the bow) continues to be taught in Japan in the traditional manner. A bow over 2 meters long and made of bamboo, wood and laminated strips is used for shooting a target set in a roofed over bank of sand.

During the Geco-Roman period, the bow was utilized more for personal exploits or hunting than it was for warfare, Archery is frequently depicted on pottery dating to that time.

The Romans are not believed to have been very good archers, more than likely because up until the 5th century the bows they used were shot by drawing the string back to the chest rather than the face which gives the arrow far more accuracy.

Enemies such as the Parthians had far better skills; they were accomplished horsemen who were able to shoot backwards by swivelling around in the saddle often at full speed.

The superiority of the archery equipment and techniques used by the people of the Middle East continued for centuries. Attila the Hun and his Mongols, using Bows similar to those of the Parthians and Assyrians, conquered much of Asia and Europe and the Crusaders were thrown back by Turkish archers.

The bow was a means of survival during the days of English and later American colonization and still is in some countries on the African continent

The popularity of archery has also been reflected in many songs and folklore, probably the most famous being Robin Hood, but archery is also often referenced in Greek mythology.

The first known organized archery competition included 3000 participants and was held at Finsbury, England in 1583.

By the time of the European 30 Years War between 1618 and 1648 because of the introduction of the gun, it had become clear that the bow and arrow as a weapon belonged in the past.

Since that time, archery is has become extremely popular as a recreational sport.

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