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On the Structure and Affinities of the Composite Bow
Part 6 of 17

To return to the bows of modern times.
Amongst the Chukches of Easternmost Siberia, as one would expect from the proximity to the shores of Alaska, the form of the bow bears a strong similarity to that of those of the "Western Esquimaux. It appears from the narrative of the Vega Expedition that the modern Chukch bows are very degenerate and of inferior manufacture, though the older bows were of finer make. These were larger and made with greater care, "covered with birch bark and strengthened by an artistic plaiting of sinews on the outer side." This birch bark covering is a strictly Asiatic characteristic, whereas the plaited sinew reinforcement is chiefly peculiar to North America. Further west, among the Tunguses, the bows shew a close relationship to the Tatar form, described below, both in general outline and in structure. A Tungus bow in the British Museum, of markedly "Tatar" form, is mainly built up of wood, a double layer running along the "arms," with a fairly thick reinforcement of sinew moulded closely along the back as far as the commencement of the straight "ears."[14]

The "backing" is entirely covered with thick birch bark, scored over with ornamental grooves and scratches. The "ears" are short and of solid pieces of wood, with small bone wedges let into the ends, to give strength to the nocks, which, oddly enough, are in this specimen situated at the extreme ends, and not just below the ends, as in most bows. The ridges below the "ears," so characteristic of the higher Southern forms, are here only slightly marked, the "ears" thickening rather suddenly. The "grip" is of wood, covered with birch bark, and bound at the centre with hide thongs. The belly is composed of a strip of horn along each "arm" reaching to the bases of the "ears," almost entirely exposed, except for a slight overlapping of bark round the edges. The horn is very thin indeed, and can hardly have been of great service in increasing the strength and elasticity of the weapon, and was probably added to this bow more for the purpose of carrying out the "Tatar" design, in spite of scarcity of suitable material, than for real use. The edges of this bow are finished off with bone strips, and there are bone bridges at the "elbows" for the bow-string.

A second Siberian bow in the British Museum is from the Bashkirs, a nomadic tribe in the Ural district, in the government of Orenburg. This specimen exhibits the so-called "Cupid's bow" shape very strongly. It is roughly made. The wooden base is fairly thick along the "arms"; the sinew backing is powerful and covered with thick birch bark; the "back" is slightly concave in cross section, and the "belly" very convex. The horn layer on the "belly" is thicker than in the preceding specimen, but is thinned down towards the "ears "; it is entirely exposed, except at the "grip." The ridges below the "ears" are fairly marked and apparently shaped in the wood, and not by moulding the sinew; the "ears" short, with partial covering of bark, wound spirally round them ; and the nocks are just below the extremities. At two points on the arms there are supplemental transverse bindings to keep the horn strips in place, but these have evidently been added since the bow was finished, and are for mending rather than part of the necessary structure. There are bridges at the elbows for the bow-string.[15]

A bow described by Erman deserves mention here[16]: "A very powerful bow, also made of fir, is in use by the natives dwelling on the Northern Obi, and is stated to be the peculiar manufacture of the Kasuimski. The bow is strengthened by thin slices of the horn of the fossil rhinoceros, R. tichorhinus, very neatly joined to the fir by fish glue, and requires great dexterity to bend it fully. The Kasuimski are inhabitants of the banks of the Rivers Kas and Suim."[17] It is possible that fossil horn has been frequently used as a substitute for the more serviceable buffalo horn of the higher types.