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On the Structure and Affinities of the Composite Bow
Part 11 of 17

The specimen of an Indian bow which I have dissected and figured (Figs. 17-21, Plate V) is very strongly recurved in the unstrung state; each arm for a third of its length is curved sharply at right angles to the rest, which is only slightly curved, thus forming a marked rounded elbow. It is rather less powerful than the Persian bow described, being less stoutly made and of weaker materials. In external appearance it shows a strong resemblance to the Persian bow; the ears are shorter and the shoulders more pronounced, these being very square. It is entirely covered externally with a thin lacquer coat, differing in appearance from that of most bows of this or the Persian types; this appears to be due to the fact of its lying not on bark, but on a peculiar metallic layer resembling tinfoil, but infinitesimally thin, and perhaps painted on from a solution. It gives a hard appearance to the overlying lacquer. There is no trace of side strips of horn along the edges of the arms. The nocks are not, in this specimen, strengthened with horn.

On examining the structural details by means of sections, many departures from the Persian type are observable.

To take a transverse section through the centre and broadest part of one of the arms (Fig. 17), it will be at once seen that the horn here plays a far less important part than in either the Persian or Tatar types. The belly is not entirely composed of this substance, as in the latter types. The wood centre (a) is composed of a single piece along the arms; this is deeply and neatly grooved longitudinally towards the belly, in order to give firm hold to the glue, which forms a fairly thick layer (h) between the wood and the horn. The horn (b) is composed of a single piece in each arm, and not composed of strips as in the Persian bow; its surface is grooved towards the wood. The horn does not extend to the edges, but is overlaid with a stratum of longitudinally disposed sinews, similar to those on the back, and apparently a continuation of them. The sinews are in a double layer; one layer, n1, composed of sinews with little glue mixed with them, does not extend over the horn, but fills up the space between it and the edges; this is a continuation of the inner layer of the back, cl. The outer layer, n2, overlies both horn and inner sinew layer, n1. The shape of the belly is thus to a great extent given by a padding out of sinews. The outer sinew layer, n2, is mixed with glue or cement, and has a dull grey brown colour; this is coated with a kind of red brown cement, the surface of which is smoothed. Over this brown cement lies the peculiar thin metallic film, which is extremely delicate, and it is difficult to prevent its rubbing off when exposed. To this is applied the external ornamental lacquer coat. It is not easy to account for the substitution of the metallic layer for the bark one, as it seems to be but an indifferent vehicle for the lacquer, which flakes away from it rather easily. The external sinew layer of the back, c2, differs from that on the belly in being only slightly mixed with glue and having none of the grey brown cement.

Fig. 18 shows a dissection of the belly of this part, displaying the succession of the layers, a = the wood; h = the glue; b = the horn; n2, the outer sinews mixed with grey cement; o, the brown cement; l, the lacquer.

A dissection of the back is represented in Fig. 19; p is the metallic film.

Fig. 20 is taken from a transverse section through the centre of one of the ridges. The wood centre is seen here to be composed of three strips, a1, a2, a3, of which the centre piece, a1, enters largely into the formation of the ridge, and is a wedge-shaped continuation of the "ear," which fits between two divided ends of the single piece forming the arms. The extremities of these double ends form the shoulders. The horn has dwindled down to very small proportions, as it is thinned away as it approaches the shoulder, and adds but little support to this part. This reminds one of the "Tatar" bow, and shows divergence from the Persian types; but this specimen differs from both types in the belly at this point being chiefly built up of sinews and cement. Beyond the "shoulder" the "ear" is formed of a single piece of wood, but a layer of sinews encases it as far as the nocks. The actual tips are painted black, as though intended to represent horn.