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On the Structure and Affinities of the Composite Bow
Part 12 of 17

A transverse section through the centre of the "grip" (Fig. 21), shows that the bulk of this portion is composed of a single piece of wood, a, the horn, however, playing a fairly important part. Round the whole lies the inner layer of sinews, here evidently perfectly continuous all round, c1, nl; and over this on the back the outer sinew layer, c2, and on the belly the layer of sinew and grey cement as before, the two different layers meeting at the sides and overlapping one another slightly. This double sinew casing is of an equal thickness all round, and the shape of the grip is formed by the wood and horn. The central piece of wood is continued wedge-like into the arms, tapering at either end and fitting into a V, formed by the divided end of the wood of the arms. Represented diagrammatically the woodwork of the whole is arranged thus; rather more than one half of the bow being represented.


The two strips of horn do not meet in the centre, but, as in the Persian bow above, a little away from this point.

The more prominent structural peculiarities of this type then, are:—(1) The small proportion of horn in its construction; (2) the presence of layers of longitudinal sinews on the belly, replacing to a great extent the horn; (3) structure of the wood base; (4) the absence of a layer of bark and the presence of cement and metallic coat; (5) the absence of side strips of horn.

It shows resemblance with the "Tatar" type in the sudden bend at the elbows; in the formation of the ridges chiefly from the wood centre; in the single strip of horn in each arm; in the double layer of backing sinews; in the thinness of the horn towards the "ears." It resembles the Persian type in the general moulding of the shape of the different parts; to a certain extent in the structure of the wood base; in the entire concealment of structure beneath an ornamental coat.

There is evidence that this form is, to a certain extent, a degenerate offshoot from a higher type, e.g., the comparative weakness of the whole, and also the weakness of certain parts. This latter is indicated in very many examples by rough external bindings or splicings at the elbows and on either side of the grip, added in order to assist these parts to stand the severe strain. Sometimes these splicings have been added after the completion of the bow, as the lacquer coat has been first completed over these parts, and it seems as though the weapon had been discovered to be weak after use. In other cases it has been applied in the first instance, as a finishing touch; the lacquer having been omitted at the parts where the splicing was intended to be added. Fig. 22, taken from a specimen in the Pitt Rivers collection, shows one of these bows spliced in this fashion; it recalls the similar cross splicing at the elbows of most Western Esquimaux bows.

Another possible sign of degeneration is the absence of the side strips of horn along the edges. These, however, are frequently imitated by means of lines of black paint, thus indicating the desirability and former presence of the real material. Their absence is due to the continuation of the sinews round to the belly, thus leaving no edges to be concealed and finished off'; but as this is so at the expense of the horn reinforcement, and so also of the strength of the weapon, it cannot be regarded as a mark of progress.