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On the Structure and Affinities of the Composite Bow
Part 14 of 17

In Java we find a bow which is peculiar to the island. It is composed of two arms each consisting of a single piece of horn, usually of black buffalo horn, meeting at the centre, where they are fixed into a large rounded wooden handle, composed of two pieces, joined at top and bottom with a metal ferule. The horn is plain and smooth, in section plano-convex; in the unstrung state there is a strong reflex curve; the nocks are deep and the extremities laterally flattened, and there are ridges below the nocks. From these characters it would seem as though the Javanese bowyers had originally had the Asiatic composite bow in view. This being so, one can understand that the material (horn), which alone is exposed to view in the Asiatic model, suggested the use of that substance for the construction of the whole. Raffles, in his history of Java, tells us that these bows ("Gendewa") are seldom used in modern days, except on state occasions. Perhaps I may be allowed here to digress a little in order to mention a somewhat interesting fact which lately came under my notice. Dr. Hickson, on his return from the Malay Archipelago, showed me, amongst other specimens, a bow which had been obtained from New Guinea. This, however, proved to be a perfectly characteristic Javan bow, such as I have described, which had somehow found its way eastward to a region where its proper use was not appreciated. The strongly recurved outline of the bow, when unstrung, does not appear to have suggested its raison d'être to the mind of the savage into whose hands the weapon fell, as he adapted the bow to his own use by adding a bow-string of rattan, ingeniously fixed on the wrong side. He thus made the reflex curve that of the strung bow, and in this way contrived to minimize the power of the weapon. Moreover the shape of the nocks is not adapted for a flat rattan string, which in this case does not present its flat surface towards the bow, as in all New Guinea bows, but edgewise, in a highly ineffective position. This serves perhaps to emphasize the intimate connection between this reversed curve and composite structure, and to strengthen the idea that the Oregon bows, above mentioned, are copied from composite bows. It is unusual to find a recurved outline in, so to speak, "pure bred" self bows of savage races.

Another kind of bow, which shows a relationship to the "composite bow," is that described as formerly in use in Lapland. This weapon has entirely vanished in these parts, and was apparently obsolete at the time of Linnaeus' visit in 1732; it has succumbed entirely before the inroad of fire arras, although these are for the most part of very primitive type; most of the rifles that I saw among the Lapps during a short visit last summer to East Finmarken, were modern reproductions of the antiquated "snaphaunce." I cannot do better than reproduce the description given by Jean Scheffer[21] of these bows; he says, "La premiere arme et la plus en usage sont les arcs, qui sont long d'environ trois aunes, larges de deux doights, épais de la grosseur du pouce ou d'un peu plus, faits de deux bâtons, qu'ils attachent l'un sur l'autre. Car ils mettent sur un bâton de Bouleau un autre baton de Pin, qui par l'abbondance de la resine est doux et facile à plier, afin que ses qualités donnent à l'arc la force de pousser bien loin les dards et les flèches; et ils les couvrent tous deux d'ecorce de Bouleau, pour les conserver contre les injures de l'air, des néges, et de la pluie, . . . j'ajoûte qu'elles sont collées ensemble avec une espece de glu. Les Lapons preparent et fout ainsi cette glu. Ils prennent des poissons que l'on nomine perches, dont ils ostent la peau, etant encore fraichement peschées, ils les tiennent dans de l'eau chaude, jusqu' a ce qu'on les puisse netteier de toutes leurs écailles, puis ils les font cuire dans un peu d'eau, et ont soin de les écumer, de les remuer souvent, de les battre avec un petit bâton, et de les consumer jusqu'à ce qu'elles ne resem-blent plus estre que du bouillon; ils rependent cette liqueur épaisse en un lieu où elle se durcit, et la conservent pour le besoin, et quand il faut coller quelque chose, ils la font dissoudre dans un peu d'eau. . . ." This bow is composite to the extent of being composed of two kinds of wood, but no sinew reinforcements seems to have been added, and this weapon must be regarded as a variety of the plain bow, though showing the influence of the proximity of bows of strictly "composite" type to a very considerable extent. It is said that the Lapp bow resembled in shape the "Tatar" form, and Scheffer's figure bears out this statement; the presence, moreover, of a covering of birch bark betrays a connection with the more easterly types. The bark in this bow, as in the Siberian bows, appears to have served a purely useful purpose, without being used as a vehicle for embellishment. General Pitt Rivers mentions that these bows were held horizontally, in shooting, like those of the Esquimaux.[22]