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On the Structure and Affinities of the Composite Bow
Part 16 of 17

In seeking for the original home and birth-place of the composite bow, the mass of evidence seems to refer us to some part of North Central Asia,[25] possibly the more northerly regions of the ancient Scythia, where the absence of wood suited to the making of "plain" bows created the necessity of employing a combination of heterogeneous materials, in the attempt to imitate the bows of other people. There is strong evidence, as General Pitt Rivers points out, that this scarcity of proper wood extended further to the southward in prehistoric times than is the case now.

It is impossible to say whether the "free" backed bows, of which those of the Esquimaux are survivals, were really the earliest, and that this was the most primitive method used in reinforcing the bows. This kind, if it ever existed there, has entirely disappeared in Central Asia; but when we consider that all northerly races, from Lapland across Asia and America to Greenland, employ the sinews of animals constantly in the form of twisted thread or plaited cords for a variety of purposes; whereas moulded masses of sinews are, to say the least, but rarely employed, we can see that there is great probability that the earliest way in which sinews were employed for backing bows, was in the form of twisted or plaited cords rather than of masses. If this be so we must consider that the introduction of the bow amongst the Esquimaux took place at a remote period, and that these have existed in this state to the present day, chiefly on account of the isolation of these parts; though in the westerly regions the bows of the Esquimaux shew that they have been influenced, in shape at least, by the proximity to the Asiatic continent, and that for the same reason, as well as because of the access to better materials, these bows have been greatly improved and altered from the primitive type, which to a certain extent is represented by the Eastern Esquimaux examples.

Its spread from the place of origin to other parts of the world, gave in some cases a new weapon to nations which could never have used the earlier "self" bow, whereas in other cases its introduction amongst fresh races must have been subsequent to its having reached some degree of perfection, as it ousted the "self" bow then in use, and became recognized as a superior weapon. Thus by its spread in a northerly and easterly direction, across the Behring Sea, the Esquimaux became possessed of a weapon hitherto unknown to them; and so also in the case of Siberia, where it is very improbable that the natives made use of a plain wood bow. When introduced by the Mongols into China it supplanted the "plain" bow, which already existed there. General Pitt Rivers mentions that the "kung" bow was not the original bow of the country, but was introduced by the Tatars. It spread into India from the north, and here again the indigenous "long" bow has given way before its composite rival, and only the uncivilized aborigines of the north retain the use of the former, though it has held its own in South India and Ceylon.