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Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter II: Prehistoric Archery
Chapter II
Prehistoric Archery
Part 2 of 2

The weapon consists of about two-thirds of a thin stem or branch of yew, and is hot cut from a thick trunk, as is now the practice. The stem was split longitudinally into two unequal portions, and the larger portion was then shaped. No doubt the rounded side was the belly, or portion held towards the archer. It would follow that the 'sap,' or part of the wood next the bark, where the sap flows, formed the belly. This is contrary to the practice of modern bowyers, who always use the sap, which is the more elastic part of the wood, for the back.

Fig. 5: Neolithic bow Fig. 6: Neolithic bow Fig. 7: Neolithic bow
Fig. 5, 6, 7. Neolithic bow
(Coll. C. J. Longman)
Click for a larger image

Though few bows remain to us of the age of polished stone, the number of arrow-heads that survive affords incontestable evidence that they once existed. Specimens of stone arrow-heads have been found, in greater or less profusion, in almost every country in Europe.[7] From Africa they are scanty, but more may be discovered when archaeologists have paid greater attention to that continent. Still, some have come from the dolmens of Algeria and the Egyptian tombs. In Asia comparatively few have yet been found, and no doubt the cause is the same to which the scarcity of specimens from Africa must be attributed. They have been obtained, however, in India and Arabia, and in Japan. In North America they exist in large numbers, and, indeed, are manufactured to this day by the Californian Indians and by the Eskimo of Greenland. They also occur ill Mexico, and in South America, in Peru, and as far south as Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, in which latter country they are still made by the natives. None have yet been obtained in Australia or New Zealand, in which countries the natives do not use bows.

The material of which stone arrow-heads are composed is generally silex in some form. In most cases they are chipped from flint, which is nearly pure silex. In Greenland the Eskimo make them of chert, and in Mexico, and some other localities, they are made from obsidian, or natural volcanic glass, and silex enters largely into the composition of both these minerals.

The forms of stone arrow-heads are very various, but they are all more or less cuneiform, or wedge-shaped, and they may be grouped into two classes; viz. (1) those in which the apex of the wedge is used for penetration, and (2) those in which the wedge is reversed and the base forms the cutting edge; the latter group is called by archaeologists 'chisel' edged. The first class is by lar the commonest, and is subdivided by Sir John Evans[8] into five main forms, which, however, run into each other, many intermediate forms being found. These five forms are the Leaf-shaped, the Lozenge-shaped, the Tanged--which a stem or tang is added for insertion into the shaft-- the Barbed, and the Triangular. Perhaps the tanged should hardly be regarded as a separate class, as barbed, triangular, and perhaps lozenge-shaped, arrow-heads are all found with and without the tang.

Arrow heads 8. Leaf-shaped arrow-head
9. Lozenge-shaped arrow-head
10. Tanged-shaped arrow-head
11. Barbed and tanged arrow-head
11. Barbed and
tanged arrow-head
12. Triangular <br>arrow-head
12. Triangular
arrow-head
Neolithic Arrowheads
(From Sir J. Evans 'Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain')

The Californian Indians manufacture barbed arrow-heads with a nick on each side, for convenience in attaching them to the shaft. An arrow-head of obsidian, precisely similar in form and method of attachment to the modern Californian examples, was found in the ancient Swiss Lake Dwelling at Robenhausen.

13. Swiss Neolithic arrow-head 13. Swiss Neolithic arrow-head,
showing attachment.
(From Sir John Evans' Anc.
Stone Imp. of Gt. Britain.')
14. Modern Californian arrow-head, showing attachment.(Coll C.J. Longman). 14. Modern Californian
arrow-head,
showing attachment.
(Coll C.J. Longman)
15. Scotch chisel-edged arrow-head. 15. Scotch chisel-edged
arrow-head.
(From Sir John Evans' Anc.
Stone Imp. of Gt. Britain.')
16. Ancient Egyptian flinted arrow-head. 16. Ancient Egyptian
flinted arrow-head.
(Coll C.J. Longman)

The reversed wedge or chisel-edged form is much less common in Europe, though it is occasionally found. It appears to have been commonly used in ancient Egypt, and I have seen a modern African arrow with an iron head of this form in the Berlin Ethnographical Museum.

17. Triangular arrow-head. 17. Triangular arrow-head.
(From Sir John Evans' Anc.
Stone Imp. of Gt. Britain.')
18. Fossil shark's tooth 18. Fossil shark's tooth
19. Barbed flint arrow-head. 19. Barbed flint arrow-head.
(From Sir John Evans' Anc.
Stone Imp. of Gt. Britain.')
20. Fossil shark's tooth 20. Fossil shark's tooth

It is difficult to see why the wedge should have been adopted so universally as the right form for arrow-heads; and, indeed, it is remarkable that any single form should be so widely spread and so persistent. The matter is the more curious when we consider that the wedge is by no means the simplest and most natural form. The natural form would be merely a sharp and hardened continuation of the shaft. The addition of a wedge-shaped excrescence would seem to impede penetration rather than to assist it. This has suggested to me the probability that the typical arrow-head form may have been copied from some convenient natural object which w as used for the purpose before the art of manufacturing arrow-heads from stone was invented. One class of objects which would be found in great plenty at once suggests itself--viz. the teeth of land or sea animals. A comparison between the engravings of sharks' teeth and the triangular and barbed forms of arrow-head (p. 21) seems to suggest something more than a coincidence.

The similarity in form is most striking, and possibly we have here the origin of the barb, which has been applied to many implements since those early days. A further coincidence may be noted in the serrated edge which is a striking feature in the teeth of many sharks, and which is also found in many arrow-heads. this device, of doubtful utility in an arrow-head, is hardly likely to have occurred to the mind of primitive man, unless it was suggested by solve existing natural object, from which he was copying.

In a Lake Dwelling at Moosseedorf, near Bern, in Switzerland, an arrow-head has been found, of bone, which has a very finely serrated edge,[9] and is also slightly barbed. I have not heard of any teeth being found actually bound into arrow-shafts, and, indeed, it is hardly likely that any such now exist, as very few stone arrows even have come down to us in this condition. At Ebersberg,[10] on the Ischl, in company with stone and bronze implements, a number of fossil sharks' teeth were discovered, the use of which seems to be unknown. Stone celts were found, but no stone arrow-heads; only one bronze arrow-head was discovered. It is at least possible that these teeth were used as arrow-heads.

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