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17. Featherless Arrows

Al-Ṭabari was right! We have in our possession two featherless arrows which exactly fit the description on page 140, except that they taper in the rear half but not at all in the fore half. They a twenty-five inches long, seven sixteenths of an inch in diameter the thick part and taper to one quarter of an inch near the nock. The nock is bulbous, being almost a sphere nine sixteenths of a inch in diameter, with a slot one quarter of an inch wide and three sixteenths deep. The wood is about as heavy and strong as birch but is concealed by rings of red, yellow, green and black paint.

These are modern arrows used by the Sinds of India for the very purpose and in the same way that is ascribed to al-Taba They were given to us by Major J. B. Farley of England, who had spent most of his life in government service in India. He also gave us the magnificent modern composite bow—a powerful weapon with which they were shot but, unfortunately, in our steam-heat house the bow developed a crack which made it useless for shooting.

The technique of the Sinds was to hold the bow in a horizontal position near the ground and place the arrow on the string at angle; that is, with the nock several inches above the normal noching point, so that the arrow received a side thrust as well as forward thrust and, consequently, whirled around like a pinwheel while it went forward only a few yards. The idea seemed to be knock the bird down without shedding its blood. Major Farley commented on the great waste of force in using such strong bows to shoot in a manner that would carry such a little distance and feebly. We have never seen any other arrows like these in museum or elsewhere and believe that they are quite rare specimens in this country, if not unique.

The feathered type of sidewise arrow seems to have been of different nature. If the nock end were heavy enough with relation to the pile end and the feathers were small, it could be shot sic wise for a short cast if nocked at an angle, but it would not do much revolving nor would it travel in a straight line.