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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > The Bow - Part 4
The Bow
Part 4 of 8

As previously intimated every Indian boy learned to make a bow. Every Indian man had a certain amount of skill in the art, and when he scoured about the forests, the capabilities of trees for his purposes engaged his thoughts. He saved up good pieces for a rainy day and made the improvement of his artillery a pastime. When he became old, if the fortunes of his existence accorded him such a doubtful bless ing, he kept his hold on his tribe by becoming a bowyer when he could no longer take the field. Since the substances used in making bows are of the region, techno-geography finds an excellent illustration in the study of the bows of North America, which may be on this basis thus divided:

(1) The hard-wood, self-bow area. It embraced all North America east of the Rocky Mountains and south of Hudson Bay. This area extends beyond the mountains along the southern border, and is invaded by the compound bow at its northeastern extremity. Indeed, in those regions where more highly differentiated forms prevailed, it constantly occurs as the fundamental pattern. (Plates LXI-LXII-LXIII-LXIV, LXXX, LXXXI, LXXXIIILXXXIV-LXXXV-LXXXVI, LXXXIX.)

(2) The compound-bow area. By the compound bow is meant one in which the grip and the two wings are separate pieces, or one in which the cupid's bow is made up of as many bits of horn as are necessary. There are really two compound-bow areas, the northeast Eskimo and the Siouan. The former has been described by Boas.
The compound bows of the Sioux are made of buffalo and sheep horn and of the antler of the elk. Dr. Washington Matthews states that he has seen a bow made of a single piece of elk horn. All the examples examined by the writer are wrapped with flannel or buckskin so as to conceal every trace of the joints made by the union of the different parts. The compound bows of the Sioux are the most beautiful in shape of any among savage tribes and recall the outlines of the conventional form of artists. In both types the compound bow arose from a dearth of wood for making a self-bow. (Plates LXII, LXIV, LXV.)

The horn bow was not confined to the parts of America inhabited by the great ruminants. Pandarus' bow is thus described by Homer—

'Twas formed of horn, and smoothed with artful toil,
A mountain goat designed the shining spoil,
Who pierced long since, beneath his arrows bled,
The stately quarry on the cliffs lay dead,
And sixteen palms his brows large honors spread.
The workmen joined and shaped the bended horns,
And beaten gold each taper point adorns.

(Balfour in the work quoted has exhausted this theme.)

(3) The sinew-lined bow area.—By sinew-lined bow is meant one in which finely shredded sinew is mixed with glue and laid on so that it resembles bark. This area extends up and down the Sierras in the western United States and British Columbia, on both slopes, and reaches as far north as the headwaters of the Mackenzie. (Plate LXI.)
The occurrence of hard wood in the Great Interior Basin and of yew and other soft woods on the western slopes gives rise to the wide, thin bow in the latter, and the long, ovate, sectioned bow in the basin.
The Shoshonean or narrow bow occupies the interior basin, and is found also in the hands of Athapascans in Canada, and Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo tribes farther south. Its chief characteristic, in addition to the ovate section, is that in many examples, at intervals of a few inches, after the back was laid on, it was wrapped with narrow bands of sinew. These hold the backing to the wood and prevent split ting (Pl. LXI). This device seems necessary with these narrow examples. Scarcely one may be found an inch across the back, affording not enough sticking space for the glue. With the broad California bows it was different.

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