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Transactions of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Primeval History
Meeting of July 18, 1891
Part 1 of 2

(P. 670. Paper on Bending the Bow. M. Felix von Luschan )
(Figs. 10 and 12 are ommitted in the following extracts)

After considering the primary, secondary, tertiary, Mediterranean and Mongolian methods of bending (drawing) the bow, and after considering a variety of arrangements for protecting fingers, hands and arms against a recoil of the bowstring the author returns (p. 674) to the Mongolian method with thumb ring in the right hand which it requires, he instances such rings from Syria, Korea and China and then says: It is very surprising that we should also have knowledge of such a ring in Africa. In the Royal Museum for Ethnology at Berlin there is an iron thumb ring (Fig. 7, p. 675) from the Benue country, collected by R. FLEGEL and designated by him as a bow-bending ring.

In the face of such a statement, even if so far it has remained an isolated one it cannot be doubted that the Mongolian method is known also in Africa, for it is only with this method that a thumb ring can occur. I, myself, have a small ring with a long lateral spur (projection) made of some light-colored oxidized metallic alloy which ERNST MARNO brought from the Giraffe River and designated as a ring for bending the bow (Fig. 8a). As MARNO could not at the time explain to me how it was possible to bend a bow with such a ring, I took no further notice of his statement and considered the ring to be a knuckleduster. But there is in the Berlin Museum, as I saw only recently, a horn ring shaped quite similarly only larger, which is also designated as a ring for bending the bow (Fig. 8b) Although the way of using the ring is not clear as yet, nevertheless this furnishes now, after twenty years, an entirely unexpected confirmation of MARNO'S old statement and we will probably be constrained to assume also for the upper Nile regions the occurrence, an isolated occurrence perhaps, of the Mongolian method. The actual manner of using these thumb-rings with lateral spur remains occult, just as it has to be made clear how in Korea this diverging form has there arisen and maintained itself, alongside of the form usual and typical there. Aside of the five above mentioned methods of bending the bow, MORSE enumerates a few others of less importance which are partly only individual methods and of which only one could be explained here, the bending with both hands. The archer lies on his back pressing both feet firmly against the bow. I, myself, have seen Bushmen shoot in this way, but the impression this made upon me was rather that of an artist's feat (an exhibition performance than that of a typical use.) On the other hand I am today in the position to communicate a hitherto entirely unknown method of bending the bow, the Wute Method. For the knowledge of it we are indebted to 1ST LIEUTENANT MORGEN, the dashing and lively successor of CAPTAIN KUND, who observed this method with the Wute people in the back country of Kamerun and brought several pieces as ocular demonstration to Berlin. Unlike all other people of whom we know so far the Wute bend the bow not at all with the fingers but with the middle of the hand. For this they use a ring which consists as Figure 9 shows of a small thin piece of board, bent like a bow (of a necktie) the ends of which may be drawn, more or less, together according to the size of the hand, by means of a leather thong (strip). This ring is worn in such a way that it is drawn over the hand to its middle with the closed end towards the radius and the open end towards the ulna. The string of the bow is caught and drawn tight with the edge of the radial side, whilst the thumb keeps the arrow in the desired position.