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Home > Books > Additional Notes on Arrow Release > Part 10
Additional Notes on Arrow Release
Part 10 of 21

DR. KARL VON DEN STEINEN, in his work on "The Savages of Central Brazil" says; (p. 230) "The bow is generally held downward. The arrow lies to the left of the bow. It is held by the second and third fingers, while the fourth and fifth fingers help to steady the cord for the aim, the thumb is not used at all. This way of holding the bow and arrow which is used in the Middle Sea, of which E. S. MORSE speaks is different from that of the Bororo. Any contrivance to keep the fingers from being rubbed by the cord is not used. The left hand which holds the bow can hold a number of arrows in reserve." The release is typically tertiary. (Fig. 17). I had the pleasure of meeting MR. STEINEN and he told me that he explored a new region in Brazil which had never reached the Age of Iron.

At the Ethnological Museum, in Amsterdam, I learned that the Javanese practice the tertiary release using the index finger only, a weak method and implying the use of the lightest of bows. The nock of the arrow is very deep and narrow indicating a light string. The bow had a heavy thickening in the middle, deeply grooved for four fingers, and was covered with black velvet; an effeminate bow and probably used by women. In the Copenhagen Museum I saw an arrow from Java with nock shallow and flaring.

In 1889 I met at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, LIEUT. WISSMANN and DR. LUDWIG WOLF, recently returned from the interior of Africa with valuable collections of ethnological material and they assured me that the Bakuba people and the Basonge people, in Central Africa used a release, which represented a slight modification of the tertiary release. The bow is held vertical, the forefinger presses the arrow against the bow, the arrow being on the right side of the bow. The bow is strong and the arrow beautifully made having three barbs. LIEUT. WISSMANN told me that in shooting, the archer first points the arrow to the ground in drawing, and then quickly raises and discharges it. The Baluba tribe in Africa uses the Mediterranean release, two-fingered. The bow resembles that of the ancient Egyptian.

It would be an interesting path of inquiry to trace the origin of the Mediterranean release. Did it first arise among the Aryan people in Central Asia and if so was the release transmitted to the Eskimo? It is a curious fact that the Eskimo savages ranging from the east to the west coasts of North America practice the Mediterranean release to the exclusion of all other forms. The Mediterranean release occurs sporadically the world over. Furthermore the Eskimo are the only people who have ever devised a special form of arrow, flattened at the nock end to more easily facilitate the discharge of the arrow, it would be almost impossible to use this form of arrow in other releases. We have seen that in prehistoric times the Danes and the inhabitants of Schleswig practiced the primary release and probably the method of other European races. MR. JOHN MURDOCK, who made an ethnological journey to Point Barrow in Alaska, and lived with the Eskimo for two years believed in Scandinavian influences among the Eskimo. In a letter to me he says, "You are quite at liberty to allude to my ideas of Scandinavian influence among the Eskimo. I have not studied up the the Scandinavian side of the question thoroughly enough to make any formal statement on the subject." MR. MURDOCK gave particular attention to Eskimo arts and customs in a report published by the Smithsonian Institution. In this report he is strongly inclined to the belief that several customs extending from Greenland to and across Bering Straits are derived from Scandinavian colonists in Greenland. These are "the method of arrow release, the size of the oars as well as paddles, a custom as far as I know, unparalleled among savages, and the method of slinging the oar in thongs instead of using rowlocks. The sail of the Umiak is also strikingly like those in the Norse ships."

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