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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter VI
Chapter VI
Of Arrows.
Part 1 of 5

THE figure of the Arrow has undergone lefs variation than that of the Bow. As curved lines admit of more variety than ftraight ones. The Scythian, Indian, and Dacian Bows, have each their characteriftic forms, but the head, or the feathers of an Arrow, are the only parts which can be varied materially.

The fubftances from which Arrows have been fabricated, have differed in almoft every country. They were frequently made of reeds, as we may infer from the Latin word Arundo, fignifying both an Arrow and a reed.62

Pliny informs us, that this fubftance was in the higheft requeft for the purpofe we mention, and the Calamus, another fpecies of reed, fays he, hath overcome half the nations of the world, in battle.63

The tree called Cornus, was formerly much celebrated for Arrow-making, and alfo for the purpofe of Bows,64 as was the Palm-tree. But the Calamus, and particularly a fort growing anciently in a river called the Rhine,65 was valued for its weight, and the fteadinefs with which it refilled the currents of wind in flying. —The ancient Scythians ufed Fir-tree, or Deal, as Strabo relates.66

The modern Arrows from India, are made of cane, which being of a fpecies very ftiff, and at the fame time of little weight, they fly with uncommon velocity from the Bow, and are capable of withftanding a fevere blow from objects which oppofe their motion.

The inhabitants of Guiana ufe cane for the making of Arrows, and affix an head of firm and fharp wood to them. We are told by Bancroft, that thefe people ufe Bows about five feet in length, and Arrows of about four feet, which are partly of a cane without knots. This cane part is ufually about a yard long, and in the end of it is fixed a piece of hard wood, about twelve inches. This wood fometimes has a large gobular head; but if the Arrow be intended to kill, the wood part is either formed into a fharp point, bearded with notches, or is armed with a piece of iron; which metal they ufe fince the Europeans have vifited the country.67

I have in my poffeffion fome of the kind here fpoken of; and although they are of fuch prodigious length, (fome being more than five feet) they are neverthelefs extremely light. I had the curofity to weigh one of the canes, without the head part, it meafured four feet long, and was half an inch in diameter throughout, when it appeared to be only three quarters of an ounce in weight.

Afcham has enumerated fifteen forts of wood, of which Arrows were made in England at the time he lived, viz. "Brazell, Turkie-woode, Fufticke, Sugerchefte, Hardbeame, Byrche, Afhe, Oake, Serviftree, Aulder, Blackthorne, Beche, Elder, Afpe, Salow." Of thefe, Afpe and Afh were prefered to the reft; the one for target fhooting, the other for war.

A fimple ftick, without any alteration than pointing, was perhaps the firft kind of Arrow ufed by mankind.68 The hard wood found in fome climates was well calculated for the purpofe, as it was capable of retaining its point, tho' forced with violence againft the firmeft bodies. But the ufe of ftones appears to be one of the firft inventions with refpect to pointing, and there are many curious circumftances relating to this practice. The clafs of thefe fubftances principally made ufe of in all nations, was the Sileceous— as common Flint, Jafper, Agate, &c.

There are the beft reafons for imagining that thefe Arrow-heads were in ufe from the higheft antiquity, as there is fcarcely any country in which they have not been found buried in the earth. They arc not uncommon in Scotland, England, and Ireland. America produces them in all its parts; and what is extraordinary, I have heard from natives, that James River, in Virginia, often throws them on its banks, during the overflowing of the waters. If this fact be true, (but I cannot vouch for it myfelf) it is not a bad proof, of the antiquity of the ufe of ftone points, and the long time America has been peopled ; for we muft admit many ages for accident to have accumulated fo great a number in the fpace James River occupies, even allowing the natives to kill beafts and birds, or fifh from the banks, which is not their practife.

Herodotus tells us, the Æthiopians pointed their Arrows with a ftone ufed to engrave feals with.69

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