Bows Chiefly from the University of California
Yurok bow (pl. 3, fig. 8). A flat sinew-backed bow, very well made of a good grade of yew wood, apparently from a limb; sapwood shows on the edges. Thick sinew covers the back and extends up over the nocks which are bent in a reverse position. A circular band of sinew runs about each nock 1 inch back of the extremity of the bow. When unstrung this bow is markedly reflexed and has a handgrip of spirally wound buckskin thong. The handgrip itself is 4½ inches wide. Length of bow, 54 inches; diameters: at handle, 1⅞ by ½, circumference, 4 inches; at mid-limb, 2½ by ⅜, circumference, 5 inches; below the nocks, 1 by ⅜, circumference, 2 inches. On cross-section it is a very flat ellipse. The string is composed of two strands of sinew, is ⅛ of an inch in diameter, and fixed at the upper limb by a permanent loop and at the lower by half-hitches. In action this bow is soft, springy, bends in the hand, is flabby in cast, and kicks. When drawn 28 inches it weighs 30 pounds and casts 140 yards.
Alaskan bow, probably Eskimo (pl. 3, fig. 9). A well made, powerful bow of the elementary composite type. The wood is Douglas fir, a square-cut, straight-grained piece such as we commonly see in a building joist. It is backed with a strip of bone 22 inches long, ¼ inch wide, and ¼ inch thick. This is lashed in position with twisted sinew arranged in an ingenious network, constituting a continuous backing from nock to nock, with circular bindings about the limbs at intervals of an inch. On cross- section the wood is flat on the back with beveled flat sloping surfaces on the belly. Length, 56 inches; diameters: at handgrip, 1½ by ¾, circumference 5 inches; at nock 1 by ⅝, circumference, 3¼ inches. It has short bilateral nocks, a thick sinew composed of many twisted strands, and served loops at the ends. The upper end of the string has an extension loop to keep it in position when the bow is unbraced. There is serving of some weed-like material on the string at the center.
This is the first aboriginal bowstring under our observation that has any serving at the nocking point of the arrow. The whole bow is by far the best made of any aboriginal weapon in the group. It is well balanced, rigid in its draw, is exceedingly strong, and has a musical twang to the plucked string. The action is sharp and there is no kick in the hand. When drawn 26 inches it weighs 80 pounds and shoots 180 yards. It seemed such a good bow in spite of the brash quality of the wood employed that Mr. Compton, who was making the test, was urged to draw an arrow the full 28 inches, whereupon the bow fractured at the center with a loud report.
A companion bow to this specimen was repeatedly shot with all sorts of arrows and proved to be a wonderfully good weapon for short-distance, forceful shooting. It is no doubt a most effective implement for hunting big game at close range, say up to 60 yards.
When not braced the bow is practically straight; when braced, with the string the set length found on the bow, the distance between the string and the handle is only 4 inches. This is what archers would term a low- strung bow. By twisting the string before bracing it this distance could be increased to 5 inches, the usual distance in aboriginal bows.