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Replicas of ancient bows

Part 2 of 2

It was shot with simple wooden nocks and a linen string of 75 strands. When drawn 28 inches it weighed only 52 pounds and shot the flight arrow 185 yards. This undoubtedly is due to the great length of limb, which gives added leverage. When drawn 36 inches it weighed

72 pounds and shot the long bamboo flight arrow 212 yards. When drawn 36 inches it shot the replica of an old English broadhead or war arrow, described later, a distance of 117 yards. These records are another distinct disappointment and seemingly are not the fault of the quality of the wood in the bow or of its construction.

To test whether or not this bow might not improve in cast were it made shorter, it was cut down to a length of 6 feet. It weighed now 62 pounds and shot the Ishi flight arrow 227 yards. We know of course from Toxophilus[7] that the standard English bow was cut down from these stock lengths to suit the size and strength of the archer who shot them. The average bow was the height of a man and his arrow three-quarters of the standard yard, or about 28 inches.

This bow was again cut down to a length of 5 feet, 8 inches between nocks. The limbs were tapered a trifle to distribute the strain evenly over the short arc thus formed. The weapon under these conditions weighs 70 pounds when drawn 28 inches and shoots the flight arrow 245 yards, thus showing the advantage of a properly adjusted stave. Since there is a great difference in the casting quality of wood, it is possible that another stave may have made a stronger bow.

Cliff dweller's bow. The oldest aboriginal American bow (pl. 8), that came under our observation is one obtained from the cliff dwellings of Arizona. The cir­cumstances of its discovery are unknown. It probably represents a type of bow used in pre-Columbian times and possibly is over one thousand years old. The work­manship on this bow is excellent. It is a juniper stave 4 feet 9½inches long, slightly reflexed at the handle. It shows signs of long usage and is chafed at the left, above the handgrip, where the arrow crossed it in pass­age. It is bound at the center with a buckskin thong and apparently is padded slightly with red woodpecker feathers. At the upper and lower edges of the handgrip these feathers project a short distance beyond the bind­ing. At short intervals, up and down the limbs, there is a narrow sinew binding but no evidence of backing.

The nocks are simple truncated cones of a different color than the wood, suggesting that a leather nock or binding kept the string in place. A cross-section of the bow is quadrilateral, slightly rounded on back and belly. At the handgrip, the width is 1 5/16 inches, thickness, ¾; at the mid-limb, 1 3/16 by⅝ inches; at the nock, ½ by ⅜ of an inch. Its strength certainly does not exceed 50 pounds. Of course it is impossible to shoot this speci­men. It has a recent fracture in the upper limb, suggest­ing that some one had made some attempt to shoot it. I doubt that such a bow could shoot more than 200 yards. Two arrows (pl. 8) were found with this bow and will be described later.

King Philip's bow. In the Peabody Museum of Harvard University is a specimen of a North American Indian[8] bow which represents the type of weapon used by the natives of New England in the year 1660 A.D. This weapon has been referred to as King Philip's bow. Through Professor Kroeber it was possible to obtain an outline drawing[9] of this specimen and exact measure­ments.

There is no string and no backing on the bow. It is a simple stave, square in the handle, flat in the limbs, and having small, short, bilateral or shoulder nocks.

Securing a very dense grained, well seasoned red hickory stave, I constructed a bow exactly according to the outline scale and the given dimensions. This replica, when drawn 28 inches, weighs 46 pounds. It shoots the flight arrow 173 yards. It is soft and pleasant to shoot, and could do effective work either as a hunting or war implement. In many ways it resembles the bow of the California Indian with its flat, wide limbs and narrow waist. It would be improved had it reflexed extremities and heavy sinew backing, but the original gives no sug­gestion of these features.