Archery – Then and Now

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Starting as a hunting activity, archery in the modern day world of sports has become more of an entertainment sport. It uses arrows and bows to reach a decided target. A player or practitioner of archery is typically called an archer; he can even be called a bowman. However, an enthusiast or an expert of the sport can be called a ‘toxophilite’.

The bow is believed to be born in the later years of the Paleolithic period and the early of the Mesolithic period. The Stellmor, Ahrensburg Valley, north Hamburg shows the oldest traces of the use of the bow in Europe somewhere around the Paleolithic times. (10,000-9000 BC).

Generally, the arrows were made of pine, the fore shaft had a flint point and was some fifteen to twenty feet, in other words, six to eight meters long and the rest was the main shaft.

So far Denmark has been the source of the oldest bow; they come from its Holmegard swamp. The Egyptian culture has been known to be using bows and arrows since the pre-dynastic periods. Possible arrow shaft straighteners have been discovered by archaeologists in Levant and are believed to be from the Natufian culture. The Khiam-points from the Khiamian and PPN A are speculated to be arrow heads.

A lot of civilisations included a large number of archers as an essential part of their army. Some examples of such civilisations are – The Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Parthians, Persians, Hungarians and even Assyrians.

In Sanskrit the art of archery is called ‘dhanurveda’. The term can be used for martial arts too. Asia was the centre of expert archers well known over the world. Goguryeo, Shilla and Baekje are Korean civilisations from the eastern part of Asia that had supremely brilliant archers in their army. Archery on horse back was mastered by tribal people from Central Asia and The American Plains.

With the advent of firearms, bows became useless in warfare. Though archery enjoyed a high social status in places like Egypt, America, Armenia, Turkey, Japan, China, Korea, England and other places too, when the armies of these countries had an access to fire arms, archery became merely recreational.

The low rate of fire and water risk of these fire arms did nothing to hamper their popularity, because they had a wider range of reach. This aided army tactics that required soldiers to charge at each other while they were hidden behind a boulder, hill or other such object. Another reason for the popularity of fire arms were that they required less training and comparatively lesser physical strength. Thus merely the number of fire arms with an army could become its strength.

Then many armies formulated specially coated arrows for archers that were not as fast as fire arms but had an instant death or intoxicating effect on a victim making him inactive on the battle field. The archer was seen active in war till the 21st century too. Presently, archery exists as a sport or means of hunting in a lot places.

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