The bow and arrow were invented by Africans, about 64,000 years ago. The earliest people known to have used bows and arrows are the Egyptians, who adopted these tools for the purpose of hunting and warfare. Archery is one of the oldest arts still practised today and it is the act of shooting arrows out of bows. At the end of the last polar period, use of these tools spread from Africa to other inhabited continents, except for Australia. James Cook, a naval captain, navigator and explorer noticed that the Upper Regions preferred the use of spear as against bow and arrow.

Evolution of Bows

The oldest remnants of bows were found and dug out in Northern Germany, but they were destroyed during the Second World War in Hamburg before Carbon 14 dating was available to get the precise date they existed. However, the archaeological association dates their existence to about 8,000 BC.

The Elm Holmegaard bows from Denmark which were dated to 9,000 BCE are recorded to be the oldest existing bows still in perfect condition. Due to this, high-performance wooden bows are created using the Elm Holmegaard as a model. The bow was an important tool both for hunting and warfare from the stone age until the creation of more modernised weapons like guns in the 16th century. However, bows were still used in battle in Europe until the mid-17th century.

An archaic race of the Hittites started the act of shooting arrows from the back of a moving horse. This new development gained popularity when the Mongolians and other native tribes of the Eurasian plains adopted mounted archery in conjunction with the use of special composite bows. This composite bow was made of horn, wood and ligament which are laminated together.

The crossbow was invented in both the Roman and Oriental world at the same time around 1200 BC. Ancient Greeks had however, been using ‘gastraphetes’, a hand-held crossbow that was in itself composite, because it was made of different materials before 400 BC. According to the records provided by Siculus, a Greek historian, the Grecians had already used crossbows in a war with Motya Circa in 397 BC. These crossbows were reinventions of the ‘gastraphetes’. BY 450 BC, the people of China were already creating a lot of bronze crossbows and at the time this type of bow was the deadliest of all other types invented.

The advantage of the crossbow was that because of its mechanical propeller, once cocked, the archer need not exert so much energy in drawing the arrow, all he need do is to concentrate and aim right at the target. Hence, disabled or young hunters could use this type of bow without trouble, unlike the regular bows.

The invention of crossbows ushered in a new era of warfare and the tool was used extensively to fight in battles during the middle ages

Crossbows are heavy, slow to load and very noisy when in use, therefore, it is not surprising that by the 13th century, there was a replacement with the faster and lighter longbow. On September, 1991, the oldest fragment of an almost finished longbow made of Yew wood was discovered with the naturally mummified Otzi the iceman. This longbow was dated back to 3,300 BC and this tool was found alongside 2 broken flint-tipped arrows and a quiver full of extra arrows.

The longbow became popular during the Hundred Years War, where the English defeated the French with the weapon. History has it that, with the use of the longbow the English defeated 60,000 French soldiers and lost just 100 men at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. The victories at Poitiers in 1356 and Agincourt in 1415 were also attributed to the weapon. The longbow was used for a longtime even after gunpowder came into existence in the 9th century. The Thirty Year War in Europe, from 1618 and 1648 that started as a religious civil war between the Protestants and Catholics in Germany, developed into a struggle for balance of power in Europe. This war saw the end of bows and arrows as weapons of warfare.

Nevertheless, the end of these tools as war weapons did not signify the end of bows and arrows as archery developed into a recreational and competitive activity. The first recorded archery competition was held in Finsbury, England in 1583 and had 3,000 participants. It became an Olympic event in 1900 Summer Olympic games and there have been 16 Archery contest in the Olympics with another in the year 2020 Olympic games.

Evolution of Arrows

Earliest arrow shafts were made out of timber and the tips of the arrows had to be burned in order to get them hard enough to pierce the target. The need for fletches to aid the flight of arrows became a necessity and feathers were glued to the posterior of the arrows to assist with the flight. The use of fletches started about 16,000BC and the term was derived from the French word flèche.

The use of these arrows spread among the Egyptians, Koreans, Japanese etc. The Scythians also are known as the scythe,  and they went further to be more creative and developed arrowheads shaped like clover leaves. In the 16th Century, North Americans began making composite arrows, after acquiring horses from their Spanish Conquistadors, these conquistadors were the knights, leaders of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in the conquest of America.

During The Hundred Years War, the English revolutionized arrows by designing a sharp, pointed dagger that penetrated armours. The bodkins were uncomplicated squared and straight metal spike arrow-heads.

Summarily, the bow and arrow have over the years evolved and developed from tools used for hunting to warfare and now tools for sporting activities. There is no denying that the bow and arrow have been of immense assistance to mankind as seen in the historical analysis of these tools written above.

The invention of the bow and arrow dates back to prehistoric times but these tools are in existence and still been used with several modifications made to them.