Brief History of The Bow | Bowhunting Roundtable 2014 | Event Story | Outdoor Channel
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Story Posted 09-17-2013

Brief History of The Bow

Earliest proof of bows dates to cave paintings from 20,000 BC

Brief History of The Bow The earliest proof of bows and arrows being used comes from cave paintings in Valltorta Gorge in Spain.

By: Mike Suchan,

Go a couple million millennia after the apes’ weapon discovery in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Think to the first human to use a stick and string to fling a stick with intent to kill.

Have you ever imagined how this process came about, the exact inspiration? The wheel’s easy. Someone probably kicked over a roundish rock and watched it roll down a hill.

But a semi-complex device like the bow and arrow? Maybe it had something to do with an object bouncing off a vine or a pine cone flying off a pulled branch, or simply just someone getting hit in the face by said branch. Scientists have thought the bow was an off-shoot of the spear, which along with the sling and atlatl preceded bows. Maybe both ends of a sling being pulled and propelling an object?

There had to be something that made those first bow users tap the potential energy in a cord attached to two ends of a bowed piece of wood.

We’ll never know for sure, but we do know that history shows the earliest rock points that could have gone on the end of an arrow date to 71,000 years ago.

The earliest proof of bows and arrows being used comes from cave paintings in Valltorta Gorge in Spain. Men are aiming bows at game, several of which with arrows protruding from them. They date to 20,000 BC. Fire was used to harden stone arrowheads sometime before 18,000 BC and feathers were being added around that time to aid flight. Flint points bound by sinew on split shafts appeared around 16,000 BC.

Elm Holmegaard bows from 9,000 BC were found intact in Denmark bogs and are now the earliest known bow artifacts held by modern man. The design of these ancient bows are replicated today in high performance bows.

In northern Germany, a scotch pine bow found near Stellmoor in the 1930s was thought to be 10,000 years old, but it was destroyed during World War II before carbon 14 dating could pinpoint the date.

In the following millennia, bows took over as the main means to launch projectiles on all continents except Australia. Archery became an important military and hunting weapon around the globe.

Click the image to see a brief history of the bow.
Arrowheads dating from the 10th to 15th centuries are displayed in the Novgorod Archaeological Museum in Russia.

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