What were the first bows (archery bows) made of?
Back in history, what wood was used to make bows and arrows? The arrows, I know, were made of flint for the tip and feathers for the flight. What was the shaft commonly made of back in those early days? What was the material that the string was made of? Hide? If so, what kind? Buffalo, cow, sheep, or some other?
Hunting - 7 Answers
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What ever wood was nearby. The arrows were made from any straight wood they could find. The first strings were made of hide, later sinew from larger game. As they developed knowledge and skill, more specialized wood were used. In England it was a Yew for the bow, and the arrow shaft I don't remember what we used back then.
Depends - Standing, riding, time of year and location of user: "Ash, hickory, locust, Osage orange, cedar, juniper, oak, walnut, birch, choke cherry, serviceberry, and mulberry woods were used. Elk antler, mountain sheep horn, bison horn, and ribs, and caribou antler also were used where available. Bow strings most frequently were made of sinew (animal back or leg tendon), rawhide, or gut. The Dakota Indians also used cord made from the neck of snapping turtles. Occasionally, plant fibers, such as inner bark of basswood, slippery elm or cherry trees, and yucca were used. Nettles, milkweed, and dogbane are also suitable fibers. Well-made plant fiber string is superior to string made of animal fibers because it holds the most weight while resisting stretching and remaining strong in damp conditions. However, plant fiber strings are generally much more labor intensive to make than animal fiber strings, and the preference in the recent past was for sinew, gut, or rawhide." Cut and paste
strings were of sinew or tendons of animals they killed. Arrows were made of the same wood the bows were made of. Yew, or Osage. Except some bows were made of bone and antler (Plains indians)
Allow me to modify someone's earlier answer. First bows were made out of wood or bone that was nearby that was flexible. Arrows were made out of whatever piece of wood could be made straight enough to provide a good flight. Feathers were valuable and were not allowed to the youngest boys, who had to shoot small game and birds without fletchings, and when they received one or two feathers to fletch the arrow with they would often spiral one feather around the shaft to make the arrow spin while using fewer feathers. Bowstrings were probably tendon or other naturally tough material from inside an animal. Hide would be a poor source, it would stretch too easily, whereas tendons were beign used to tie things together long before the first bow was made, probably, and there would be a regular and continual source from the animals taken for food.
In America Osage Orange (aka hedge or hedge apple) became fairly popular. In England they used Yew.
Hardwood--oak, hickory, yew, black locust, or teak for the bow..... rawhide, hemp cord, strands of cotton or silk from caterpillars, even vines or sinew for bow string and arrows depended on what they hunted for weight and rigidness.....mostly goldenrod,mullen,yew.
Sooooo, this is actually either a simpler or more complicated question than it sounds ...: 1) Simple answer? Whatever was handy. As far back as ancient Egypt, as much as 5,000 years ago there is speculation (and some evidence) that there were bows and arrows as we think of them made from Fig wood (from Fig trees) and using strings made from cow bull tendons, or woven leather or even a sort of braided thread made from similar materials as their clothing. Similarly in early Greece, there is evidence of archery tackle made simply from local materials. 2) More complex answer? Well, it depended upon region. For example, in what is now Western Europe, Osage Orange and Yew wood (a transplant to the region) became a popular material in the development of the classic longbow, with the strings made from cotton twine, or leather, or a few other sorts of materials. Still very simple construction. In Japan, the bows were a laminated asymmetrical build with layers of thin cut bamboo held in place with glue made from rice and fish fat and wrapped in leather. Strings were made from tendons and other sinew sort of things from animals like cows. These bows were much longer on the top limb and much shorter on the lower limb to allow the bowyer to control the tillering and generate acceptable power with the materials. In Turkey and somewhat in Mongolia some of the most sophisticated bows of the ancient periods were made. Thin strips of wood represented a core, water buffalo horn was used for the face (the compression side of the bow) and water buffalo tendons were used on the back. (the tension side of the bow) Bone was used to form the "ears" where the string attached to bow to take the high tension, and they experimented with fletchless grooved arrows, feathers, and other ideas for arrows. Tips might be of flint, but some were obsidian, some were bone, a bunch of different things. Well into that period most arrow tips were made from iron or steel as the development of metal working became improved. Thinkingblade