How old is archery?


Archery, or the use of bow and arrows, was developed by the end of the Upper Paleolithic or earlier. The oldest known evidence of arrows comes from the South African site of Sibudu Cave, where bone and stone points considered likely to have been arrowheads have been found, dating from approximately 60,000–70,000 years, whilst archery has also been found from 50,000 years ago in Sri Lanka. Archery has been an important military and hunting skill for over 10,000 years and figures prominently in the mythologies of many cultures. Central tribesmen of Asia (after the domestication of the horse) and American Plains Indians (after gaining access to horses) became extremely adept at archery onarfare in the horseback. Lightly armored, but highly mobile archers were excellently suited to the Western & Central Asian steppes, and they formed a large part of armies that repeatedly conquered large areas of Eurasia. In Eurasia, shorter bows that were more suited to use on horseback are found, and the composite bow enabled mounted archers to use powerful weapons. Empires throughout the Eurasian landmass often strongly associated their respective "barbarian" counterparts with the usage of the bow and arrow, to the point where powerful states like the Han Dynasty referred to their neighbours, the Xiong-nu, as "Those Who Draw the Bow". For example, Xiong-nu mounted bowmen made them more than a match for the Han military, and their threat was at least partially responsible for Chinese expansion into the Ordos region, to create a stronger, more powerful buffer zone against them., It is possible that "barbarian" peoples were responsible for introducing archery or certain types of bows to their "civilized" counterparts—the Xiong-nu and the Han being one example. Similarly, short bows seem to have been introduced to Japan by northeast Asian groups. In Europe, Mesolithic pointed shafts have been found in England, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. They were often rather long, up to 120 cm (4 ft) and made of European hazel (Corylus avellana), wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) and other small woody shoots. Some still have flint arrow-heads preserved; others have blunt wooden ends for hunting birds and small game. The ends show traces of fletching, which was fastened on with birch-tar. Skilled archers were prized in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Archery was an important skill for the Vikings, both for hunting and for war. The Assize of Arms of 1252 tells us that English yeomen were required by law, in an early version of a militia, to practice archery and maintain their skills. We are told that 6,000 English archers launched 42,000 arrows per minute at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 is notable for Henry V's introduction of the English longbow into military lore. Henry VIII was so concerned about the state of his archers that he enjoined tennis and other frivolous pursuits in his Unlawful Games Act 1541.The last regular unit armed with bows was the Archers’ Company of the Honourable Artillery Company, ironically a part of the oldest regular unit in England to be armed with gunpowder weapons. The last recorded use of bows in battle in England seems to have been a skirmish at Bridgnorth; in October 1642, during the English Civil War, an impromptu militia, armed with bows, was effective against un-armoured musketmen, although bows and arrows were widely distributed in South England at the start of World War 2 in expectation of a German invasion and when armaments were in short supply.




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