Archery, the art of shooting with the bow, which is probably the oldest weapon for use in other than hand-to-hand combats, and the earliest implement of the chase. The mention of the bow in the oldest portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, and its constant appearance in the sculptures of Nineveh and of Egypt, show that it was used by the oriental nations from the earliest times; and these nations long preserved their superiority in its use; for the Greeks and Romans, who themselves made little use of the bow, though they employed foreign archers as mercenaries, found in their wars with eastern races that bowmen formed the chief strength of their enemies. The Cretans, however, excelled in the use of that weapon. The Persians, Parthians, and Numidians were among the best archers of antiquity of whom we have authentic record. In India and China the bow was also the chief weapon; and it was probably of the same form as those now known in these countries, though seldom used. - But the great period of archery began with the Norman conquest of England, when the longbow, originally a weapon of the Norse tribes, and brought into western Europe by Duke Rollo, was used with such effect by the Normans that the Saxons found no weapon to successfully oppose it.
Upon the amalgamation of the two peoples into one nation, it became the English national weapon, and was rapidly made famous. The proper length of the longbow was the height of the archer using it. The arrow was half as long as the bow; from 60 to 90 lbs. was the force needed to draw a fitting arrow to the head on a bow six feet long. Such an arrow was called "a cloth-yard shaft." from the measure, a cloth yard or three feet. The longbow was made of Spanish yew, English yew, or ash - mentioned in the order of their excellence for the purpose. Arrows were made of ash, oak, and yew, weighed from 20 to 24 pennyweights, were tipped with steel and feathered with goose feathers. The bowstrings were of plaited silk. The power of flight, correctness of aim, and penetration of these terrible missiles were prodigious. In shooting matches, 300 yards was the common range, and the ordinary mark was a straight willow or hazel rod, as thick as a man's thumb and five feet long; and such a mark a good archer held it a shame to miss.
At 200 yards no armor but the best Spanish or Milan steel plate could resist the English arrow; and the legends of men and horses shot through and through are proved by corslets of the stoutest plate, preserved in several collections, where the shafts have been driven through the breastplate and the whole body of the wearer, and then through the steel backplate. not inferior in strength to the breastplate. In shooting, the longbow was held perpendicularly at arm's length, and the bowstring drawn back until the arrow feathers were opposite the right ear. - While the English archers were the best in the world, and their longbow was the most formidable weapon, several nations of continental Europe acquired great dexterity in the use of the crossbow or arbalast. This consisted of a bow fixed transversely at the end of a wooden stock somewhat resembling a modern gun stock; along the top of the stock ran a barrel slit nearly to the muzzle, in such a manner that the string of the bow could pass through the slit and be drawn along it until caught by a trigger; this latter being pressed, the string was released, and swept forward with great force along the slit barrel, discharging the bolt or arrow which had been placed in it.
Sometimes the arrow was placed in a simple groove in the top of the stock, along which the released string swept. This bow was generally of steel, and so strong that Q. steel winch was often fixed to the stock for the purpose of drawing back the cord. In shooting, the crossbow was aimed from the shoulder, like a musket. The Genoese were famous crossbowmen, and several provinces of France furnished good archers. - Archery disappeared as firearms came into use; and as an instrument of war and the chase, the bow is now confined to the most savage tribes. Many of the North American Indians were expert with the bow; but they early adopted the musket or the rifle, and now, except among the most remote frontier tribes, the bow is never seen unless in the hands of children or as an implement for catching fish. The Comanches, however, are an exception, for to this day their force consists in their skilful archery. Their bows are short, and their arrows clumsily pointed; but they are properly feathered, and the warriors discharge them with such force that they have been known to pass entirely through the body of a bison.
Among many of the African tribes, too, the bow is still in use.
Egyptian Bow. Quiver, and Arrows.
Bow. Quiver, and Arrows used in the Greek Armies.
Chinese Bow and Ornamented Quiver.
Bow and Arrows used in India.
Bow and Arrows of the North American Indians.