bow and arrow

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bow and arrow

bow and arrow, weapon consisting of two parts; the bow is made of a strip of flexible material, such as wood, with a cord linking the two ends of the strip to form a tension from which is propelled the arrow; the arrow is a straight shaft with a sharp point on one end and usually with feathers attached to the other end.

The use of the bow and arrow for hunting and for war dates back to the Paleolithic period in Africa, Asia, and Europe. It was widely used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, the Americas, and Europe until the introduction of gunpowder. Arrowheads were first made of burnt wood, then stone or bone, and then metals. Various woods and bones were used for the bow itself. However, it was not a powerful weapon until the invention of the compound, or composite, bow around 1500 B.C. on the steppes of Central Asia. A composite bow is made of various materials (wood, horn, sinew) glued together so as to increase their natural strength and elasticity. Bows and arrows were among the dominant weapons used by Assyrian chariots, Parthian cavalry, Mongol horsemen, and English longbowmen. At other times they have been used more as auxiliary weapons for massed infantry or cavalry.

The crossbow, although known in Roman times, was not widely used in Europe until the Middle Ages. In China, however, where it developed at the same time, the crossbow revolutionized warfare. A crossbow is a bow set on a stock. It fires missiles propelled by mechanical energy and released by a trigger. It could be more powerful than the ordinary bow and could fire arrows, darts, or stones. It was, however, slower to fire than the longbow and almost as difficult to wield; even the arbalest, a later crossbow, was clumsy and slow. By the end of the 13th cent. use of the crossbow had declined. At the battle of Crécy (1346) English longbowmen, firing from fixed positions, proved far more efficient than Genoese crossbowmen fighting for the French.

The longbow, which was in use in Wales in the 12th cent. became prominent in the Welsh Wars of Edward I in the late 13th cent. For the rest of that century, the English emphasized skill with the longbow; it was inexpensive, mobile, and easily adapted to a peasant army. Only in England did the longbow survive the introduction of gunpowder; it was superseded gradually by firearms. It was a powerful weapon, but it took great strength to pull and years of practice to master. The Chinese also developed a longbow, which proved much less effective than the English variety. The Asian bow, designed for use on horseback, was shorter and lighter than the English longbow and could be more rapidly fired. The Chinese later developed the repeating crossbow, an ingenious weapon that proved ineffective against repeating rifles in the First Sino-Japanese War.

Since bows and arrows are relatively easy to make and can produce a rapid rate of fire, they were used in warfare long after gunpowder was introduced, for primitive firearms required much time to load, were hard to manufacture, and often failed. In Japan and North America archery was very important culturally as well as militarily. See archery; hunting.


See R. Hardy, The Longbow (1976); R. Payne—Galway, Crossbow (1988).

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References in periodicals archive ?
(11) The Genoese crossbowmen, out in the front of the French army, began to fight, though they had not had time to retrieve their shields.
In 1576 the crossbowmen had fought against the Spanish who burned the town hall, which became a symbol of the town's renewal with its subsequent restoration.
Article XLI stated "[t]hat the King shall remove all Foreign Knights, Stipendiaries, Crossbowmen, Infringers, and Servitors who came with horses and arms to the injury of the kingdom." RICHARD THOMSON, AN HISTORICAL ESSAY ON THE MAGNA CHARTA OF KING JOHN 57 (London, Johnson 1829).
Perhaps the most remarkable figure in Czech history; a brave and valiant warrior, he was a gifted strategist and an innovative and resourceful tactician; the core of the military system he created for the Taborites was the Wagenburg, a series of stout wooden wagons with crossbows or light cannon mounted in them, chained together, with pikemen, handgunners, and crossbowmen stationed in the gaps, creating an unusually strong position, one which repeatedly frustrated Sigismund's knights; of necessity the system was tactically defensive, although success was usually crowned with a welltimed counterattack, and much of Ziska's brilliant reputation rested on his marriage of the tactical defense with the strategic offense.
Crossbowmen in the army of King Richard the Lionheart often worked in a three-man team, one servant charged with reloading while a second held a tall shield or pavise to protect the team.
Note, in the context of the tower's name, the Granadan crossbowmen among Tangier's Muslim garrison in 1437 (Pina, D.
The accounts list sums paid for provisions and clothing for Louis and his entourage, the wages of knights, crossbowmen and sergeants, the replacement and purchase of horses, mules and camels, hire and provisioning of shipping, gifts and loans to crusaders, the king's ransom after he was captured by the Muslims in 1250, work on fortifications in the Holy Land, and so on.
Marines were crossbowmen and other armed men whose duties consisted purely of fighting.
To this end, he recuited about 800 of his compatriots, stonecutters or craftsmen who were also trained crossbowmen and were expected to serve in a dual capacity, as workers and soldiers.