The oldest arrowheads found so far were found in Africa, dated to be from around 25,000 years ago. As others saw the effectiveness of the bow, they began to use it, and archery soon spread to every major civilization. Many cave drawings have been discovered showing archery as one of the most primitive hunting forms since the known beginning of mankind.
It wasn’t long before wars were being fought with bow and arrow until the invention of the canon did it start to wane some. Egyptians, Japanese and Native Americans were all very trained in Archery for battle and hunting.
There is even a mythological goddess of hunting named Diana. She was depicted as wearing a short tunic and hunting boots. She is often portrayed holding a bow, and carrying a quiver on her shoulder, accompanied by a deer or hunting dogs.
Now this is getting to meat and potatoes of why we love ancient archery so much. There are several techniques for ancient archery that made it so useful for battle. To us, just shooting at targets all day and only working on hitting the center of a bullseye can get mundane. If you are hunting food I can see where that would be quite useful, but in battle the training needs to be more dynamic and realistic. Here are the techniques practiced:
Ancient Archery Techniques
Instinctive shooting- The archer doesn’t need a sight or anchor point. They can instantly and instinctively shoot arrows by gauging the distance and pulling back anyway they see fit. One of the most basic skills ancient archers used.
Rapid fire shooting- many old books (“Saracan archery”, and “Arab Archery, an Arabic Manuscript of about 1500 A.D A book on the Excellence of the bow and arrow and the description thereof.”) talk of a technique where archers hold arrows in their hands and are able to shoot 3 arrows in less than 1.5 seconds. This is because while archers with arrows in their quivers need a minimum of 3 movements to shoot an arrow, archers using this ancient technique can shoot in one motion. It is written in the “Letters and notes on the manners, customs, and conditions of north American Indians” by George Catlin that an Indian chief “was able to shoot 10 arrows into the air before the first one hit the ground.” Rapid fire shooting was used by many ancient civilizations, although the method for holding arrows in the hand varied.
Chariot archery- archers could stand on a chariot often driven by someone else
- Components- driver, archer, + sometimes a shield bearer.
- Frontal charge- Chariots acquire some speed, and ram into the front line of the enemy army. The frontal charge was probably used as last resort and almost never used at the beginning of a battle, as the charge left the weak point of the chariots (the back) mostly unprotected.
- Parthian Shot- In this attack, the chariots would approach the enemy lines shooting, and then making a U-turn, while still shooting, back to their own lines. While the chariot returns to the original positions, the archers would stand facing away from the driver and continue shooting at the enemy. The tactic was made to entice the other soldiers to break lines to chase the chariots, and served as a good way to harass the enemy before the main shock of the infantry attack. However, in order to protect the archers from enemy archers while they faced out the back of the chariot, they would need a form of protection, such as a small shield.
Mounted Archery- Mounted archery was the technique of shooting from a horse, greatly increasing the mobility and use of archers, for quick, confusing attacks. The archers of the Huns were well-known for their prowess in shooting accurately from horseback. Chinese archers also used this technique after the warring states period, replacing chariot archery.
We use all of them. As you may have seen in our pics and videos we are running, jumping, kneeling, spinning, and even shooting from the back of moving vehicles. In our off time from doing that we are working on our speed and accuracy. We are practicing rapid fire shooting and holding 3 arrows at a time, hardly ever using a quiver.
Hey don’t “nock” it till you try it. Cheesy pun I know, but who could resist.
Written by Colleen Wallace