History of Archery

Archery is one of the oldest arts of ancient times, which is still practiced today. From its first development until the 1500s, the bow was man's constant companion and has been the most widely used of all weapons in recorded history. Archery has been called one of the four most important inventions next to fire, language and microwave ovens. The bow allowed the prehistoric human to become the most efficient hunter on earth, providing him safety, food and raw materials such as bone, sinew and hide. From that time on, archery has played an important role in many of the world's civilizations.

Starting with the reign of William the Conqueror, the bow was England 's principal weapon of national defense for several centuries. Around the year 1200, Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes conquered much of the known world employing short, powerful bows. For Native Americans, archery was the means of subsistence and existence during the days of English and later American colonization. Finally, after the bow's replacement by firearms as a weapon of war, archery became a favored sport, thus securing its continuous practice throughout history.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, archery's importance as a cultural advance ranks with the development of speed and the art of making fire. The use of the bow appears in folklore from over 3000 years ago, although its invention probably predates that era.

The development of archery followed a course of key innovations by many historical cultures. About 3500 BC., Egyptians were using bows as tall as themselves. Their arrowheads, originally constructed of flint, were later made of bronze. Almost 2000 years later, the Assyrians developed the shorter recurve bow, which provided more power and easier handling. One central Asian clan, the Parthians, became famous for their ability to shoot backwards from a galloping horse, making the Parthian shot a meaningful phrase in our language. At about 1200 BCE, the Hittites developed the skill of shooting from moving chariots, and around 500 AD, the Romans, formerly second-rate archers, began to draw the arrow to the face rather than the chest, giving the shot more accuracy.

There are many legendary stories and heroes, which find their roots in archery. Homer's hero, Odysseus, reclaimed his wife and household upon his final return through his ability with his bow. An archer named Hercules founded the ancient Olympic games, tradition holds. The Games featured archery with tethered doves as the targets. Target archery is also seen in the legends of Robin Hood and William Tell, which show the respect that the English had for great archers. In Japan , the practice of Kyudo and Yabusame raised archery from mere discipline to an art form and a philosophy of life.

Archery became an official event in the modern Olympic Games in 1900 and was also featured in 1904, 1908 and 1920. International rules had not yet been developed, though, and each host country used its own rules and format. Because of the resulting confusion, the sport was eliminated from the Olympic program until 1972.

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