History of Archery

Archery has shaped human history, estimated to have first developed over 60,000 years ago it has allowed us to feed and clothe ourselves, as well as fend off invading forces.

Ingrained into culture’s around the world, many of our folk heroes and legends contain tales of skilled archers doing magnificent things.

Below we have detailed some key milestones in the history of archery, alongside compiled lists of famous mythological and historical archers.

By the way,  also check out our super detailed guides below:

Ancient Archery

The first evidence of humans participating in archery, whether for hunting or warfare dates back 64,000 years.

Arrowheads discovered in Sibudu Cave, South Africa, were shown to have traces of blood and glue on them.

Prehistoric human tool, Quartzite biface on black isolated background, 500.000 years old.

Discovery of these ancient tools has led scientists to push back the date they originally believed bow and arrow technology to arise by 20,000 years.

Not only that, but it shows social development beyond what was expected of the time; with bow and arrow technology requiring advanced cognitive abilities, social planning, and communicative skills.

Despite this revelation, it is understood that archery didn’t become commonplace until the end of the Upper Palaeolithic period, roughly 10,000 years ago. During the 1940s in Holmegard, Denmark, the earliest surviving bows were found, dating back 8,000 years.

European Weapons of War

Europeans, but particularly the English and Welsh, redefined the use of bow and arrow for warfare during the Hundred Years War.

With the invention of the English Longbow, made of Yew, the English became a formidable military force between 1250-1450 AD.

Knight steel armor replica in Toledo Spain

Introduction of the Yew longbow allowed England to have many successes in battle, including the battles of Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415).

Kings throughout England’s history would mandate by law that male subjects of age would be required to practice use of longbow during their free time; even going so far as to outlaw other activities and sporting endeavors.

Henry VIII was a well-known toxophilite (lover of archery) and the most significant archaeological find connected to English Longbows was aboard the sunken Mary Rose.

The Mary Rose was a warship that had been sunk in 1545 but was rediscovered during the early 1970s; aboard were 137 Longbows, alongside 3500 arrows and other artifacts.

Longbows would eventually be phased out over time with the introduction of firearms, eventually only being used for hunting and recreational purposes.