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Old 10th March 2013, 02:02 PM   #1
Iain
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Default African bows and archery

Hi all,

I thought this could be a neat topic for discussion, sharing pieces and historical photos.

Bows and archery don't seem to be a particularly popular area of ethnographic arms collecting. Partly because it is hard to find pieces and that is in turn due to the materials involved which don't preserve as well as metal swords, daggers or spears.

Still, I think it is an important area as the bow was one of the primary weapons used across Africa. Sadly I don't have any in my collection yet - but recently I have been more and more interested in them.

Here's an interesting image to start things off - two bowmen from Kousséri in North Cameroon. I particularly like this image for the costumes, the large long bows shown and the massive city walls behind. Photo is taken from Ehe die Gewehre kamen.

Please share what you have in your collections and hopefully we can have an interesting discussion around this seldom talked about area of African arms.

Best regards,

Iain
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Old 10th March 2013, 05:58 PM   #2
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Hello Iain,
Now theres a great idea for a thread! We have often said how little time is given to archery on the forum, especially African. We will post a few pic of the pieces we've had tomorrow. Archery is such fun and a great pastime. Lets hope we get some good examples from around the world up for show.
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Old 11th March 2013, 04:41 AM   #3
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One of the editions of the Traditional Bowyer's Bible covers some African bows. Wish I remembered whether it's two or three.

Best,

F
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Old 12th March 2013, 09:25 AM   #4
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Thanks for posting guys.

Nobody has bows in their collections to post?

Here's a neat video of a Hadza man making a bow:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um7Ksrx9XKk
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Old 12th March 2013, 03:09 PM   #5
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Hi Iain.
Interesting video, I've made a few bows over the years-nothing Robert Hardy would smile at!- and had great fun in the process. I've found a certain snobbery within the Uk archery fraternity regarding any bows from Africa, the general opinion that they are under powered and made of poor wood. Mention Japanese, Turkish or Indian archery and its all smiles. But africa seems the sad cousin, so this post is a good thing.

The picture below is one of the most common types of quivers found in the Uk, and these are normally described as Manding in origin.The bows that are often with the set look rather pathetic so perhpas for the traveller? I'm not sure. I will try and find some more pics of other bows etc
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Old 12th March 2013, 03:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Stevens
Hi Iain.
Interesting video, I've made a few bows over the years-nothing Robert Hardy would smile at!- and had great fun in the process. I've found a certain snobbery within the Uk archery fraternity regarding any bows from Africa, the general opinion that they are under powered and made of poor wood. Mention Japanese, Turkish or Indian archery and its all smiles. But africa seems the sad cousin, so this post is a good thing.

The picture below is one of the most common types of quivers found in the Uk, and these are normally described as Manding in origin.The bows that are often with the set look rather pathetic so perhpas for the traveller? I'm not sure. I will try and find some more pics of other bows etc


Last bow I think I made was when I was about 10. Needless to say it was utterly rubbish!

I think African archery is a fairly broad topic but has been colored in large part by a technique employed by many ethnic groups where the arrows are poisoned. This negates the need for penetrating power. This practice is deeply rooted in hunting where a large animal could be only lightly wounded but would succumb to the poison and could then be tracked.

What I think is neglected is the heavier stuff, like the Cameroon image I posted above. The heavy quilted armor from the Sahel is said to have been developed mainly as a defense against arrows. Some of the bows from Cameroon and Nigeria have a slight recurve as well. Image attached from Waffen aus Zentral-Afrika - 152cm overall. In the same book one can see bows of a flat profile and rounded.

Thanks for posting the arrows and quiver - I recognize the type and have seen a few sets as well. They might indeed be made for those who travel these days. I don't recall seeing many with the bows still - usually just the quivers.
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Old 12th March 2013, 04:06 PM   #7
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Hi Iain

Not sure if you know of it, but there is a well illustrated book solely on African archery called "Ata Epe" by Hendrik Wiethase 2007....
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Old 12th March 2013, 04:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Hi Iain

Not sure if you know of it, but there is a well illustrated book solely on African archery called "Ata Epe" by Hendrik Wiethase 2007....


I didn't! Do you own it? From a quick search it looks like the text is only in German. Still I will try to find a copy if it's cheap enough.
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Old 12th March 2013, 04:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
I didn't! Do you own it? From a quick search it looks like the text is only in German. Still I will try to find a copy if it's cheap enough.



German text and full of excellent pictures.
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Old 12th March 2013, 05:26 PM   #10
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? - why do they string the bows backwards (string is on the wrong side of the recurve)?
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Old 12th March 2013, 09:01 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
? - why do they string the bows backwards (string is on the wrong side of the recurve)?


No idea! But a good point. It seems to be consistent comparing the drawing with the photo I posted in the first post of this thread.

I'm no expert in bow mechanics but I can't think what advantage it would bring. But I guess there is some reason behind it.
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Old 12th March 2013, 10:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
? - why do they string the bows backwards (string is on the wrong side of the recurve)?


It keeps the undrawn string tension low (even zero, if you want). This means you can keep the bow strung forever without worrying about the bow losing its spring (i.e., developing string follow). Gives you more freedom with what materials will be OK for the bow and the string.

You sacrifice power. This gives you a force-draw curve that starts with a gentle slope, which means you get a concave force-draw curve.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_shape#Decurve_bow

The reflex-recurve Asian bow does the opposite - the reflex is designed to keep the undrawn string tension high, giving a steep beginning to the force-draw curve, and a convex force-draw curve.
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Old 27th March 2013, 11:54 AM   #13
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Default 3 bows and some arrows

Here are some bows and some arrows from my 'heap' . Dont know their geographical origin but would welcome comments .

BOW 1 shaped hardwood stave length 160 cm , max width 5 cm , bamboo 'string'.
BOW 2 shaped hardwood stave length 190 cm , max width 4 cm , bamboo 'string' incised decoration at one end.
BOW 3 'natural' branch hardwood stave with only minimal working , 145 cm long, 3cm wide max, plaited leather 'string' , grip covered with leopard skin.

The 5 arrows all have bamboo shafts and vary between 105 - 170 cm in length ... all have separately fashioned 'heads' apparently of hardwood.
The arrows are not necessarily associated with the bows . The bows appear to be quite old whereas the arrows to my untrained eye look much more recent . I have owned all of them for over 20 years and they came from a house clearance in a North Wales village.
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Old 27th March 2013, 11:58 AM   #14
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Default the 3rd BOW

This is the 3rd bow .. the one with the leopard skin grip.
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Old 27th March 2013, 12:01 PM   #15
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Default the arrows

Here are the five arrows mentioned in my first post
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Old 27th March 2013, 01:55 PM   #16
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Default and more arrow pics

more views of the same 5 arrows
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Old 28th March 2013, 07:55 PM   #17
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African bows tend to have a low draw weight and for hunting tend to be short....this allows stalking and firing from concealed positions. Larger bows would get tangled with vegetation.The low draw weight is compensated by getting close to the intended prey and by the use of poisoned tipped arrows. This usually have a small barbed arrow head bound to a foreshaft which is then fixed to the main shaft. This arrangement prevents the animal rubbing against objects to remove the entire arrow . The barbed head remains in place as the thinner, weaker foreshaft breaks, leaving the main shaft behind. The poison is not fast acting and requires the hunters to stalk the injured animal for many hours.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ight=arrow+head

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ght=african+bow

David

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Old 28th March 2013, 10:22 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thinreadline
Here are some bows and some arrows from my 'heap' . Dont know their geographical origin but would welcome comments .

BOW 1 shaped hardwood stave length 160 cm , max width 5 cm , bamboo 'string'.
BOW 2 shaped hardwood stave length 190 cm , max width 4 cm , bamboo 'string' incised decoration at one end.
BOW 3 'natural' branch hardwood stave with only minimal working , 145 cm long, 3cm wide max, plaited leather 'string' , grip covered with leopard skin.

The 5 arrows all have bamboo shafts and vary between 105 - 170 cm in length ... all have separately fashioned 'heads' apparently of hardwood.
The arrows are not necessarily associated with the bows . The bows appear to be quite old whereas the arrows to my untrained eye look much more recent . I have owned all of them for over 20 years and they came from a house clearance in a North Wales village.


I'm guessing here, but the first two bows look like they are from Papua New Guinea, while the third bow is more likely from Africa. If the strings on the first two bows are flat, rather than round, that increases the chance, while the leather string on the third one tends to signal Africa to me.

As for the arrows, I'm leaning towards Papuan for those as well, particularly due to the lack of flights and the apparent lack of an arrow nock at the butt. These go with the flat strings.

Best,

F
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Old 29th March 2013, 12:16 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fearn
I'm guessing here, but the first two bows look like they are from Papua New Guinea, while the third bow is more likely from Africa. If the strings on the first two bows are flat, rather than round, that increases the chance, while the leather string on the third one tends to signal Africa to me.

As for the arrows, I'm leaning towards Papuan for those as well, particularly due to the lack of flights and the apparent lack of an arrow nock at the butt. These go with the flat strings.

Best,

F


Thanks , yes that makes sense to me too .
Cheers
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Old 3rd April 2013, 05:58 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thinreadline
Thanks , yes that makes sense to me too .
Cheers

The third bow looks very much like the Cameroon bow I posted at the beginning of this thread and is of a similar size.

I want to thank everyone posting, the discussion is very interesting and its great to get a better understanding behind the regional evolution of different bow types. The fact that backed bows wouldn't hold up well in many African regions isn't something I had ever realized. It's interesting how different development paths can still come up with very effective local solutions.

Great stuff and I look forward to learning more.
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Old 4th April 2013, 11:05 AM   #21
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HADZABE TRIBE: THE LAST ARCHERS OF AFRICA

Intresting blog.
http://kwekudee-tripdownmemorylane....-of-africa.html
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