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Alain D.





Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 81

PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2010 1:19 pm    Post subject: Germanic Bows and Tactics         Reply with quote

This was touched on a little bit in a couple threads on Carolingian arms and armor, but I'm wondering about bows and archery tactics and techniques used by Germanic tribes up through the Carolingian period (between about 500 and 1000 is what I'm thinking). I've read that bows were very important in Frankish warfare, but haven't found much on their actual bows or how they were used in battle. I understand that there aren't many surviving examples from this period, but I'm curious about what has been found.

I've heard some people mention "short bows" used before longbows, but others suggest that this is a 19th Century concept from the Victorian era and that most bows in the early Medieval period were actually longbows similar to those used during the Hundred Years War. From what I've read, and just thinking logically about bow design, I don't see why there's any reason to believe that they weren't using longbows back then, but I'm curious to see what others have to say about it.

Also, does anybody have any good suggestions for books on Germanic warfare during this period?

Thanks
-Alain
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Tue 07 Dec, 2010 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem is we just don't know that much about the subject. The information we have is fragmentary at best and contradictory at worst. In any case, if you look up some primary sources (such as these, one interesting fact you'll run across is that each horseman was expected to own a bow in addition to lance, shield, and sword, although we have no idea yet about whether the bow was meant for the horseman's own use or a retainer's. One thing we know is that Frankish cavalrymen were occasionally depicted shooting with a (short) bow, though apparently not in sufficient numbers to change the group's nature from that of a shock cavalry formation into that of a horse archer unit.

On the other hand, archaeological finds of long bows in Germanic lands stretched back all the way to the Iron Age, and most Viking bow finds (as in the ones literally brought along by the Scandinavian expeditions) were quite long as well, so there is little reason to suppose that the Franks and other Germans didn't have or use long bows. Read this article and pester the Regia folks for sources if you're not satisfied yet.
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Martin Erben




Location: Germany, Düsseldorf
Joined: 10 Jul 2008
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 66

PostPosted: Tue 07 Dec, 2010 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you ever heard about the alemannic bow design from the 6th century with its pentagonal cross section? If you are interested, I could provide more information. Here is a link to pictures of some original bows and a replica: http://www.adalar.ch/rekonstruktionen/alemann...bogen.html
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Scott Woodruff





Joined: 30 Nov 2005
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 601

PostPosted: Thu 30 Dec, 2010 11:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bows were probably much more important than we give them credit for, they just didn't get much attention because an arrow in the face is not a very glorious way to die. Even when not emphasized in mass battles, bows were the weapon par excellence when it comes to skirmishes, ambushes, raiding and such. I would love to get some more info on the so-called "short-bow" of Carolignian-era Europe. It is often illustrated with recurved ends and pronounced knots, which is confusing as one feature points to a composite bow and the other suggests a self-bow. I sometimes wonder if bows found with iron reinforcements were really self-bows or if the iron bands were ther to hold on a rawhide backing. Just a few thoughts, hoping to stimulate some interest in the topic.
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Alain D.





Joined: 04 Jan 2009
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 81

PostPosted: Sun 16 Jan, 2011 10:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, I just found these responses. Those are good sources. Martin, I hadn't heard of those bows before, but I would be interested to learn more about them.

-Alain
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