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Greg Griggs




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2005 7:53 pm    Post subject: Question on 5th - 7th C. Bow         Reply with quote

Hello all,
Doing a bit of historical research into the weapon usage of the 5th - 7th C. Scotland. Okay - so it wasn't Scotland then, but you know the region. Wink Being new to these forums, I'm hoping this is the proper place to ask my question. We have some idea as to what edged weapons were used at that time and place, but can anyone fill me in about the possible usage of bows? IE: if bows were used, were they of the short variety, or more like the common Welsh long-bow? Any help along this line will be appreciated. Many thanks!

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Eric Nower




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Sep, 2005 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Greg,


The Welsh longbow, if I recall I away from my books right now, didn't really see appearance in England/scotland area until the late 12th cen. Before then most were what we call shortbows, I've got books that have the info at home I'll give you the titles they're very good sources---The Medieval Archer is one off the top of my head

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ht=longbow
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1062&start=0


A couple a articles I found useing the search function too.

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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Sat 24 Sep, 2005 9:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Nower wrote:
Hey Greg,


The Welsh longbow, if I recall I away from my books right now, didn't really see appearance in England/scotland area until the late 12th cen. Before then most were what we call shortbows, I've got books that have the info at home I'll give you the titles they're very good sources---The Medieval Archer is one off the top of my head

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...ht=longbow
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=1062&start=0


A couple a articles I found useing the search function too.


The evidence for anything like the so-called "shortbow" is pretty thin actually. Check out Strickland and Hardy's "The Great Warbow." I think Strickland presents a pretty compelling case that the "shortbow" was the invention of a 19th century antiquarian with little expertise in the subject.

The So-called "Welsh" or "English" longbow was really neither Welsh or English in origin. Examples that are basically identical to the Mary Rose bows have existed from ancient times. Otzi the Iceman, for example, carried such a bow. Examples thought to pull more than 100 lbs have been found in Viking graves of the 10th century. The Anglo-Saxons probably used a similar weapon.

I am not aware of any evidence for bows used (if any) in Scotland during the 5th-7th century. Not that it doesn;t exist, just that I am not aware of it. But I feel FAIRLY confident in saying that if they used bows, they were likely very similar in form to later longbows.
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Eric Nower




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all,

Michael is right, it's great to go back and brush up on things from time-to-time Laughing Out Loud The "shortbow" is a 19th cen term. A "short ordinary bow" was more common in the east than in the west and was used more for mounted combat and on the ground. The "longbow" or ordinary wooden bow has been around for a long time. The term "welsh longbow" came in use because the southernwelsh were known to be very good shots with a bow.

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Greg Griggs




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 11:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for your replies gentlemen. As I have found in my research on this topic there seems to be a large disparity in not only the use of archery during that time period, but if there were bows; what type would they have been? The only written histories from that period are from the Romans, but there have been several "pictographs" found that do depict archers. It just seems to be one of those things that will forever be open for debate. Thanks for the resource Eric - I think I will pick up a copy of The Medieval Archer and see if it can help. Any other ideas, I would appreciate greatly. Be well all.

Greg

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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's twice I've lost my long labored post due to login problems this effort will be shorter.

It wasn't until the bronze age that bows made with a single growth ring on the back appeared , Otzi's bow is not made in the same way as the ELB, Vimose, Kragehule etc. It is double edge ringed with pointed nocks( nock only one remains) with D belly. The easiest way I can think of to describe this type is half a sapling with the flat face being the back the round half, the belly. Both D and flat neolithic bows have been found.

Early iron age bows were also nocked differently that the ELB, though by this time the neolithic construction had completely disappeared with single growth ring back adopted. Hardy, Longbow, A Social and Military History 1993 mentions an oak flatbow found in Scotland dated~?1300bc the exact details escape me.


One Saxon grave yeilded traces of a 5 foot bow. Nothing approaching an entire bow though there is nothing about bowmaking to keep you from doing such.

I think it is safe to say that in the absence of yew wide flatbows with slightly convex bellies were made rather than narrow nearly circular bellied D yew bows.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems that the yew longbow was introduced to the British Isles by Scandinavians. When you actually look at the evidence there is nothing to suggest that the Welsh used it before they began fighting in Edward's armies.

Here is an interesting factoid. According to Dr. Lynn White, Jr., there are two Old Irish words for bow: one for a regular bow, and its root is Celtic; the other is for a longbow, and its root is Norse.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is a longbow defined just by scale and draw weight compared to smaller less powerful self bows ?

At the point of history when we know that longbows became known as the typical British speciality, was this a technical advance in the art of making bows or simply the systematic mass use of very powerful bows that might have been in use earlier here and there but in a less well documented way.

If there is little technical difference between a lets say, a 4 foot long 50 to 60 pound draw eight bow and a 6 foot 100 to 150 pound bow, the making and use of very powerful bows like this could have been used / made by individuals who wanted or had the strength to use the most powerful bows.

In a legendary / historical case like Ulysses the bow was probably an eastern style composite bow rather than a large selfbow.

When the skill and materials are lacking to make composite bows the only option remaining is a question of scale: Bigger / longer being more powerful.

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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Is a longbow defined just by scale and draw weight compared to smaller less powerful self bows ?

At the point of history when we know that longbows became known as the typical British speciality, was this a technical advance in the art of making bows or simply the systematic mass use of very powerful bows that might have been in use earlier here and there but in a less well documented way.

If there is little technical difference between a lets say, a 4 foot long 50 to 60 pound draw eight bow and a 6 foot 100 to 150 pound bow, the making and use of very powerful bows like this could have been used / made by individuals who wanted or had the strength to use the most powerful bows.

In a legendary / historical case like Ulysses the bow was probably an eastern style composite bow rather than a large selfbow.

When the skill and materials are lacking to make composite bows the only option remaining is a question of scale: Bigger / longer being more powerful.


Jean I will try to provide you some reliable input. Though some of what you say would require much detail to fully explore.

Today a longbow is considered to be one with straight limbs. It has little to do with length and less about draw weight.. There are Indian(not NAI) composite designs that are 72" nock to nock but are not long bows they are reflex/deflex recurves. Then there's semantics. I would have no problem with someone saying they have a 60 inch 35 pound ELB but would if they said the same with Ewar bow. or if they said ELB "with a flat belly and rigid handle", it may be a longbow but not an english longbow. which is a narrow D bow that bends throughout its length.

The technical advancements were made in the early bronze age and it is a real advancement not just a different way. It is easier to do, less work with no loss of performance. However without the high quality yew imported from Spain and Italy things would have been different for the Brits. To my knowledge all the earlier discoveries of similar design are less robust. I would think it is a question of need. If you need to shoot an arrow over 1000 grains you need a heavy bow. A 50 pound neolithic flatbow can shoot a 500 grain arrow 200 yards but not much further with much less kinetic impact at the end.

My feeling is that bows in excess of 100 pounds were the exception rather than the rule, but that's just me. A 48 inch self bow drawn past 24 inches is a high technical challenge especially at the weights you suggest and would require a different design thus harder to make. One of the beauties of the yew D bow is it is fairly "easy" to do. though at the highest weights performance cannot be maintained without superior materials and careful construction.

I thought Ulysses was said to use a bow made from Ibex horn.or is that another story?

It's not just a question of skill regarding the comparison between composite and self bows. Each has advantages and disadvantages and therefore is a trade off. It may well be that composites were developed because of a general lack of good bow wood while a culture with lots of it might never bother. Time and effort with diminishing returns. the stability durability of a long self bow vs the high efficiency maneuverability of shorter composites. climate as well. it's not just a case of composites are better.

I'm sure that is incomplete and not without some bias and lack of full understanding on my part. hope it helps some.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2005 11:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin;

Thanks for the explanations: The subtleties of construction and design that define an English longbow may be more specific than a very VERY over-generalization about really BIG self bows that are not recurves or some other thing that would disqualify them as " English " longbows.

From what you said, if I understand correctly, some bows that are called English longbows can be smaller and less powerful than the monster bows I was visualizing: It is a matter of design D shape as you mentioned.

My knowledge is superficial here, but I was not completely unaware of what you mentioned, but I found it very useful.

Just taking a big round piece of wood an putting a strings on it won't automatically give you a bow, and bad design will give you a heavy draw weight that may not transfer energy to the arrow efficiently: Recurves, modern compound pulley bows etc..... are ways of using lower draw weights that will give you a faster arrow than a much heavier but badly designed bow.

Oh, I'm just trying to clarify my thoughts here as I assume that I'm not telling you anything you are unfamiliar with ! ( Assuming that I am not completely wrong here. Cool Laughing Out Loud )

I've done a little archery but I haven't studied the subject of bows in depth.

Oh, the Ibex horn !? I have no idea except that horn was used in making composite bows: I think inside the curve and using pieces cut thin and storing power through compression, while sinew was used on the outside to store energy through tension, the whole thing kept together using strong cord ( Silk ? ) and glue and with some outer covering of parchment or maybe bark ? Again I may have the details wrong.

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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 12:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC in The Traditional Bowyers Bible v1 Tim Baker did some experiments with a simple sapling with minimal retouching and drying time to make a primitive bow getting approx. 20% less arrow speed than what one would expect from a properly made bow. Which I believe says alot about what efforts homo sapiens will go through to get just a little more better. As I recall his bow was 35 pounds and the proportion may not carry through at higher weights.

The semantic distinction I would make would be: did you say English longbow or English warbow- I may be unique in this. But obviously a 40 # warbow is just silly in this context. A quick look online reveals many so called ELB @ low cost are flatbows. many with rigid handles. this is just not true to form. My definition would be a yew w/ D cross section that bends throughout its length with horn nocks. I suppose really it should be at or about 6 feet. At 60 inches I was thinking in terms of a kid's bow or something? if it has all of the other features and there is a reason for its short length seems OK to me. that maybe pushing it to some but the other features are more important to me. Not least of which is the wood. It may still be Ok to say "I have an ELB of ash, 70#" such might make a decent bow but will not reflect what a 70 pound yew bow is capable of nor what ash is capable of in the form of a flat bow.



your tension compression ideas are correct. String? I'm not so sure about that but glue yes. coverings yes both have been used.
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 7:35 am    Post subject: English vs Welsh bows         Reply with quote

The D-section yew longbow is English, though probably in long use before it became famous. The Welsh longbow was (is?) a flatbow made of elm, not yew. Both got to very high draw weights, with similar stories attributed to them, such as shooting arrows into a 4" oak door and the points sticking out the other side of the door, or of pinning an armored leg through the saddle and into the horse.

Compared to a flatbow, a D-section bow is very stable, durable, and easy to manufacture, so it's a good design for a war bow. Also, it's not as efficient as most flatbows, but this is partly compensated for by the generally heavier arrows used in war (basically they remain in contact with the string longer, so more energy is transferred from the bow).

There were other reasons for making short bows than just riding. Laminated bows of horn/antler and sinew can be shorter because the materials have higher compression and tensile strengths than wood, and in lots of places were far more abundant than wood. These materials may have been more resisitant to extreme cold as well. Also, peoples who lived and hunting in dense brush or undergrowth tended to have shorter bows than peoples in more open environments.

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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Griggs wrote:
I think I will pick up a copy of The Medieval Archer and see if it can help. Any other ideas, I would appreciate greatly. Be well all.

Greg


Be wary of "The Medieval Archer." Although pretty good on most things, he relies primarily on other people's research, and so repeats a lot of Victorian myths. It can be useful, but Caveat Reader. Happy I'd suggest Robert Hardy's "Longbow: A Social and Military History" as a good overview and as I mentioned earlier, Matthew Strickland and Hardy's "The Great Warbow."

Mike
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Eric Nower




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The D-section yew longbow is English, though probably in long use before it became famous. The Welsh longbow was (is?) a flatbow made of elm, not yew. Both got to very high draw weights, with similar stories attributed to them, such as shooting arrows into a 4" oak door and the points sticking out the other side of the door, or of pinning an armored leg through the saddle and into the horse.


Eric is right on this one the welsh did use elm. Bradbury also has a small quote about a mounted knight who was shot threw his calf, into the horse. As he turned the horse around, another arrow hit on the side essentially skewering the horse at his back and the knight threw his calves. Painful Eek!

Now a-days, here in NY, any bow over 40# pull is considered leagal to use to hunt with. Just a tid-bit for camparison.

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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
It seems that the yew longbow was introduced to the British Isles by Scandinavians. When you actually look at the evidence there is nothing to suggest that the Welsh used it before they began fighting in Edward's armies.


Why do you say that?

Quote:
Here is an interesting factoid. According to Dr. Lynn White, Jr., there are two Old Irish words for bow: one for a regular bow, and its root is Celtic; the other is for a longbow, and its root is Norse.


In the museum at Newgrange, there is a a 6 foot D-sectioned yew longobw from the Neolithic period. Don;t know about the difference between words, but the physics of "short bows" doesn;t really make sense unless you make them composite and recurved as in the east.
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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin Toomey wrote:


My feeling is that bows in excess of 100 pounds were the exception rather than the rule, but that's just me.


Why do you think that? The Mary Rose bows were almost ALL over 100 lbs, and averaged closer to 150. And this was AFTER the peak of military archery in England. I think that for Warbows, anything under 100 lbs would have been considered too light bay far. Now for hunting, there is no need to go over 60-70 lbs.


Last edited by Michael P Smith on Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:41 am; edited 1 time in total
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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 8:40 am    Post subject: Re: English vs Welsh bows         Reply with quote

Eric Myers wrote:
The D-section yew longbow is English, though probably in long use before it became famous.


I don't think you can document that. The D-section was used all over Northwestern Europe, and long before the 13th century. There is nothing inherently "English" about the longbow other than the fact that it was England that seemed to grasp how to use it to great effect militarily.


Quote:
The Welsh longbow was (is?) a flatbow made of elm, not yew.


Again, I don't think you can truley document that. There is no evidence I am aware of for the Welsh using flat bows in the Middle Ages. If you have some, please post it, I'd be fascinated. The Welsh certainly made bows of elm as indicated by the famous (though usually mistranslated) quote from Gerald of Wales, but there is no basis to think they didn't use yew as well. Yew has always been the preferred wood for self bows in the British Isles, but elm has always been used as a poor second, even by the English.
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 12:31 pm    Post subject: Re: English vs Welsh bows         Reply with quote

Michael P Smith wrote:
Eric Myers wrote:
The D-section yew longbow is English, though probably in long use before it became famous.


I don't think you can document that. The D-section was used all over Northwestern Europe, and long before the 13th century. There is nothing inherently "English" about the longbow other than the fact that it was England that seemed to grasp how to use it to great effect militarily.


Quote:
The Welsh longbow was (is?) a flatbow made of elm, not yew.


Again, I don't think you can truley document that. There is no evidence I am aware of for the Welsh using flat bows in the Middle Ages. If you have some, please post it, I'd be fascinated. The Welsh certainly made bows of elm as indicated by the famous (though usually mistranslated) quote from Gerald of Wales, but there is no basis to think they didn't use yew as well. Yew has always been the preferred wood for self bows in the British Isles, but elm has always been used as a poor second, even by the English.


I was referring to English vs Welsh as a generalization, not English vs the rest of the world. I agree that the D-section was used all over NW Europe, and that makes it English and French and etc. By the same token, flat bows were used over much of Europe in the neolithic (IIRC), so they can't be only Welsh. I was referencing Hardy, and I think Bradbury mentions it also somewhere. Doesn't one of The Traditional Bowyers Bible's talk a bit about British Isle bows also?

Out of curiosity, do you have specific reference to D-section elm bows?

Eric Myers
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Michael P Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2005 7:31 pm    Post subject: Re: English vs Welsh bows         Reply with quote

Eric Myers wrote:

I was referring to English vs Welsh as a generalization, not English vs the rest of the world. I agree that the D-section was used all over NW Europe, and that makes it English and French and etc.


Got it. Thanks


Quote:
By the same token, flat bows were used over much of Europe in the neolithic (IIRC), so they can't be only Welsh. I was referencing Hardy, and I think Bradbury mentions it also somewhere. Doesn't one of The Traditional Bowyers Bible's talk a bit about British Isle bows also?


The flat bow was used in the neolithic period for sure. I am unaware of any evidence for it being used in the medieval period. I am open to correction, of course.

Quote:
Out of curiosity, do you have specific reference to D-section elm bows?


There are all kinds of references available, though I don't have any immediately to hand. Both Hardy's book and Gerry Embleton's "English Longbowman 1330-1515" mention it. It was used principly when Yew was not available, such as when the Yew groves were destroyed in Spain in the late 14th century. Other woods used were ash and whych elm. Hope that helps. I'll try and track down the primary sources for you.
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2005 10:42 am    Post subject: Re: English vs Welsh bows         Reply with quote

Michael P Smith wrote:
Eric Myers wrote:

Out of curiosity, do you have specific reference to D-section elm bows?


There are all kinds of references available, though I don't have any immediately to hand. Both Hardy's book and Gerry Embleton's "English Longbowman 1330-1515" mention it. It was used principly when Yew was not available, such as when the Yew groves were destroyed in Spain in the late 14th century. Other woods used were ash and whych elm. Hope that helps. I'll try and track down the primary sources for you.


Thanks. I'm curious also if they were self bows like those made of yew. One aspect of a traditional yew bow is that it naturally laminated - the sapwood on the back being strong in tension and the heartwood on the belly being strong in compression, so I wonder if they did something similar with elm. A D-section design increases the strain on the back and belly of a bow, but this is somewhat offset in the length of the traditional bows.

Eric Myers
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