Friday, January 25, 2013

How Was the Bow and Arrow Invented?

Blog Note:  The following paper makes a compelling argument for the development of the bow from fishing net technology.  I do not necessarily agree with all aspects of the paper and believe that the bow could have been co-developed in other parts of the world.  Notably, the Hadza, an isolated group in East Africa, hunt with a type of long bow.  A quick search of bow development papers shows that in addition to the composite bow, there is a distinctive bow technology, the two-wood bow, in Scandinavia.  There is also the triple curved bow depicted in southern African rock art.   In any case, the argument for a connection between the development of fishing and bow technology, as well as basket making, is convincing.

Ma GuangYan
No. 13, pp. 115-126 (1995)

"Chinese cities and countryside often use a kind of lāo wăng (fishing-catching net) to catch fish in the shallow water of the river, lake, harbor and branching stream. This kind of fish-catching net is made of a wooden stick or a bamboo strip, bent to form a (upside-down U)-shaped frame (bow) and a rope (called the string) stretched taut between the two ends of the frame, with a rope-woven net fixed on the bow proper and the string."

"Thus, gŏng (the bow of the bow and arrow) is evolved from gŭ gŏng (the frame) of gu (the fishing gear). For in the process of making gu, the first step is to bend the wooden stick or bamboo strip into the (upside-down U)-shape and then to tie a rope (or string) tautly to the two ends of the frame. At this very moment, a bow (of the bow and arrow) is practically accomplished. The reasons why the discovery of the catapulting mechanism and function of the bow (of the bow and arrow) resulted from the making of the fishing gear gu will be given in a later part of this paper."

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