Once a method of hunting prey for food, the bow and arrow date back to Paleolithic times.
With the onset of firearms in the 17th and 18th centuries, archery became outdated. Revived for sporting activities, archery is once again finding its place in hunting, as well.
Archery Through the Ages
Some of the earliest arrowheads found, coupled with ancient pictographs, reveal the invention of the bow and arrow to have come in Africa some 65,000 – 71,000 years ago. As man began to migrate and explore new territory, there is no evidence they took their weapons with them until some 40,000 years later when traveling to Asia, India, Australia, and Europe.
Arrow shafts have been found in Europe dating back some 12,000 years ago, while fragments of a bow dating from 11,000 years ago were found in an archaeological site in northern Germany. Other accounts show bows being found in a Denmark site dating back possibly further, somewhere between 20,000-9,500 BC. In North America, it is believed that Native Americans began using the bow and arrow around 500 AD for hunting, with it later also evolving into a weapon of war.
Archery as Sport
The sport of archery became popular in Egypt during the 18th dynasty period, between 1567 – 1320 BC. Records reveal early archery tournaments in China during the Chou dynasty from 1027 to 256 BC.
In more modern times, archery began its history in the Olympic Games in 1900. While performed through the early 20th century, it saw an absence of more than 50 years following 1920 until 1972. Today’s Olympics offer competition for men and women as individuals and teams. Individual Gold Medalists from the US include John Williams in 1972, Darrell Pace in 1976 and 1984, Jay Barrs in 1980, and Justin Huish in 1996. The last men’s team to earn Gold was in 1996.
Two US women have struck Gold in the sport of archery, too, Doreen Wilbur in 1972 and Luann Ryon in 1976. No US women’s team has earned Gold since the sport’s resurgence, although the 1988 team did take the Bronze.
Today’s Bow and Arrow
Beyond the competition of shooting at a standard target, in the US, archery is seeing a comeback as a method for hunting. Each state has its own specific rules for hunting with a bow and arrow, and the season may vary from the regular hunting season.
Today, the sport of archery is taught throughout the country, through local 4-H clubs, some schools, and various other sporting clubs. Private archery lessons are available most anywhere. Local competitions are abundant and archery is a part of the Shooting Sports competition through National 4-H.
If you have an interest in archery, check with your local chamber of commerce or your city’s department of parks and recreation to see what may be available in your area.