When was the longbow invented?


Pudor est nescire sagittas

"He who understands nothing about arrows is pathetic"
by Publius Papinius Statius (Roman poet)


The bow and arrow were not only popular with Robin Hood, even if he made that weapon particularly well-known, predecessors of Robin's favorite weapon were used thousands of years ago. The bow and arrow were probably among the most important inventions that had been made in prehistoric times, and their importance probably came directly behind the fire.
For the first time in history, bows and arrows were found on prehistoric cave drawings in Spain and the Sahara. Researchers date them to around 50,000 years BC. This weapon was also very popular with the ancient Egyptians, about 5000 years before us. In the time after that, bows and arrows spread almost everywhere in the world and are still to be found today among many indigenous peoples (e.g. Aborigines, Indians).

Around 1500 BC The Assyrians improved the handling of the bow and invented the recurve bow, a bow whose throwing sticks are curved a little differently, but the basic principle of the bow was retained.
In the early Middle Ages, a new type of bow was invented and the famous longbow came to life.

Actually his name is yes English Longbow, which is not entirely correct, because when the Teutons drove the Romans from the Rhine, they also used a large bow, a longbow. But back to the English history of the longbow, the island probably 'entered' this weapon with the Vikings, who used it around the year 600 to hit the Welsh hard. Then the Vikings withdrew.
The Welsh had learned from it and also began to learn how to use the longbows and achieved a true mastery in it. When the Normans conquered England under William the Conqueror, they were particularly badly damaged.

The legend of Robin Hood (also on my homepage under 'Legends') reports how he even manages to split a rival's arrow at a prize shooting in Nottingham and thus win the competition.


The longbow was later replaced by crossbows in the English armies, as the training required for this was less expensive and soldiers were able to use it more quickly. This bow is shot instinctively, i.e. the distance to be shot is not estimated, but as one learned in childhood to throw a stone at a certain point, one now trains to shoot the arrows quasi “automatically” according to the distance. Today longbows are often provided with a fiberglass coating, which increases the performance of the bow.
When gunpowder later replaced the bow and arrow as the main weapon, archery became more and more a sport. This discipline was first represented at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1900.


Maybe something else interesting about arches:

The traction

It must have been enormous on the longbows, for example, it is claimed that the bows found on Henry VIII's flagship, the Mary Rose, were 180 pounds and more. However, the report by the expedition leader Alexander McKee clearly shows a pulling force of up to 40 kg (4 page 152), which corresponds to a pulling weight of 88.18 pounds when converted to the English pound (conversion: 1 pound = 0.4536 kilograms).

But there are not just the finds of the Mary Rose: There is an arrow in England that is believed to be of medieval origin. It is in the possession of the Dean of Westminster and was found stuck in a turret of Westminster Abbey in 1878. The shaft is made of ash and both the tip and the fletching can be described as typical of the late Middle Ages. The special thing about it is the spine: It is suitable for an arc of around 150 pounds of pulling force! Of course, this is no proof, because it is doubtful whether the arrows were set so precisely on the bows at that time - the main thing was that they were not too weak! But in any case, this arrow indicates a bow of enormous pulling power! If you add the often quoted range of the English archers (350 yards = 320m) and the skeletal deformations to be mentioned below, which probably also speak for strong arches, the existence of arches that should have been significantly stronger, more likely than it can be seen today at relevant events (Howard Hill, the legendary American bow maker who unfortunately died in 1974, routinely shot bows with well over 100 pounds of pulling force, one of them even with 172 pounds!).

At the end of the day something important that was often misunderstood: The weight of the arrowheads! It is always said that they weighed up to (but not significantly less than) 360 grams. This is a misunderstanding that has been passed on from Bognermund to Bognerohr for years! In truth, it was around 360 grains, which corresponds to about 23.4 g (1 grain = 0.0648 g).


Incidentally, I have a lot of information about the bow from Carpe Arcum - praise the bow

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