Jorgumund
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Jorgumund
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March 1st, 2010, 9:35 pm #41

I think the whole notion of exhausting the supply of Yew is absolute hogwash, since you ask.


I don't think we can confuse the ready availability of tight-ringed, straight grained imported Yew with exhausting the supply in the UK.


Yew was heavily and deliberately pollarded to encourage growth to supply staves for bows. If you look around in the UK you can discover evidence on many old and estabslihed Yew trees of this very practice, which affects how the tree grows for the remainder of its life.


What we should be asking is not whether the supply of Yew was exhausted (the widespread presence of Yew presently in the UK and the age of many of those trees testifies to that, up to  a point), but whether it was of a suitable quality for the heavier and heavier warbows, and whether it could be grown as fast, when compared to the imported material.


Imported Yew had the advantage of availability, comparatively high quality and generally much straighter growth (although pollarded Yew will grow comparatively quick and relatively straight, even in the UK). Those and other reasons all contributed to the large scale manufacture or inexpensive artillery - higher quality/straighter grain means more bows per stave/tree and those bows will be quicker and easier to make due to more consistent materials.


I don't think it is fair to say that the supply of Yew was exhausted, so much as the continuing demand in far heavier draw weights could be more easily met by importing, and I know that sounds like a politicians comment, but I know what I mean even if I'm not explaining it very well


I've steered clear of this thread so far, but now that I've started, one thing I've mentioned elsewhere several times and that I'd like to touch on again is that historical 'facts' only remain so until new evidence surfaces, which tends to happen quite often I've noticed.


In many instances theory is based on fragments or, even worse, on an utter lack of supporting artefacts, which is always a poor way of drawing conclusions in either direction.


Almost everyone agreed for long enough that Stone Henge was one thing, right about until it turned out not to be...


All of the experts were as sure as they could possibly be that it definitely wasn't anywhere near on the huge scale it turns out that it was, or that its use might be different to what they thought, or that...


My great-grandfather used to tell fireside stories about the Welsh longbowmen, and of the Irish archers, which my grandfather used to tell me and my dad.


I only mention it since Wikipedia has been cited so many times...


Actually, the main reason for mentioning it is that even in the oldest legends there is usually a grain of truth to be found.


The two Neolithic bows I am quite familiar with in the UK are from Somerset and Scotland. This demonstrates that in our older history, disparate tribes from comparatively great distances apart were using longbows. We know this to be true.


In more recent times (Henry II) the Irish learned a valuable lesson on how effective the longbow could be when used as artillery in war. We should not confuse that with ignorance of longbows or archery in general, but they clearly hadn't cottoned on to how effective archers could be as organised artillery at that time.


Given the relatively close proximity to Wales, England and Scotland that Ireland 'enjoys' I can't help feeling that cross-pollination of peoples and skills would have been inevitable.


On a vaguely related note, if I play devils advocate regarding the sketch in the first post in this thread, this is what I see:


All individuals are wearing different clothes, shoes (or none at all), armour (or none at all), and they are all sporting different weapons. One looks like he is drawn taking a step while the others are all shown motionless. A couple of them are very obviously posed.


If we take the drawing as even relatively scaled, the arrows still don't match the archer and the bow does not match the archer or the arrows.


Many old tapestries share much in common with ancient rock art in that scale and perspective are obviously alien concepts to the artists, so this illustration could be anywhere from very accurate to a complete fabrication. Take your pick.


I would like to throw this into the mix: we know that most of Europe, the Scandinavian countries and the British Isles were using longbows historically. We also know that the English adopted the longbow from the Welsh (grossly oversimplifying, I know) and that many wood species were used, not just Yew. We now know that many more wood species can be used and, for all we know, may well have been throughout history, and perhaps the dying trades of bowyer and fletcher left large gaps in our knowledge and things we are only just rediscovering could easily have been common knowledge way back when to your average village bowyer.


I have seen 'experts' identify spearheads as arrowheads, arrowheads as spearheads, sword furniture has been religious artefacts and I once stopped a curator of a very famous museum from taking a pair of scissors to the hand-woven silk braid that was holding a 400 year old Samurai armour together, with the intention of restoring it. He didn't take too kindly to my very firm commentary on his actions, where I pointed out that the braid, like the plates it was holding together, was also 400 years old and irreplaceable, but he DID put the scissors down...


I can't shine any light on Irish archers throughout the ages, but it seems more likely to my way of thinking that they followed the majority of their surrounding lands by using longbows. Ireland had Scandinavian raiders, the same as the rest of the British Isles, so they were certainly exposed to longbows in relatively recent history, and there is nothing that I can see to strongly suggest that they evolved all on their own down the shortbow path. Ireland also enjoys a terrific range of tree species, and archers feature in many Irish myths and legends.


An open mind is a great tool in considering our past, and instead of anyone asking anyone for 'proof' to back up comments, suggestions, observations and points of discussion, perhaps we can simply look on some of these points with open eyes and explore the various "might-have-been" paths they could take us down ?


Even if it means we have to agree to disagree ?


Unless a lot of finds and facts exist, all we have is a large vacuum of doubt, little on which to base any firm argument, a raft of possibilities, and nothing to draw a real conclusion from.


For my own part I rather like the notion of the Irish using longbows, for the simple reason that I like longbows, and it fits a lot better to the overall "best fit" that I can work out in my own head that they would be doing, more or less, what everyone else in the geographical area was doing. They certainly have no climate issues that could affect availability of suitable materials.


I am more than happy to be proven wrong, if facts and discovery of sufficient evidence dictates, but it would be highly unusual (to my way of thinking) for a country to go down an entirely different path than their neighbours.


On a clear day you can see Ireland from several places in the British Isles - within eyesight, but a little beyond arrow range, from a longbow or a shortbow...

if it ain't broke, don't tiller it...

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CraigMBeckett
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March 1st, 2010, 10:42 pm #42

Jorgumund,
We also know that the English adopted the longbow from the Welsh (grossly oversimplifying, I know)
Sorry mate there is no proof of this so we do not Know it, the longbow was in use by all of the peoples of at least mainland Britain if not the whole of the British Isles since prehistoric times, and was certainly in use by the Germanic tribes of whom the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians and Danes were but a few.

Pedro,
Your surname is Beckett, correct?
You have made it clear that your personal opinion is that the Welsh used longbows. You also stated that the English cleared tracks of land along which the advanced into Wales during the Conquest of Wales. I did ask you how broad these tracts of land were. You have not provided any sources for this statement nor any further information. This would be very interesting to know. Would you mind giving us some sources for your statement please?
Yes my family name is Beckett, which is  probably a Frenchified Germanic name possibly Anglo Norman. Beck a small stream or brook plus a French diminutive therefore small brook.

With regard to the cutting down of trees either side of the route of march during the English invasion of Wales, I suggest you read Strickland and Hardy's The Great Warbow there are a number of references to the practice in there.

I am still waiting for your proof of your claim of short bow use by the Scottish.

Craig.
Last edited by CraigMBeckett on March 1st, 2010, 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Jorgumund
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March 1st, 2010, 10:48 pm #43

I meant as artillery in warfare, and not as a generalisation of its overall adoption, and it was also meant with tongue very firmly in cheek

Limitations of the printed word...

if it ain't broke, don't tiller it...

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africansky1972
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March 1st, 2010, 10:55 pm #44

I believe the following book has a good deal of information about the history and Exploitation of Yew in the British Isles and Continental Europe.  Has anyone on paleoplanet read it?

Hageneder, F. Yew: A History. Sutton Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0750945974

http://www.amazon.com/Yew...id=1267483859&sr=1-6
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CraigMBeckett
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March 1st, 2010, 10:55 pm #45

Jorgumund,
I meant as artillery in warfare, and not as a generalisation of its overall adoption, and it was also meant with tongue very firmly in cheek

Limitations of the printed word...
Sorry for taking you too literally, please forgive me.

Craig
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Jorgumund
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March 1st, 2010, 11:30 pm #46

africansky1972 wrote:I believe the following book has a good deal of information about the history and Exploitation of Yew in the British Isles and Continental Europe.  Has anyone on paleoplanet read it?

Hageneder, F. Yew: A History. Sutton Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-0750945974

http://www.amazon.com/Yew...id=1267483859&sr=1-6
Not me - I base my own opinions on Yew (and on lots of other things for that matter) in the UK on having been born here (Scottish Borders) and from having lived and worked throughout much of it over the years, keeping my eyes and ears open as I did so.


If you know where to look over here you can find Yew trees that are probably well over 1,000 years old. There are lots of younger trees, but many venerable examples show a variety of entirely natural growth, through to heavily pollarded at a time long since past.


At the risk of sounding contentious I have to stress that if you put an imported material of higher successful productivity against a locally available material that requires more effort and skill, the imported timber would win hands down on productivity alone.


Yew was obviously heavily harvested, but whether it was even close to being exhausted is one of those points for debate that a lot of people will have some very strong views on.


My own take is that the widespread growth of Yew throughout the British Isles of a size and shape that might indicate a goodly age (say, 450 years or so plus) suggests that the species was not exhausted, but that suitable growth for warbows perhaps was.


I guess I am arguing about terminology here up to a point, but don't ignore the very real possibility that competitive manufacturing requires suitable materials, and ancient bowyers wouldn't care so much where the materials came from, so long as they could quickly and easily be turned into bows.


Imported yew could well have been the "board bows" of history, where material could be turned into a bow with the smallest time and effort (and therefore cost) invested.


There is some interesting (if you are that way inclined) research on core samples/Dendrochronological tests of English Yew including  if you care to Google for it.


Commonly pollarded trees in the British Isles included Elm, Willow, Poplar, Sycamore, Lime, and Yew (among others).


All I am suggesting is keeping a very open mind until enough evidence is gathered to suggest a likely conclusion.


Discussion can be a lot of fun, but not when you have to prove every word of yours with more of someone elses
if it ain't broke, don't tiller it...

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CraigMBeckett
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March 4th, 2010, 6:06 am #47

It seems that a partial bowstave has been found at Barrysbrookin Ireland see:

http://www.le.ac.uk/has/ps/past/past46.html

The partial bowstave is 1.36 m long and is estimated to be approximately 3/4 of the original bow, thus the full length bow would be of the order of 1.813 m or approximately 71.4 inches.

The Bow appears to be D section and therefore it seems the prehistoric Irish along with their British mainland cousins did use long D bows.

Craig.
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CraigMBeckett
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March 4th, 2010, 6:22 am #48

It also seems that the oldest bow found in Britain is a yew longbow known as the Rotten Bottom Bow found in Scotland:

http://www.dalbeattie.com/moffat/history/prerom.html

See also:

http://www.scotlandsplace...vice=RCAHMS&id=71910

I quote the relevant text here:
A longbow (C14 date 4040-3640 cal BC, 2 sigma) was found near the base of a peat stack in the Tweedsmuir Hills by Dr Dan Jones of Melrose. Around two-thirds of it survives; it appears to have broken in antiquity. Now in NMS, following a Treasure Trove enquiry: registration number IP 6.
Daybook no: DB 1991/65.
NMS 1992.

In 1990 a broken yew longbow was found at about 660m OD, near the base of a peat hag and close to the underlying iron pan. It sustained slight damage during recovery and dried out before being formally examined.
The remains measure 1.36m in length, comprising about two-thirds of a bow of original length 1.74m. One limb survives complete; the other was broken in antiquity. The bow is made from a single piece of wood with a constricted grip. The limbs are virtually straight, D-shaped in section and up to 25mm wide. The thickness:width ratio is about 1:15, and there is no wear at the tip.
The bow falls in size between the Neolithic examples from Meare and Ashcott Heaths, England. It probably had a draw-weight of between 11 and 18kg for an arrow of length 0.71m, and would thus be less powerful than a modern hunting bow.
The bow has been dated by radiocarbon to 2520 100bc (OxA-3540).
A Sheridan 1992.
It seems a reconstruction of the bow was made and the weight of the reconstruction was 50 lb. It would be interesting to know if the reconstructor was actually and experienced bowyer and just how similar to the original the reconstruction was.

Craig.
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africansky1972
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March 4th, 2010, 11:11 am #49

Hi Craig,

Thanks for that very useful information.
Am I correct that you are of the opinion that the Irish used a man tall "Longbow" throughout their history and that short bows were not used by the Irish?

Pedro
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Jorgumund
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March 4th, 2010, 11:22 am #50

Hi Pedro - I will let Craig answer your question for himself, but most of the archers I know are of the opinion that the Irish most certainly did use longbows, and that it was UNLIKELY that they used short bows as common, mainstream weapons nationally.

Interestingly the Rotten Bottom bow (which is one of the two I referred to earlier) is from a location that enjoys an easy view of the Isle of Man and, on a clear day, the Northern Irish coast. The main ferry terminal to Northern Ireland still operates from Stranraer, 60 miles from where that bow was found.

Due to a lack of supporting evidence, either option is open to discussion really, but most folks that I know who have discussed this think it more likely that longbows were a mainstay for the Irish archers, but nobody can rule out the possibility of short bows.

All of Ireland's immediate neighbours used longbows, as did the (majority of) invaders who came to their shores in more recent history.
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CraigMBeckett
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March 4th, 2010, 12:22 pm #51

Hi Pedro,
Am I correct that you are of the opinion that the Irish used a man tall "Longbow" throughout their history and that short bows were not used by the Irish?
Yes, like Jorgumund I do believe that is so, In fact I believe that most if not all of the peoples of northern and western Europe generally used man tall bows. There are certain peoples who were influenced by the shorter composite bows of the east as used by Roman auxiliaries etc but the majority would have used a long bow. The bow may have fallen in and out of vogue, as it did with the French (the Franks use man sized bows) and various peoples of central and southern Europe but it was always there.

Craig.
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africansky1972
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March 4th, 2010, 2:24 pm #52

Thanks for that useful information Craig. The Franks used man sized bows? Were these Yew longbows or what kind of weapons were they? They must have been man tall, correct?
What type of bows did the Domesticus Dodo provide to his troops?  I am unsure if they were longbows or the 'ferengi?'

Pedro
Last edited by africansky1972 on March 4th, 2010, 2:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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CraigMBeckett
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March 5th, 2010, 9:08 am #53

Pedro,

I believe the last reference I have read of the use of longbows by the Franks, is in Strickland and Hardy's The Great WarBow in the section on the first Crusade.

Below are a couple of  interesting excerpts on the Frank's bow.
  From

http://www.deremilitari.o...es/articles/coupland.htm
 
BOWS
 

No remains of Carolingian bows have been discovered, but the one bow which has survived from the Merovingian period is D-shaped, made of wood, and some 2 m. long.214 In contrast to the Byzantines and Lombards, the Franks and Alamanni are not believed to have used the composite reflex bow at this time.215 However, some ninth-century pictorial sources seem to portray reflex bows,216 and Ermold was apparently describing a composite bow when he referred to an archer "cornea plectra tenens."217 Although it is impossible to be categorical, given the absence of archeological remains, this evidence does suggest that the Franks were familiar with the reflex bow in the ninth century.

-shaped wooden bows were undoubtedly still common, however,218 and two contemporary texts refer to yew as being particularly suitable for the manufacture of both bows and arrows.219 A very small number of arrowheads have been found in excavations, all made of iron, some of them rhomboid, others barbed,220 and a miniature in the Stuttgart Psalter depicts both types of point, as well as feathered flights.221
 

From Cariadoc’s Miscellany : Concerning the Archery of Al-Islam

 


Now I have heard that among the Franks, when a man desires a bow, he hacks off a branch from a tree, cuts in each end a notch, strings it, and that they call a bow. But among us it is otherwise.
As far as your last question  goes, I have no idea, but as he was arming mounted Warriors I would think it probable they would be using short bows of asiatic design.





Craig.
Last edited by CraigMBeckett on March 6th, 2010, 3:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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africansky1972
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March 10th, 2010, 6:43 pm #54

The Franks used 3 types of bows. A Yew longbow, a short 'horsebow' suspected of being similiar to the Roman composite bows and of course the crossbow. The Saracens referred to the crossbow as "quaws ferengi" meaning 'the Frankish bow' or 'the bow of the Franks.' I am doing some researh on the replica of the Waterford short bow in the Irish museum and will update this post within the next few days with that information.
Last edited by africansky1972 on March 10th, 2010, 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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March 11th, 2010, 1:20 am #55

kewl, im going to try to find a picture on that bow right now...
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kfoushr
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March 11th, 2010, 10:42 am #56

There seems to be a little confusion on a often discussed subject here...

A longbow (in the sense of a medieval western european longbow) is a narrow, mansized bow without defined handgrip and a D cross section, in which the back of the bow is more or less flat, and the belly is more or less rounded. This kind of bow was most probably invented by the Germanic people of Southern Scandinavia at around the turn of the eras.

There are a lot of other bow types which are also man-tall, but they should not be called longbows, because they differ strongly from the shape described above. It´s a pity that rather frequently by some people who don´t know better (a lot of them being archaeologists or book writers like the authors of "The longbow" or "The Great Warbow" the term longbow is used for other bows, especially prehistoric bows.

The bow from Rotten bottom is a typical example of a neolithic flatbow. It is propeller shaped, has a retracted handgrip and a crowned back and a flat belly. It is man-sized... but not a longbow;-) When I was inspecting that find in edinburgh, I was told, that T. Hardy had been there the day before and he had told them it was a longbow... I said that it is not, but I think they didn´t believe me;-)

They even had a quite good replica made by some scottish bowyer, but Hardy told them it´s false, made "the other way round", and they thought of letting somebody make a new replica (the famous backwards strung prehistoric bows)...

Best regards, JJ
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David Morningstar
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March 11th, 2010, 1:09 pm #57

To seize the term 'longbow' to exclusively describe one type of bow that is long seems unreasonable to me. The Medieval English warbow was prominent in one small area of Europe for a brief period of time, compared to the broad sweep of archery generally.

There are plenty of other large powerful bows from all around the world and all across history and prehistory. To dismiss these as 'not longbows' is, frankly, Anglo-centric cultural imperialism.

I say this as an Englishman for whom the two-fingered salute is a native gesture learned in childhood
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Jorgumund
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March 11th, 2010, 4:09 pm #58

Perhaps that's where I've been going wrong all these years then, because a man-size bow is (to me) a longbow by definition, whether it has flat limbs or otherwise.

The whole D section thing is also open to varied opinion, since some of the Mary Rose warbows appear to be almost rectangular in cross section.

Does this mean that any man-height bow without D section limbs cannot be termed a longbow ?

I think I'll get my coat...

The day a longbow has to be X length combined with Y cross section is the day I give up.

A man-size bow is a longbow even if, to some, it isn't; flat limbs would simply make it a flat longbow or a long flatbow or just a plain vanilla flatbow if that is your preference, but it would also still make it a longbow.

Or would it ?
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africansky1972
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March 11th, 2010, 4:23 pm #59

I am still waiting for information in addition to that already given to me by Andy Halpin. I found him a pleasant and sincere person who knows more about bows and bow crafting than most archeologists.

JJ thanks for the input, I agree. A flatbow has a rectangular cross section, flat belly section and round or flat back. A longbow has a flat (or round) back and round belly. I do not call a man tall bow a longbow! Holmegaard is not a longbow.

My personal suspicion is that the short bows used in Europe were flatbows but, the opinion about bows from Ireland seems to be that they were either short 'longbow' designs as defined above or a hybrid. Andy Halpin says that he is planning to publish a paper or book on Irish bows and that there is a great deal of evidence for the use of short bows by the Irish. He has certainly done his homework and the Waterford bow seems to me to be a hybrid flatbow/ longbow design. Remembr that it is a short bow only 125 cm's in length.

I doubt if anyone will find any pics of the Waterford bow replica online. Maybe Andy will put one up on the museum website.
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CraigMBeckett
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March 12th, 2010, 6:20 am #60

I'm with David Morningstar on the question of what constitutes a longbow. To me a Longbow is a bow that is approximately man high or longer, the shape of the limb has nothing to do with it.

David,  Kfoushr is Danish not English and he claims the D bow for the Southern Scandanavians not the English exclusively therefore your
Anglo-centric cultural imperialism.
is a bit over the top.

Craig.
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