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Neolithic Bows from Somerset, England, and the Prehistory of Archery in North-western Europe

  • J. G. D. Clark (a1)
Extract

The object of this paper is first to describe and reconstruct the halves of two Neolithic bows found in the course of peat-digging in the Somerset Levels during 1961 and second to put these in historical perspective in relation to the development of archery in north-western Europe. The outcome of comparative studies has been to show that the Somerset bows fall into the last quarter of the first major cycle in the history of the bow in this part of the world, one that lasted from the 9th to the 2nd millennium B.C., during which the bow was by far the most important weapon for both hunting and fighting. So soon as metallurgical industry had made swords and socketed spears available these weapons became predominant and indeed bows and arrowheads fade almost, if not in some areas wholly, from the archaeological record of this part of Europe. It was not until around A.D. 200–400 and, then only among the Teutonic peoples centred on Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, that there is evidence for a revival in archery. So far as Britain is concerned, the use of the bow was reintroduced by the Anglo-Saxon invaders, probably reinforced by Danes. If the traditional source of the English Long Bow in Gwenth is correct, the weapon must be thought of as developing in the immediate wake of the Anglo-Norman invasion of the closing years of the 11th century. As a major weapon in English armies it lasted from the end of the 13th until the second half of the 16th century when it was effectively replaced by firearms.

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page 50 note 1 First reported by ProfessorsClark, Grahame and Godwin, Harry, ‘Prehistoric Ancestors of the Weapons which brought England victory at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt: Neolithic Long-bows of 4,500 years ago, found in the Somersetshire Peat’, Illustrated London News, Feb. 10 (1962), pp. 219–21.

page 50 note 2 For a useful survey, see Viscount Dillon's chapter VIII in The Badminton Library volume on Archery, edited by C. J. Longman and Col. H. Walrond and published in 1894. The classic work on the English Long Bow, R. Ascham's Toxophilus, originally published in 1545, appeared in an English Reprint edition of 1868.

page 50 note 3 J. Roy. Anthrop. Inst., XIX (1890), pp. 220–50. See especially pp. 242 and 246–50.

page 51 note 1 A. P. Okladnikov, Materialy po Arkheologii SSR, no. 18, fig. 83 et passim.

page 51 note 2 Firbas, F., Spät- und nacheiszeitliche Waldgeschichte Mitteleuropas nördlich der Alpen, p. 270 (Jena, 1949).

page 51 note 3 Godwin, H., History of the British Flora, p. 274 (Cambridge, 1956).

page 52 note 1 e.g. the well-known scene in the Cueva de la Araña, Bicorp, Valencia. Basch, M. Almagro, Manuel de Historia Universal, t. I, fig. 428 (Madrid, 1960); and Pericot, Luis, El Arte Rupestre Español, plate opp. p. 40 (Barcelona, 1950).

page 52 note 2 e.g. at the Cueva Remigia, Castellón de la Plana. See Pericot, op. cit., plate opp. p. 32.

page 52 note 3 Jacob-Friesen, K. H., ‘Die ältesten deutschen Pfeilbogen am Dümmer gefunden’, Heimatblätter für die Grafschaft Diepholz, Nr. 4 (8 Folge, 1950).

page 52 note 4 An instructive work on modern bows in the Long Bow tradition is Pope's, SaxtonHunting with the bow and arrow (New York, 1925). For the method of coping with pine, see p. 62.

page 52 note 5 Brown, A. R., The Andaman Islanders, pp. 419–34 (Cambridge, 1922).

page 53 note 1 e.g. At least two of the 36 bows from the Nydam ship had separate nocks secured to the tips of the stave, one being of horn, the other of iron.

page 54 note 1 e.g. on an illuminated MS. of c. 1500 illustrated on fig. 97 of Longman & Green's Archery.

page 54 note 2 Dewar, H. S. L. and Godwin, H., ‘Archaeological Discoveries in the Raised Bogs of the Somerset Levels’, PPS, XXIX (1963), 17 ff.

page 55 note 1 Prof. Godwin published a preliminary account of the stratigraphy of the Somerset Levels more than twanty years ago in the New Phytologist, vol. 40, 108 ff. Since then he has issued a number of papers on this topic.

page 55 note 2 Godwin, H., ‘Prehistoric wooden trackways of the Somerset Levels: their construction, age and relation to climatic change’, PPS, XXVI (1960), pp. 136, especially pp. 17–22.

page 58 note 1 Cassau, A., ‘Ein Feuersteindolch mit Holzgriff und Lederscheide aus Wiepenkathan, Kreis Stade’, Stader Archiv. (1937), pp. 315. See also PPS, III (1937), pl. XII.

page 60 note 1 Oakley, K. P., Man the Tool-Maker, p. 14, fig. 5 (London, 1952 edtn.).

page 60 note 2 Movius, Hallam L., ‘A Wooden Spear of Third Interglacial Age from Lower Saxony’, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, vol. 6 (1950), pp. 139–42.

page 60 note 3 Garrod, D. A. E., ‘Palaeolithic Spear-Throwers’, PPS, XXI (1935), pp. 2135.

page 60 note 4 Windels, F., Lascaux, p. 57 (Montignac-sur-Vézère, 1948).

page 60 note 5 ibid., pp. 50–1 and 78.

page 60 note 6 Graziosi, P., L'Arte dell' Antica Eta della Pietra, Tav. 200b, pp. 201 and 271 (Florence).

page 61 note 1 Windels, op. cit., pp. 53 and 78.

page 61 note 2 Pericot, L., La Cueva del Parpalló, fig. 21, pl. ix (Madrid, 1942).

page 62 note 1 Rust, A., Die Alt- und Mittelsteinzeitlichen Funde von Stellmoor, pp. 189–92, pls. 91–6 (Neumünster, 1943).

page 62 note 2 The two pieces of pine wood put forward as bow-ends by Rust (op. cit. pls. 97–8) fail to carry complete conviction.

page 62 note 3 A. Rust, op. cit., p. 133, pls. 34, 35, no. 1.

page 62 note 4 Rust, A., Das Altsteinzeitliche Rentierjägerlager Meinendorf, pp. 126–7, pl. 53 (Neumünster, 1937).

page 63 note 1 Bröste, K., et al. , Prehistoric Man in Denmark, vol. 1, 28 ff., 84 ff.; 11, 10 ff. (Copenhagen, 1956).

page 63 note 2 Furst, C. M., Fornvännen (1925), 289 ff.

page 65 note 1 The English material used for fig. 11 comprised nineteen males from recently excavated Long Barrows, viz: Giant's Hills, Skendleby (one), Cave, A. J. E. in Arch., LXXXV, 90 ff.; Lanhill (four), Cave, A. J. E. in PPS, IV, 131 ff.; Nutbane (three), Bunting, G. H., Verity, D. K. and Cornwall, I. W. in PPS, XXV, 46 f.; West Kennet (eleven), Prof.Wells, L. H. in Piggott's, S., The West Kennet Long Barrow Excavation, 19551956, pp. 82 and 86.

page 67 note 1 I am greatly indebted to Professor Marc Sauter of the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Geneva for detailed information. Of the 37 males on which the average of 1580 centimetres is based, 14 came from the cemetery of Chamblandes, 17 from that of Collombey and the rest from a variety of sites. A striking fact is that from the point of view of stature the Neolithic skeletal material from different Swiss sources proved to be remarkably homogeneous.

page 67 note 2 Ant. J., XIII (1933), pp. 266–96; XV (1935), pp. 284–319.

page 68 note 1 van der Waals, J. D., ‘Beaker types and their distribution in the Netherlands’, Palaeohistoria IV, 5–46, pp. 34–5.

page 70 note 1 e.g. the famous paper by Smith, R. A. on ‘Flint Arrow-heads in Britain’, Archaeologia, LXXVI (1927), pp. 81106.

page 70 note 2 cf. Excavations at Star Carr, p. 103 (Cambridge, 1954).

page 71 note 1 Danske Oldsager: I. Aeldre Stenalder, nos. 94–7.

page 71 note 2 ibid., I. nos. 98–105; II. Yngre Stenalder, nos. 263–5.

page 71 note 3 Thurgauischen Beiträge zur Vaterländischen Geschichte, hft. 85, p. 57, abb. 6.

page 71 note 4 Saxton Pope (op. cit., pp. 47–8) found that obsidian arrowheads fired into a target of animal tissue at a distance of 10 yards penetrated 30 inches as opposed to the 22 inches achieved by a steel head.

page 72 note 1 Op. cit., p. 82.

page 72 note 2 C. J. Longman and H. Walrond, op. cit., p. 306.

page 72 note 3 Heath, E. G., ‘The English Mediaeval War Arrow,’ J. of the Society of Archer Antiquaries, vol. 4 (1961), pp. 1719.

page 72 note 4 Aarbøger (1959), pp. 92105.

page 73 note 1 Fra Nationalmuseets Arbeidsmark (1945), pp. 70–1.

page 73 note 2 Rust, A., Stellmoor, pp. 189–92; pl. 92, 1 and 2; pl. 93, 4.

page 73 note 3 Op cit., p. 82.

page 73 note 4 Op cit., p. 306.

page 74 note 1 In Longman and Walrond, op cit., pp. 127–8.

page 74 note 2 Op cit.

page 74 note 3 A. Rust, Stellmoor, pl. 88.

page 74 note 4 Catalogue Antiquities Devizes Museum, pt. 2, pp. 19–20.

page 74 note 5 Grimes, W. F., PPS, IV (1938), pl. xii, no. 11.

page 74 note 6 Danske Oldsager: II. Yngre Stenalder, no. 539.

page 74 note 7 Mayet, L. and Pissot, J., Abri-sous-roche préhistorique de la Colombière, figs. 47, 56 and pl. xx, no. 1 and xxii, no. 1 (Lyon, 1915).

page 74 note 8 Windels, op. cit., p. 53 (no. 43) and p. 78 (no. 42).

page 75 note 1 Fletched arrows with intact feathers are only likely to survive under exceptional conditions, such for example as those prevailing in Tut-ankh-amen's tomb. See Carter, Howard, The Tomb of Tut-ankh-amen, III, p. 139 and pl. xlvi (London, 1933).

page 75 note 2 Englehardt, C., Vimose Fundet, 23 and pl. 14, no. 23 (Copenhagen, 1929).

page 75 note 3 Englehardt, C., Denmark in the Early Iron Age, 58 and p. 12, no. 11 (London, 1866).

page 76 note 1 Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

page 76 note 2 Op. cit., p. 82.

page 76 note 3 The Shield of Hercules, v, 135. (Bohn. edtn., 1956), p. 57.

page 76 note 4 ‘The Eagle and the Arrow’. This notion was used by many later poets, including Byron.

page 76 note 5 In Mathiassen, Th. et al. . Stenalderbopladsen i Aamosen, p. 191 (Copenhagen, 1943).

page 76 note 6 For references and fuller account, see Clark, G., ‘Fowling in prehistoric Europe’, Antiquity, XXII (1948), p. 128.

page 76 note 7 Ascham, R., Toxophilus, p. 130 (English Reprint edtn., 1868).

page 76 note 8 M. Almagro Basch, op. cit., figs. 386, 393, 396, 400, 418, 428; Luis Pericot, op. cit., pl. opp. p. 33.

page 76 note 9 Op. cit.

page 76 note 10 R. A. Smith, op. cit., fig. 14.

page 77 note 1 Unless otherwise noted the information in this and the following paragraph is taken from R. A. Smith, op. cit.

page 77 note 2 Grimes, W. F., Excavations on Defence Sites, 1939–1945, I, pp. 160–1 (London, 1960).

page 77 note 3 SirFox, Cyril, Life and Death in the Bronze Age, p. 67, pl. xx, a.

page 77 note 4 PPS, IV (1938), p. 115.

page 77 note 5 See Journal Soc. of Archer-Antiquaries, vol. 4 (1961), pp. 3351. The Bronze forearm ornaments from Denmark and Germany ought surely to be excluded, especially since nos. I–J belong to a period in which the bow seems no longer to have played a significant role as a weapon in Denmark.

page 77 note 6 See Childe, V. G., The Dawn of European Civilisation, pp. 99, 162, 168, 225, 309, 318, 330 (1957 edtn.).

page 77 note 7 The most useful reference is Grimes, W. F., Excavations on Defence Sites, 1, pp. 160–2; also Childe, The Dawn, fig. 47 and passim.

page 78 note 1 W. F. Grimes, op. cit., fig. 66.

page 79 note 1 Stenberger, M., Das Grabfeld von Västerbjers auf Gotland, pp. 56 and 92–4; Abb. 31 and Taf. 24, 1 (Stockholm, 1943). Stenberger gives a full discussion and references to the German and central European finds.

page 80 note 1 Obermaier, H., Fossil Man in Spain, pl. xiv (New Haven, 1925).

page 80 note 2 Pacheco, E. Hernández, Las pinturas prehistóricas de las Cuevas de la Araña (Valencia) (Madrid, 1924).

page 80 note 3 Porcar, J., Obermaier, H. and Breuil, H., Excavaciones en la Cueva Remigia (Castellón) (Madrid, 1935).

page 81 note 1 Niklasson, Nils, Göteborgs och Bohusläns Fornminesforenings Tidskr. (19461947), pp. 4571, fig. 1.

page 81 note 2 ibid., pp. 59–60, fig. 5.

page 81 note 3 Harz, N. and Winge, H., Aarbøger, bd. 21, 225 ff.

page 81 note 4 Information kindly supplied by Dr J. Troels-Smith of the National Museum, Copenhagen.

page 81 note 5 Almagro, Martin, Historia de España (Edt. Pidal, R. M.), vol. 1, fig. 367 (Madrid, 1947). Compare also fig. 383.

page 81 note 6 Péquart, M. and Péquart, St.-J., Boule, M. and Vallois, H., Téviec, Station-nécropole mésolithique du Morbihan, pp. 52–3 (Paris, 1937).

page 82 note 1 de Baye, I., Revue archéologique, I, p. 403 (Paris, 1874).

page 82 note 2 Becker, C. J., Fra Nationalmuseet: Arbejdsmark (1952), pp. 2530; Brøndsted, J., Danmarks Oldtid, 1, p. 248 (1957 edtn.).

page 83 note 1 Clark, J. G. D., Prehistoric Europe. The Economic Basis, pp. 313–15 (London, 1952).

page 83 note 2 Godwin, H., PPS, XXVI (1960), pp. 136.

page 83 note 3 Clark, op. cit., pp. 51–4.

page 83 note 4 The few rare specimens include ones from the Langrove hoard from Penard, Gower (R. E. M. Wheeler, Prehistoric and Roman Wales, fig. 56) and Water Dean Bottom, Salisbury Plain (Ant. J., VI, p. 182).

page 83 note 5 Thus H. C. Broholm notes the socketed and barbed example from Per. IV of the Northern Bronze Age as a unique specimen (Danske Oldsager: Yngre Bronzealder, no. 16).

page 83 note 6 ibid., IX, p. 39.

page 83 note 7 PPS, XXIII, p. 202.

page 83 note 8 Saxton Pope, op. cit., pp. 47–8.

page 83 note 9 Wilts. Arch. Mag., XLVII, p. 654; PPS, VII, pp. 131–2.

page 83 note 10 PPS, XXVIII, p. 323.

page 83 note 11 ibid., 1, pp. 32–6.

page 83 note 12 Ant. J., XVI, pp. 2950.

page 83 note 13 B.M. Guide … Bronze Age (1920 edtn.), p. 50.

page 83 note 14 Broholm, H. C., Danske Oldsager: Aeldre Bronzealder, nos. 53–4 (Copenhagen, 1952).

page 84 note 1 See f.n. 5, page previous.

page 84 note 2 e.g. Althin, C.-A., Bronzezeitlichen Felszeichnungen von Skåne (Lund, 1945).

page 84 note 3 Niklasson, Nils, Göteborgs och Bohusläns Fornminesforenings Tidskr. (19461947), pp. 4571 (Göteborg, 1948).

page 84 note 4 For the Aspeberget engraving see Brøndsted, , Danmarks Oldtid, bd. II, pp. 136–7 (1958 edtn.); for Fossum, see Althin, op. cit. abb. 110.

page 84 note 5 Oldeberg, A., Fornvännen (1959), 4.

page 84 note 6 Torbrügge, W., Die Bronzezeit in Der Oberpfalz, p. 65 (1959).

page 84 note 7 Feustel, R., Bronzezeitliche Hügelgräberkultur im Gebiet von Schwarza (Südthuringen), 8, taf. xvii, 7; xxviii; xxx 4, 6 (Weimer, 1958).

page 84 note 8 Müller-Karpe, H., Beiträge zur chronologie der Urnenfelderzeit Nördlich und Südlick der Alpen, taf. 124 D. 13; 186 C. 9–10; 202 B. 13–14; 208, 7–9, 11–13 (Berlin, 1959); Die Vollgriffschwerter der Urnenfelderzeit aus Bayern, p. 91 (Münich, 1961).

page 84 note 9 Lorimer, H. L., Homer and the Monuments, pp. 276305 (London, 1950).

page 85 note 1 Müller-Karpe, H., ‘Zur spätbronzezeitlichen Bewaffnung in Mitteleuropa und Griechenland’, Germania (1962), pp. 255–86.

page 85 note 2 Kirk, G. S., The Songs of Homer, pp. 140 and 183 (Cambridge, 1962).

page 85 note 3 de Motes, I. Muluquer, ‘Pueblos Ibéricos’, Historia de España, T. 1, pt. 3a, p. 338, figs. 211, 195, 224 (Madrid, 1954).

page 85 note 4 Lorimer, H. L., Homer and the Monuments, pp. 299300.

page 85 note 5 Kleemann, O., Die dreiflügeligen Pfeilspitzen in Frankfreichen (Mainz, 1954).

page 85 note 6 Déchelette, (Manuel, 11, p. 235 (1927)) makes the point strongly, while quoting some of the far exceptions from central Europe.

page 85 note 7 Déchelette, , Manuel, III, ii, pp. 1106 and 1153–4 (1914).

page 85 note 8 Vouga, P., La Tène, table on pp. 2930; p. 55 (Leipzig, 1923).

page 85 note 9 Wheeler, R. E. M., Maiden Castle, Dorset, pp. 92–3.

page 85 note 10 Brailsford, J. W., Hod Hill, I, pp. 56 (B.M., 1962).

page 86 note 1 Rosenberg, G., Hjortspringfundet, pp. 4061 (Copenhagen, 1937).

page 86 note 2 Danmarks Oldtid, III (1960 edtn.), p. 160.

page 86 note 3 ibid., p. 190.

page 86 note 4 ibid., p. 221.

page 86 note 5 Preserved in the Leeuwarden Museum. Mr J. D. van der Waals informs me that the occupation of Heechterp began during the currency of streepband pottery, that is from c. 200 B.C. until early in the Roman Iron Age. Since wooden objects were not preserved in the upper levels, it is likely that the bow belongs to the Roman Iron Age.

page 88 note 1 Viscount Dillon in C. J. Longman and H. Walrond, op. cit., p. 124. I am greatly indebted to Mr William Reid of the Tower Armouries for his help in studying the originals.

page 88 note 2, 3 The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis (ed. Wright, Thomas), p. 370 (London, 1887).

page 88 note 4 Op. cit., p. 211.

page 88 note 5 Richmond, I. A., Papers of the British School at Rome, XIII (1935), pp. 140; Arch. Cambr., LXXXVII, pp. 1516.

page 88 note 6 Hencken, H. O' N., Proc. R.I.A., LIII, sect. C, pp. 1247. See especially pp. 88–98.

page 88 note 7 Hencken, H. O' N., Proc. R.I.A., XLIII, sect. C, pp. 103239. See especially pp. 138–9.

page 88 note 8 Brøndsted, J., The Vikings, pp. 114–15 (Penguin Book, 1960); Norlund, P., Trelleborg, pp. 137–9 (Copenhagen, 1948); Shetelig, H. and Falk, H., Scandinavian Archaeology, p. 390 (Oxford, 1937).

page 89 note 1 See Map 6 in Blair's, P. Hunter, An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge, 1956).

page 89 note 2 Wylie, W. M., Archaeologia, XXXVI (1955), pp. 129–60, pl. xiii, fig. 5.

page 89 note 3 Hillier, G., The History and Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, p. 30.

page 89 note 4 B.M. Guide to Anglo-Saxon Antiquities, pl. viii (1923).

page 89 note 5 The Bayeux Tapestry, no. 70 (Phaidon Press, New York, 1957).

page 92 note * Not shown on map.

page 97 note * Identifications by Miss M. J. P. Scannell of the Natural History Division, National Museum of Ireland.

page 98 note * Ryder, M. L., ‘Remains derived from skin’ in Brothwell, D. R. and Higgs, E. S. (Eds.) Science in Archaeology (1963). London: Thames and Hudson, pp. 529–44.

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