Archery: A Look Back at the Rich History of this Sport

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics is fast approaching, and one of the sports that is heavily anticipated by both fans and athletes is Archery. Before the preparation for the Archery Olympics start, let’s take a look back at its history and how it became the sport that we all love and enjoy now.


Historical Timeline of Archery

Our history won’t be complete without Archery in it. Many civilizations have relied a lot on it to survive during ancient times. It was believed the archery had been used for hunting since the early and middle periods of the Stone Age.

In the Paleolithic Age or most commonly known as the Old Stone age, arrowheads were already found in North Africa which is believed to have been used in 90,000 BC.

Arrowheads with origins from 27,000 BC were also found in ancient sites in China. It was also in the Stone Age (20,000 BC) when drawing in caves for bows and arrows were found in Valltorta Gorge, Spain.

Bows and arrows remained as primary tools used for hunting until the Bronze age (3,500 BC) where Egyptians started to use them as weapons during the war. During the Middle Ages, armies employ archers as cheaper alternatives to soldiers with swords and armor. Archery was preferred over gunpowder weapons because of its accuracy and firing speed until the 16th century when advanced firearms were used by Europe in battles.

After the decline of archery in warfare, it has become a popular recreational activity for British people between 1780 to 1840. In the 19th century, archery slowly transitioned from a recreational activity to a sport. The first Grand National Archery Society meeting was conducted in New York in 1844 to create the rules and guidelines for this sport. Since then, competitive archery has developed into the sport that we are all familiar with.

Aside from the rich history of archery as a practice, the bow which is the primary tool used for this sport has also evolved through the years. Self-bows made from a single material of wood and composite bows made from wood and horns were first developed for hunting. In the Middle Ages, use of longbows became popular because of the Battle of Agincourt wherein the army Henry V of England with 6,000 men won over the French army with 36,000 men.

Recurve bows were developed next which is the only bow type recognized and allowed in Olympics. The latest bow type that was designed only 40 years ago was the compound bows pulleys are used in drawing the bow.

Archery Used for Hunting

Hunting has been the earliest use and purpose of archery. In the prehistoric times, people used bows made of elm and arrows made of flint stones with shafts of pine as their weapon. Although archery has been adopted as a practice for warfare in 3,000 BC by Egyptians and for recreational activities in modern times, its main function of hunting remains evident until today.

The current practice of hunter today is referred to as “bow hunting” which allows people to use bows and arrows in hunting down preys instead of firearms. This practice has remained legal in many countries including the US. It generally requires hunters to kill in a humane way by ensuring a short distance between hunter and prey.

In bowhunting, compound bows are generally used since it allows users to aim more accurately and fire at a longer distance compared to other bow types. Compound bows are also easier to use compared to recurve bows and longbows.

Aside from bow hunting, 3D archery has been recently introduced to hunters as a means of practicing their skills. In this type of archery, life-size animal models are positioned to mimic scenarios in the wild and archers will aim to shoot at them.

Archery as a Sport

Aside from hunting, archery was introduced as a sport starting the 19th century. Tournaments like the World Cups and World Championships has since then introduced archery as part of its events. Speaking of tournaments, the inclusion of Archery in the Olympics has been the main highlight of this sport.

It was in the 1900 Olympic Games that archery was introduced. In the following 3 games, archery was still included before taking a 52-year break from the Olympics due to its lack of rules and guidelines. It was in 1972 games that archery was re-introduced and has been a mainstay since then.

Archery has also been a big part of the Paralympics games starting on its first appearance in 1960. It offers two events in the competition which is the men’s and women’s individual competition. It has also included mixed team competition in the last 2016 Rio games.

Amazing Facts in Archery History that You Didn’t Know About

if you have enjoyed going through the historical timelines for archery, I’ve also listed below seven facts about this sport that will help you gain more knowledge and expertise in archery.

• The recurve bow which is the only type of bow allowed in the Olympics had its origin in 3,500 BC. Despite the old origin, the design of the recurve bow was made to look hi-tech by using materials like fiberglass and carbon instead of wood. Stabilizers and sighting materials were also included to help athletes in aiming the arrow.

• In Scotland, golf was banned as a sport in 1457 because according to King James II, this sport is a distraction to men who should be training with bows and arrows.

• Roger Ascham was the first person to write an English book about archery in 1545 which is titled “Toxophilus.” It came from the word Toxophilite which refers to experts in the field of archery. It originated from the Greek word which means lover of bows and arrows.

• Archery is the national sport in Bhutan. It has been declared since 1971, and nearly all villages in this country have an archery range.

• In Olympics, archery is among the first sports that allowed women to participate. During the second run of Olympic Archery in 1904, it already introduced the Women Event. Archery is even ahead than tennis and figures skating in allowing female players in the Olympics.

• During the first Olympic game with archery in 1900, players who participated in the popinjay competition shot arrows at a “bird.” This bird, however, is not a live animal like the pigeons used in the shooting events. This is actually just a plastic tube with feathers, and it is placed on top of a pole.

• There are four events that are participated by archers in the previous Olympic games namely the Men’s Individual, Women’s Individual, Men’s Team and Women’s Team. In the upcoming 2020 Olympics, a new event format will be introduced which is the Mixed Team Event. Here, one woman and one man from the same nation will compete in a set system similar to the team event.

Rules of Archery

For competitive archery, there are several rules that have been established by different governing bodies to guide athletes in competition. The basic rules that must be followed include:

• Athletes should follow the official guidelines on the equipment allowed in competition with a focus on having no equipment or accessories that will provide an unfair advantage to users. In the Olympics, only recurve bows are allowed compared to other world tournaments wherein compound bows are accepted.

• Players can only shoot an end of three arrows within two minutes and an end of six arrows within four minutes. In the Ranking Round of the Olympics, only 40 seconds is given to players to shoot each of the 72 arrows provided.

• Penalty of point deduction will be given to archers that raised their bow before the signal to start is given in a competition.

• Re-shot of arrows in a competition is not allowed unless players drop it or misfire it. The main rule here is that athletes can re-shoot it only if they can reach it without crossing the shooting line.

• If the arrow hits the target but bounces back or drops off, the point will be given based on the mark left on the target provided that it can be identified.

• For damaged equipment, athletes can appeal to judges for replacement and time allowances may be given depending on the scenario.

Famous Archers in History

Archery has become one of the most popular sports, and people that are expert in this sport are remembered whether they are actual athletes, part of a legend or a fictional character. Here are some of the famous archers of all time:

• Robin Hood – a fictional character from English legends that uses archery as a method to steal from wealthy people to provide for the poor.

• Matt Stutzman – a US Paralympian without arms and the holder of the Guinness World Record for longest shot by hitting the target that was 210 meters away

• Neroli Fairhall – first athlete in a wheelchair to compete in the regular Olympics in 1984

• Minamoto no Tametomo – a samurai from Hōgen Rebellion of 1156. Legends consider him as a man that sunk a Taira ship with a single arrow

• Hubert Van Innis – most decorated archer in Olympic history with 6 Gold medals and three silver medals

• Kim Woojin – Guinness World Record holder for the highest score in the Olympic Ranking Round with a score of 700/720 points

• Lieutenant Colonel Jack Churchill – a British soldier in the 2nd World War that gave a signal to attack enemies by shooting the enemy sergeant with an arrow

• Fred Bear – American bowhunter that is considered a pioneer in bow hunting

• Artemis – Greek goddess for hunting which is depicted as a goddess with bows and arrows

• Katniss Everdeen – the protagonist in the movie, Hunger Games, and credited for increasing popularity in the modern times

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