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Levente M.




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Location: Hungary
Posts: 35
PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 3:48 am    Post subject: Hornbows in Europe 800-1500?         Reply with quote

My question is, were horn bows used in (mainly Western) Europe in the middle ages? If so, in what period, where, by whom and how (infantry or cavalry)?
I know all sorts of people used them in the Hungarian Kingdom throughout the period: Hungarians, Cumans, Székelys etc. They were all light cavalry, horse archers.
I have seen some archers with hornbow-looking bows in the Morgan Bible, and a 14th century Italian miniature, used by western looking people. I know this alone doesn't mean anything.
So any ideas? Happy Speculation is also welcome.
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Henrik Zoltan Toth




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Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 3:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Reflexbogen 71-113. pp, publisher: Angelika Hörnig.

You can find it on google books. Happy
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David Hohl




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Location: Oregon
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PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 4:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

https://www.academia.edu/1429936/Eastern_archery_in_Birka_s_Garrison
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Harri Kyllönen




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Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Tue 19 May, 2015 6:56 am    Post subject: Re: Hornbows in Europe 800-1500?         Reply with quote

The uralic (finno-ugric) two-wood recurve bow was used in Northern Europe (there are finds from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway). It has a composite structure (two different woods glued together, bark wrapping, siyah's...) but it doesn't normally have horn parts.
It is very similar in function and looks to hornbows and is related to it. Most noticeable difference is that the two-wood bow is much longer and less recurved.
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Levente M.




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Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Wed 20 May, 2015 2:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all!

Zoltán (vagy Henrik?), I'll have to refresh my German for that. Big Grin

I read the Birka paper, though I thought most agreed,.that the items described belonged to mercenaries from the East?

Didn't know about the two-wood bows. Do you have any more info on those?
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Harri Kyllönen




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Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 21 May, 2015 7:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Levente M. wrote:
Didn't know about the two-wood bows. Do you have any more info on those?


Ragnar Insulander has written a good article on them: http://www.freebirdarchery.com/images/twowoodbow.pdf

Here's a detail picture of a Novgorodian two-wood bow from medieval times. The design itself is much older than that (bronze age and perhaps even neolithic). It's spread was from Siberia to Scandinavia. It's possibly the predecessor of the hornbow since it's similarly built and complex but lacks strengthening horn parts.



In pictures it could easily be confused for a hornbow. Here's a Sami two-wood bow (17th century):

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David Hohl




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Location: Oregon
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PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2015 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Makes sense that Scandinavia would have their own version; the horn bow certainly made it through Russia, particularly with the Mongols, but the Huns definitely had them, and they made it as far as Germany. If I was to guess, I'd say that the traditional compsite bow was certainly brought into Europe, repeatedly by many different groups, though it apparently only caught on in a limited fashion.

Since we have reliable evidence that the Huns, and the Hungarians, and the Mongols definitely used this bow, and all of them conquered, traded with, or fought with Western Europe and Russia from the fifth century right through to the 19th. There's no evidence that composite bows were manufactured in Europe, but I'm sure the bows made it through either trade or conquest, as well as people from the cultures mentioned traveling and working in Europe.

One explanation for the bow never catching on in Europe is that a horn and sinew bow is fairly tricky to store and use, and is very sensitive to humidity. For someone not brought up with the tradition of how to care for this technology, the superior performance could have been outweighed by fiddly-ness and unfamiliarity.
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Baard H




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Location: Norway
Posts: 48
PostPosted: Sat 23 May, 2015 4:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
One explanation for the bow never catching on in Europe is that a horn and sinew bow is fairly tricky to store and use, and is very sensitive to humidity. For someone not brought up with the tradition of how to care for this technology, the superior performance could have been outweighed by fiddly-ness and unfamiliarity.


Is it really superior though?
Also, one thing the eastern steppes and northern Scandinavia has in common is a lack of good bow-wood. The composite nature of the bows used in these areas isn't due to choice but pure necessity. So when (if) western bow-makers and archers where faced with a choice of either making a good bow designed for their use relatively easily from a single bow-stave or make a good, complex bow designed for someone else's use from a multitude of different materials, it isn't really that strange they did not adopt it.

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mćki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kemr,
öl, er drukkit er.
-Hávamál, vísa 81
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Harri Kyllönen




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Location: Finland
Posts: 41
PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 9:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Scythians and the Greek used composite bows well before the Huns in Europe. Cretan composite bow archers were succesful merrcenaries even in Alexanders time. Also Romans are well known to have used composite bows everywhere in the Empire. There are Roman composite bow finds from England.

In medieval times composite bows were popular in Sicily which was for a time under muslim rule.
But the crossbow and longbow were just more popular. European crossbow prods were often composite so the technology was known and used.
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