Friday, January 18, 2008

Turkish Bow

2nd Bow, Turkish bow
Ten things 2007 - a class with Michael Shanks about design

Turkish bow

The design and material of the bow change to suit its archer. One of such bow is composite bow. By definition, composite bow is bow made of more than one material. A Mamluk bow manuscript describes one such bow,
“The best bow should be composed of four substances: wood, horn, glue and sinew. There is a wonderful wisdom in this. That wisdom is this: Human beings consist of four substances: bone, sinew, blood and flesh. The composite bow also consists of those four substances. The wood corresponds to bone in man. The horn corresponds to the flesh in man. The sinew is like the sinew of man. The glue is like the blood of man.”
The passage personifies the bow. The bow is not just a tool but a projection of its user. The drawing method of Turkish archer is quite different from modern archery. Instead of using index, middle and ring finger, Turkish archer uses his thumb to draw the bow which is drawn to the ear lobe. According to the manuscript, “The limit of the correct draw should reach the lobe of the ear. It shouldnot be less than that. If it is, it is a mistake.” This method of drawing is also used by the Mongols and the Huns. This drawing method is effective for horse archery because the archer can draw and hold the rein at the same time.
Composite bow is very flexible and compact. This makes it easier to carry on horseback. A picture is worth a thousand words. Look at the picture below.
- A lot of materials for make a Turkish bow ...>>>

Notice how short the bow is compares to archer's draw length. Also notice rein in archer's right hand. Also notice the horse at full gallop. The archer reaches his full draw and ready to release when the horse is in mid-air. One of the challenges of doing horse archery is that there is no stable platform for archer. The solution is to release the arrow when the horse is motionless when all four of its legs are in the air. This maneuverability allowed horse archer to shoot while moving without losing accuracy.
Another interesting thing about Turkish archers is the existence of the manuscript on archery itself. The author of the manuscript explicitly refered to other manuscript which he used as a reference:
"Be it known to you that the reason for composing this treatise was that (a turkish name, probably a sultan) summoned me, this weak and miserable one. He placed several books on archery written in Arabic before me, and he requested from me ... that I write a book on archery in Turkish using these and other books."
The existence of many books on archery indicates a special status of archery in medieval middle east. The manuscript's content is pretty much a coaching and how-to manual on archery. For my research, I found only two or three books in Green library that are meant to be a guide book on archery like the manuscript. Furthermore, it indicates a more important thing about Turkish archers: they were literate or else the books would be useless. The practice of archery must have been common among middle eastern medieval warriors.
A few interesting excerpt:
"Know and be aware that God,..., made archery and raising horses with the intention to fight a farz (religious obligation). As God,...has stated in Koran..."Make ready for them whatever force and strings of horses you can." "
"The Apostle of God said: "Whoever shoots an arrow in the way of God...God will give (him) a reward amounting to what is granted for freeing a slave,...the Prophet said:"He who learned archery and then gave it up, verily he disobeyed me."...The Apostle of God said:" he who learns archery and then gives it up and no longer shoots arrows is not one of us."
Sources :
-Oztopcu, Kurtulus "A 14th Century Archery Treatise in Mamluk-Kipchak"
-Latham and Paterson "Saracen Archery"
-picture is from
-Bow, Archer and Archery

1 comment:

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