Ishi (c.1914)

HUNTING with the BOW & ARROW (Saxton Pope)

The bow, Ishi called man-nee. It was a short, flat piece of mountain juniper backed with sinew. The length was forty-two inches, or, as he measured it, from the horizontally extended hand to the opposite hip. …

The wood was obtained by splitting a limb from a tree and utilizing the outer layers, including the sap wood. By scraping and rubbing on sandstone, he shaped and finished it. The recurved tips of the bow he made by bending the wood backward over a heated stone. Held in shape by cords and binding to another piece of wood, he let his bow season in a dark, dry place. Here it remained from a few months to years, according to his needs. After being seasoned he backed it with sinew. First he made a glue by boiling salmon skin and applying it to the roughened back of the bow. When it was dry he laid on long strips of deer sinew obtained from the leg tendons. By chewing these tendons and separating their fibers, they became soft and adhesive. Carefully overlapping the ends of the numerous fibers he covered the entire back very thickly. At the nocks he surrounded the wood completely and added a circular binding about the bow.

In his native state he seems never to have greased his bow nor protected it from moisture, except by his bow case, which was made of the skin from a cougar’s tail. …

The bowstring he made of the finer tendons from the deer’s shank. These he chewed until soft, then twisted them tightly into a cord having a permanent loop at one end and a buckskin strand at the other. While wet the string was tied between two twigs and rubbed smooth with spittle. …

Drawn to the full length of an arrow, which was about twenty-six inches, exclusive of the foreshaft, his bow bent in a perfect arc slightly flattened at the handle. Its pull was about forty-five pounds, and it could shoot an arrow about two hundred yards.


Alberta Traditional Bowhunters Association

Archery Canada

Bow Making Links

How archery was vital to the survival of early humans

How San hunters use beetles to poison their arrows

Making basic SCA legal Arrows for the tyro (RJ Bachner)

Society for the Promotion of Traditional Archery

Thinking a Bow-and-arrow Set:  Cognitive Implications of Middle Stone Age Bow and Stone-tipped Arrow Technology

Topics on Archery Mechanics

Traditional Bowyers Bible (Volume 2)

World Archery Federation

An Exact rRplica of an Eastern Scythian Bow, Found inYanghai (Xinjang, China) and described in detail by Stephen Selby at ATARN.  Scythians were the tribes roaming Central Asia in antiquity – in the western parts the bows were short and possibly made only of laminated wood, in the east the bows were longer and made of wood, horn and sinew. The most curious characteristic of these bows was the complicated construction and the section of the limbs, where in the bending parts the width of the bow was less than the thickness. The bows were made on the base of an ibex horn: each limb has a vertical slat in the core, laminated with wood at both sides, plus a horn plate on the belly. The belly plate is formed into distinct ridge. Bows were sinew-backed as usual.

This particular specimen is about 52 inches long ntn. … The bow came at 115-120lb at 28 inches of draw, although arrows found with the [original] bow were up to 32 inches.