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History of Archery Archery is one of the oldest arts still practiced. From its early development in ancient times until the 1500s, the bow was man’s constant companion and has been the most widely used of all weapons during recorded history. Archery ranks in importance as a cultural advance with the development of speech and the art of making fire, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The use of the bow and arrow first appears in Egyptian artworks and is reported in folklore from 5,500 B.C., although its invention probably dates back to the Stone Age. English literature honors the longbow for famous victories in the battles of Crecy, Aigincourt and Poitiers. In fact, the bow was the principal weapon of the national defense in England for centuries. Ghengis Khan’s Mongol hordes conquered much of the known world by employing short, powerful bows. For the Native Americans, the bow was both a means of subsistence and existence before and during the days of English and later American colonization. Many British monarchs, including Queen Victoria, practiced archery. Henry VIII gained considerable renown as a bowman; organized competitions in archery for sport, began during his reign. He helped found the first "club", the Fraternity of St. George, in 1537. As the then - Prince of Wales in 1787, King George IV established the "prince’s reckoning" (values for various target rings of 9, 7, 5, 3, 1 point) and the Royal Toxopholite (Greek for "bow lover") Society was formed. Englishmen of lower class were required to keep and develop skills with the bow for national defense. Poachers were sometimes given a choice of becoming a King’s archer or being hung by their own bowstring for poaching the King’s deer. One of these groups is credited for winning a key battle in which 4,000 of the enemy were killed by the archers with a loss of only 14 Englishmen. English archers become well known for their skill, just as Americans became known for their rifle marksmanship. The first organized competition in archery was held at Finsbury, England in 1583 and included 3,000 participants. The first international competitions in archery began with Anglo-French matches around 1900 featuring both target and flight distance shooting. In the United States, archery was practiced almost entirely by Native Americans until 1828 when the United Bowmen of Philadelphia was founded by Titian Ramsey Peale. Peale studied Plains Indians as an artist, he learned archery from them and became enthusiastic about the sport and started the club with friends. The club disbanded in 1859, but archery interest was revived after the Civil War by Maurice and Will Thompson. Since they weren’t allowed to own firearms because they were confederate soldiers, they took up the bow and arrow in Florida. In 1878 Maurice wrote The Witchery of Archery, which inspired more than twenty archery clubs to form that year. It was followed in 1927 by Hunting with the Bow and Arrow by Saxton Pope, a physician who attended to Ishi, the lone remaining Yana Indian found in California in 1911. Ishi taught Pope to make and use the bow and arrow for the taking of game. Pope and his partner, Arthur Young promoted the sport of archery hunting. The Pope and Young Club, named after these two, is today the official record keeping body for the sport of archery hunting world wide. Archery began a tremendous growth in period following WW2. Particularly important people included two avid hunters, Howard Hill and Fred Bear. Howard Hill was a tremendous shot with the bow and arrow. He actually performed the feats in movies that today are done by computer enhancements. He is the archer who performed the stunts for the original Robin Hood movie starring Errol Flynn. Fred Bear, also an accomplished game shot, established a dominate archery company that bears his name today. He also was a great promoter of archery in general. The development of equipment continued at a great pace as modern materials and manufacturing techniques resulted in tremendous new bows and arrows. The bows went from the long bow type made solely of wood to recurve bows made of wood and laminated fiberglass, to metal riser and takedown limbs, to the development of the compound bow in 1966. This development in the 1960’s was by a Missourian named Allen. This was the major development that has reshaped modern archery. The arrow changed from wood to aluminum, fiberglass, carbon, and graphite and combinations of these. The development or use of these materials resulted in straighter, stronger, and faster arrows. In is now believed that the bow and arrow have changed more since World War II than it had in all of its previous history. Today, archery is practiced around the world. As an Olympic sport, it has been practiced on and off since 1900. Although the technology has changed the equipment and the rules have changed somewhat over the years, the sport of archery has been essentially the same. An arrow shot from a string, getting its force from a bow, aimed by a practiced archer with a steady hand and a keen eye. It likely will continue in use for the foreseeable future.
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