The History of Archery

Early History Archery is one of the most ancient of sports. The bow and arrow were developed shortly after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden (4,000 B.C.). The use of bow and arrow for hunting and war is recorded frequently in ancient scripture and among all cultures. Bows of both wood and steel were used anciently. There probably wasn't much to brag about in early archery shoots. While an arrow can be launched by a bow with greater speed than any missile can be thrown, primitive bows are not very accurate. Western movies greatly exaggerated the skill of Native American bowmen; their hunting ability was based much more on skill and stealth in tracking than on marksmanship. There were archery contests in China more than 3,000 years ago. Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors often demonstrated their skill with the bow, and their soldiers probably had informal competitions of some sort, most likely linked with compulsory target practice. Modern History The modern sport of target archery originated in England during the 14th century, when the longbow became the English army's most important weapon, first at the Battle of Crecy (1346) and later at Poitiers and Agincourt. From 1330 to 1414, English kings banned all other sports because they diverted time from archery and a royal decree of 1363 required all Englishmen to practice archery on Sundays and holidays. Even after firearms made the bow and arrow virtually obsolete, late in the 16th century, archery remained popular in England. It was one of the skills required of a courtier, but commoners also continued to enjoy the sport. By about 1600, three kinds of shooting were practiced in England, and they still survive in some form. In butt shooting, the ancestor of Olympic target archery, bowmen aimed at targets mounted on earthen butts at ranges of 100 to 140 yards. (The butt was originally a wooden cask, and the first of the now familiar round archery targets was probably the cover of a butt.) Conduct of Competition The target used in major outdoor tournaments is 122 centimeters (48.8 inches)in diameter. The center ring, or bulls-eye, is 4.8 inches in diameter. There are nine concentric rings around it. Scoring ranges from 10 points for a hit on the bulls-eye to 1 point for a hit on the outer ring. Many different kinds of "rounds" have been used in competition. (A round is made up of a certain number of arrows shot from certain specified distances.) One of the original is the FITA and the Olympic rounds. The FITA round consists of 36 arrows shot from each of four distances: 30, 50, 70 and 90 meters for men; 30, 50, 60, and 70 meters for women. In the Olympic round, the range is 70 meters. In preliminary rounds, each archer shoots 72 arrows in 12 "ends" of six arrows each. Judges announce the score after each end. The top eight archers enter the semi-finals, where each shoots just 12 arrows, cutting the field to four. Each of the four finalists then shoots 12 arrows to determine the final placement, with the top three scorers taking medals. The U. S. national target championships uses an FITA round followed by an Olympic round. The FITA round determines seeding for the finals. In indoor competition, the ranges are shorter and targets are therefore smaller. The target is 60 centimeters (about 24 1/2 inches) in diameter for the 25-meter round and 40 centimeters in diameter for the 18-meter round. Archers shoot 60 arrows in both rounds. In clout shooting, the target was a piece of canvas, about 18 inches across, with a wooden peg in its center. Arrows are shot high into the air to descend on the target, which lies on the ground rather than being upright. Roving, the predecessor of modern field archery, grew out of casual hunting with bow and arrow. Archers are presented with targets of various shapes and sizes, simulating small animals, and they shoot at unknown ranges over rough ground, not a prepared course. Like other sports and pastimes, archery was prohibited in England when the Puritans took over under Cromwell, but it came back after the Restoration. The Ancient Scorton Arrow Contest, the first recorded formal competition, was held in 1673. Many archery societies were organized in the 18th century, culminating in the Royal Toxopholite Society, formed under the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1787. ("Toxopholite" is from the Greek for "bow lover.") The society became the Grand National Archery Association in 1844, when the first English national championship was held. Field Archery Field archery--Although it's based on the old English sport of roving, modern field archery originated in the United States and has its own national governing body, the National Field Archery Association, organized in 1939. The standard field archery round consists of 28 targets, the largest of them 24 inches in diameter. Each target has a white inner ring worth 5 points and a black outer ring worth 3 points. Ranges vary with the size of the target; the longest is 80 yards in the U. S., 60 meters (about 66 yards) in international competition. An archer gets four shots at each target, sometimes from various ranges. In some field archery competition, targets are shaped to look like animals. Other Types of Competition Target archery is a relatively familiar sport at summer camps and in colleges, but there are also less familiar forms of competitive archery: Flight archery--This type of competition, based entirely on distance, is conducted in several classes based on the "weight" of the bow used, which is actually the number of pounds of force required to pull the string back 28 inches. Clout shooting--The clout is a 30-inch target with a 4-inch center spot. It's set in the ground at a 45-degree angle and the surrounding ground is marked with five concentric circles at intervals of 1 yard. Scoring ranges from 6 points for a hit on the clout to 1 point for a hit on the outer circle. The usual ranges are 180 yards for men, 120 yards for women.

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