Published on February 7, 2012 by Amy
Part of a Native Americans livelihood for hundreds of years was the bow and arrows. Without the proper tools, they could not hunt for food or defend their land and people in war. You might think that the natives invented the bow and arrows. However, that is not the case. They did incorporate them as part of their arsenal for hunting and warfare.
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The early bow and arrows were made from the wood of various trees like cherry, ash, cedar, oak, hickory and practically any other wood available at the time. Sometimes, the rib bone of animals or even antlers and horns were used. For the string portion of the bows, fibers were harvested from local plants like milkweed and yucca. But because harvesting and preparing the plants took more time, tendons, stomach lining or rawhide from animals were primarily used instead.
The shaft of the arrows was primarily made from the woodnative to the region. Even hardy reed grass was used in the construction of bow and arrows. The Indians were resourceful in using what was available at the time. For the arrow tips, there was a wide variety of materials used. When metal was available, it was used for the tips in bow and arrows. Flint was a popular material as was animal bone, wood and stone. Each type of tip was constructed differently based on what was being hunted and killed. There were harpoon-like arrow tips for fishing and large blunted models for small game and birds. Finding these bow and arrows today would give you a good glimpse into what the natives lives were like back in the day.
The fletching or end of the arrow was often made from the feathers of eagles, turkeys and hawks. However, any other birds in the local area were also fair game. The fletching part of the bow and arrows makeup was to provide a balance and create a trajectory suitable for hitting a target.
The construction of the bow and arrows used by the Native Americans was clever. The physics involved depended a great deal on the length and weight of all the materials involved in the bow and arrows. While the natives may not have understood the concept of physics and trajectory, they definitely mastered the practical aspects of it.