Bows and arrows

There were different types of bows, varying from the simplest and thus cheapest to make, to the very elaborate and expensive that were preciously guarded and taken care of.

The easiest to make were the longbows. Their bow stave was entirely made of yew, ash, elm, and sometimes of other woods. Silk, flax, or hemp were used for the string. The longest shooting distance for this bow was 300 meters (328 yd) if the archer was positioned at the top of a wall or a hill and was shooting down. In a straight shot, the arrow could reach from 30 to 50 meters (32 to 54 yd).

More expensive and difficult to make were the composite bows. Generally, their bow staves contained different materials glued together. For instance, the surface of the bow limbs facing outwards from the archer needed to be quite elastic, so it was often made of leather, sinew, or other materials with similar characteristics. But the inner material of the bow limbs had to bear the compression, which is why it was made of wood and bone.
An arrow loosened from a composite bow could cover twice the distance of one from a longbow. The more powerful the bow was, the heavier were the arrows loosened with it.

Often composite bows were curvedhaving a stiff element on the limb end enabled them to shorten the bow’s size while increasing the energy that it was transmitting to the arrow.

When the bow was not used, the string was often removed and kept separately.


In order to kill or wound, an arrow had to be quite heavy. For that reason, arrowheads made of bone were gradually replaced by metallic ones.

The arrowheads were removable. They were fixed on flexible wooden shafts with fletching at the opposite end. The fletching was generally made of three goose feathers and had a double purpose: to balance the heavy head, and to reduce the spinning of the arrow during flight.

The hardest part to make was the shaft and fletching; that’s where the removable arrowheads came in handythe archer could use the shaft again, removing it while leaving the arrowhead in the wound.