Bows and arrows

There were different types of bows varying from the simplest to make and thus cheapest ones to 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 hard to make were the composite bows. Generally, their bow stave contained different materials glued together. For instance, the surface of the bow limbs facing outwards from the archer needed to be most elastic, so it was often made of leather, sinew or other materials with similar characteristics. The inward surface of the bow limbs had to bear the compression. For this reason, it was made of wood and bone.
An arrow loosened from a composite bow could cover twice the distance that the one from a longbow. The more powerful the bow was, the heavier were the arrows loosened with it.

Often composite bows were curved – having a stiff element on the limb end allowed to shorten the bow’s size while increasing the energy 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 purpose, the arrowheads made of bone were gradually replaced by the 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 3 goose feathers and had a double purpose: to balance the heavy head and to reduce the spinning of the arrow during the flight.

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