Main article: History of archery
The bow and arrow seems to have been invented in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods. The oldest signs of its use in Europe come from the Stellmoor (de) in the Ahrensburg valley (de) north of Hamburg, Germany and dates from the late Paleolithic, about 10,000–9000 BC. The arrows were made of pine and consisted of a mainshaft and a 15–20 centimetres (5.9–7.9 inches) long fore shaft with a flint point. There are no definite earlier bows; previous pointed shafts are known, but may have been launched by spear-throwers rather than bows. The oldest bows known so far comes from the Holmegård swamp in Denmark. Bows eventually replaced the spear-thrower as the predominant means for launching shafted projectiles, on every continent except Australasia, though spear-throwers persisted alongside the bow in parts of the Americas, notably Mexico and among the Inuit.
Bows and arrows have been present in Egyptian culture since its predynastic origins. In the Levant, artifacts that could be arrow-shaft straighteners are known from the Natufian culture, (c. 10,800–8,300 BC) onwards. The Khiamian and PPN A shouldered Khiam-points may well be arrowheads.
Classical civilizations, notably the Assyrians, Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Parthians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese fielded large numbers of archers in their armies. Akkadians were the first to use composite bows in war according to the victory stele of Naram-Sin of Akkad. Egyptians used composite bows for warfare already from the 16th Century BC while the Bronze Age Aegean Cultures were able to deploy a number of state-owned specialised bowmakers for warfare and hunting purposes already from the 15th century BC. The Welsh longbow proved its worth for the first time in Continental warfare at the Battle of Crécy. In the Americas archery was widespread at European contact.
Archery was highly developed in Asia. The Sanskrit term for archery, dhanurveda, came to refer to martial arts in general. In East Asia, Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea was well known for its regiments of exceptionally skilled archers.
Main article: Mounted archery
Hunting for flying birds from the back of a galloping horse was considered the top category of archery. The favorite hobby of Prince Maximilian, engraved by Dürer
Central Asian tribesmen (after the domestication of the horse) and American Plains Indians (after gaining access to horses) became extremely adept at archery on horseback. Lightly armoured, but highly mobile archers were excellently suited to warfare in the Central Asian steppes, and they formed a large part of armies that repeatedly conquered large areas of Eurasia. Shorter bows are more suited to use on horseback, and the composite bow enabled mounted archers to use powerful weapons. Empires throughout the Eurasian landmass often strongly associated their respective "barbarian" counterparts with the usage of the bow and arrow, to the point where powerful states like the Han Dynasty referred to their neighbours, the Xiong-nu, as "Those Who Draw the Bow". For example, Xiong-nu mounted bowmen made them more than a match for the Han military, and their threat was at least partially responsible for Chinese expansion into the Ordos region, to create a stronger, more powerful buffer zone against them. It is possible that "barbarian" peoples were responsible for introducing archery or certain types of bows to their "civilized" counterparts—the Xiong-nu and the Han being one example. Similarly, short bows seem to have been introduced to Japan by northeast Asian groups.
Decline of archery
The development of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare, although efforts were sometimes made to preserve archery practice. In England and Wales, for example, the government tried to enforce practice with the longbow until the end of the 16th century. This was because it was recognised that the bow had been instrumental to military success during the Hundred Years' War. Despite the high social status, ongoing utility, and widespread pleasure of archery in Armenia, China, Egypt, England and Wales, America, India, Japan, Korea, Turkey and elsewhere, almost every culture that gained access to even early firearms used them widely, to the neglect of archery. Early firearms were inferior in rate-of-fire, and were very sensitive to wet weather. However, they had longer effective range and were tactically superior in the common situation of soldiers shooting at each other from behind obstructions. They also required significantly less training to use properly, in particular penetrating steel armour without any need to develop special musculature. Armies equipped with guns could thus provide superior firepower, and highly trained archers became obsolete on the battlefield. However, the bow and arrow is still an effective weapon, and archers have seen action in the 21st century. Traditional archery remains in use for sport, and for hunting in many areas.