In any case, there are curious areas of Beaker bowmanship that diverge from normalcy and point to three possible different bow constructions. It is commonly believed that composite bows enter the historical record late from the Asian steppe. Le Quellec challenges this opinion, at least offers a more complicated picture of its emergence.
|Camouflaged Archer from Tassili n'Ajjer.|
But first, a little background.
I commented on a paper by Jan Apel [here], who further defined the origins of the Western European Copper Age lithic industry. Although the majority Beaker points were hollow-bases, I chose to focus on the barb-and-tang, which has a simpler diagnostic of the directionality of North African lithics; for that time period, almost uniquely so (late 4th millenium). Both were very common and ancient in the North African steppe and both appear sometimes in the grave of a single individual. (notice the barbed, symmetrical projectile in the warrior above)
I've also commented on the discovery of a hemp bowstring that was partially preserved over a Palmela Point [here] at Perdigoes [here]. Hemp takes us to varsity-level archery. More importantly, the uniformity of the string can tell us how the bow was likely strung which tells us about the bow.
If Andrew Sherratt's views stand, then corded pottery in Europe and Africa may have been impressed with hemp bowstring.
In Sherratt's view, hemp was possibly used as a psychoactive additive within beaker beverages, which is entirely possible in the pre-hopped beer days. I tend to believe that it was rather acacia [here] and that the beaker herringbone motif is actually stylized acacia, with acacia continuing for a while on its own. (I think a good argument can be made for this and some appear intermediate, to me at least)
So on to Jean-Lois Le Quellec who has many interesting papers on North Africa. He has made a compelling case that within the Western Desert of Egypt, Southern Libya and Algeria (and possibly Morocco) that a much more ancient history of composite or laminated bows in this region. At least a compounded bow, and probably composite, is clearly visible in the bovid rock art which is reasonably well dated.
Bovid rock art of the Sahara has really three basic genres. (1) guys walking around with bows
(2) people with cows, milking cows, or just cows (3) people bathing or humping. The importance of archery for these people is quite evident, by it presence, but also by their bow's sophistication.
Le Quellec makes some observations concerning aspects of these bows that can be used when looking at those of Europe. One is the position and style of the bracer, which is sometimes depicted. This relief of Thutmosis IV (later) shows a bracer that is concentrated over the radial bone instead of the wrist or the fore-muscle. You'll notice Thutmosis IV is also holding his bow vertically, not canted like a longbow.
I commented how the classes of Beaker bracers can tell us how bows were held, which tells us about the types of bows they used. [here]
Another aspect that Le Quellec mentions is the parity of certain projectiles, historically, with certain types of bows.
He notes (translated)
"...according to Edward Morse's classification, [the composite bow] one of the most widespread in the world most often uses arrows with a slotted shank."We know from the Saharan pastoralist lithic industry that the projectiles we see are the types we could expect to be used with the composite or compounded bow. About 5,000 years ago we see projectiles and bracers begin to spread into Western Europe via Iberia.
A few quick notes. The yew longbow was from the Neolithic to the invention of gun powder the preferred bow of Western Europe. The reason is simply the native yew which makes an incredibly powerful but simple bow. So composites, while present, never really replace longbows in the facade.
Also, Beaker bracers still present a problem. They are overkill. I've thought that their stone weight may have absorbed release shock. The appearance of over-extension and shock injuries in the left arm of LN to Bronze Age men, will be my next topic.
Arcs et bracelets d'archers au Sahara et en Égypte, avec une nouvelle proposition de lecture des "nasses" sahariennes. CEMAf - Centre d'Etudes des Mondes Africains, Jean-Loïc Le Quellec 2011 [Link]
Abstract : The question of the composite bow in the Sahara is again examined, without it being possible to be sure of its presence. The existence of laminated bows is nevertheless possible, and some paintings show the use of archers' wrist-guards. The examination of the Egyptian archers' wrist-guards makes it possible to think that it is perhaps these objects that are represented by the famous Tazina style "traps".