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Bow and arrow in the Americas

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  • Bow and arrow in the Americas

    Ill start by saying its my personal belief the bow and arrow came across from Beringia with the first peoples (dogs too). The climate in the pleistocene was not conducive to trees that make good bow wood, therefore its my belief they were made from fir/pine and tipped only with wood, antler or bone points (antler harpoons I think most likely). These bows would have had a very low draw weight and wouldn't last very long in use. They would be far superior to atlatl and dart in getting smaller fish and small game. As we see the start of the big game hunters i.e clovis/folsom the bow was relegated to woman and children (the folks who put dinner on the table most days IMHO). As we move into the Holocene we see an increase in woodworking as the climate became more suited to deciduous trees, but the cultural strings attached, pun intended, would have remained, its a woman tool. We see all the technology needed to produce a bow demonstrated in other items and a dart point and foreshaft can absolutely be put on the end of an arrow shaft and shot just fine, low poundage bow does not care. We see some mini dart points here and there starting just after clovis with fresh made midland points only smaller with impact damage, not too small to be dart points but very much on the small side. This has been an obsession of mine for some time, finding evidence is the hard part. We see arrow points in South America 1500 years before we see them in North America but they continued to use the atlatl for hunting anything larger then a guinea pig.
    Any input thoughts or suggestion on this would be greatly appreciated

  • #2
    "finding evidence is the hard part" There is a reason that's so.
    Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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    • TJdave
      TJdave commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes I have read pretty much anything I can find on it and can't find a sane person who agrees with me lol, but the the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. We have absolutely no proof atlatls were around till middle holocene yet its commonly accepted they came with the first peoples.

  • #3
    Sinew backed / wrapped made a strong bow cedar was common along the west coast .

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    • #4
      Where did you hear that the bow and arrow were relegated to women and children? And that a bow was a woman's tool? We have so very little knowledge of the culture and community during any period before contact.

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      • TJdave
        TJdave commented
        Editing a comment
        Well to honest its the only logical way I can link no evidence of even bison killed with bow and arrow from paleo to woodland, and we do see a cultural revolution at the start of woodland.

      • utilized flake
        utilized flake commented
        Editing a comment
        I'd still be interested in a source for the claims...unless it's speculation.

      • TJdave
        TJdave commented
        Editing a comment
        Oh, no its pure speculation on my part. Im taking the bits of information and fitting them into my idea, they are plausible but in no way scientific

    • #5
      I wouldn’t want to shoot a mammoth with an arrow would rather fling a heavy spear or throw a net or bolo it’s legs then stab it to death

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      • #6
        Agree 100% and thats a very big part of my theory. What we see from your neck of the woods especially shows us big game hunting was hugely important, but not 24/7. We see turtles, snakes frogs and that kind of stuff being consumed at the same time we see foxes coons coyotes and deer, in the same hearth. You don't gather the little stuff and get coyotes at the same time or in the same way. At times of the year, I think late spring-early summer, you make camp in the lowland creak bottoms. The wife and kids are gathering turtles and arrowroot and things like that while dad and the guys are running trap lines and shooting deer opportunistically while running those trap lines. The men have atlatls and darts, the boys from around 6-12 aint picking berries and digging tubers they are out with bows they made last night shooting wood rats and such . Atlatls are vastly underrated by most folks and bows are vastly overrated, a sinew backed bow with a sinew bowstring doesn't perform well in the rain, nor will it be powerful enough to be any good at big game hunting. Just my thoughts

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        • #7
          Hi TJdave. Regarding your personal opinion on when the bow first came into use in the Americas, especially North America. You should do a google search on the subject. There has been much written about that subject by professional anthropologists. If you do then you will realize that your guesses as to when, how, and who first started using the bow in North America and when it got to what is now the USA is not as you surmise. After you do the small bit of research then maybe you can tell us what you have learned. Happy reading!

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          • TJdave
            TJdave commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the input. I have indeed read everything I can on it including base width used to determine the use either dart or arrow. I've read a bunch of doctoral thesis writen on the subject as well and the fact its assumes diffusion from arctic/subarctic culture starting from central Canada south into the plains reaching all the continent by around 500A.D and replacing the atlatl. Warfare and palisades begin to appear around that time too. Only problem is there is no DNA evidence for the arctic/subarctic people at the time presented. This also does absolutely nothing in explaining why the bow and arrow appear in the Andes at around 3080 YBP (independent evolution?) .

            Traps and snare have been found (8000YBP about), and we all know they drilled lots of holes in things tent pole holes indicate small limber poles were held under tension and thatched . few here would argue a jig was not used to make certain flute (Cumberland). Yes you can most certainly do all those things and not have a bow, but my argument is how could you do those things and not invent the bow by mistake at least a few hundred times. That and the fact in England around 11k YBP a group living in a marshy lake used sapling bows with harpoons to fish (their primary subsistence strategy) and atlatl and dart to hunt deer used for food yes but mostly for raw materials in a very lithic poor landscape.

          • sailorjoe
            sailorjoe commented
            Editing a comment
            Hi TJ. First off, Because of your remarks I mistakenly thought that you had read little about the subject of the timeline for the bow in North America. I made a false assumption and for that I apologize.HST, I tend to believe what the pros are saying on the chronology of the use of the bow into North America. As far as South America is concerned I have read very little about that so I have no opinion as to what was going on in that area. Your observations and reasoning about the timeline makes for an interesting theory but one that is not commonly accepted. Having said that, I am aware of recent work by some pros that may push the use of the bow in our area farther back in time but none that suggest back as far as the Early Archaic and earlier. Atlatls were in use in some areas of North America almost to the time of European contact but not commonly. On a different subject but along the same "train of thought" is one of the biggest puzzles which is why was not the wheel in common use by the folks in Central America when toys with wheels have been found which shows that they knew what the wheel was but no evidence that it was ever used to do work. Lots of enigmatic situations that defy satisfactory explanation. My mind is open to alternative theories and discussion. As they say, sometimes it help to think "outside the box".

          • TJdave
            TJdave commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Joe.
            No draft animals. Wheel loses most of its utility when human powered. Want to open pandoras box on that kind of thing, think what would have happened had clovis domesticated horses instead of eating them.
            BTW I also was a sailor

        • #8
          Wow! and why?
          What is your point in throwing all this unsubstantiated bs out here? If you want to engage in educated conversation that would be fine but this is just so far off even what we don't know.
          Searching the fields of Northwest Indiana and Southwestern Michigan

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          • #9
            I love this kind of theory. It's totally unfounded but allows for meditation on the gaps in knowledge we all have to live with.

            Not sure that it disrespects established science when introduced with the caveat that it is personal speculation.

            I think it's nonsense, but like it anyway.

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            • TJdave
              TJdave commented
              Editing a comment
              Thank you. In no way do I want to disrespect science, nor anybody here. I got the impression I was out of line with the topic. Its a subject I have put way more hours into then I care to admit, and yes the vast majority is pure speculation, but Im pretty passionate about it

          • #10
            You don't need a powerful bow or other weapon you just need to get real close and make your shots count which the native people were experts at .

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            • #11
              I believe there was bows when the first person set foot on the continent. As to what they used them for and how strong they were I guess we will never know. I don’t hear slings talked about much and think at distances equal to a bows killing distance a rock sling in the hands of a person who knows how to use one could easily kill large game.

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              • TJdave
                TJdave commented
                Editing a comment
                Ive also noticed that and you find birds of some sort in faunal assemblages pretty much everywhere and sling would be my go to for birds and waterfowl. I have never heard of a pile of round stone being found in context nor much historical on them in the Americas. Its really not far removed from an atlatl and countless Romans died from shot all over Europe, so it obviously would have been enough for deer size critters or bipedal foe

            • #12
              Originally posted by SGT.Digger View Post
              I believe there was bows when the first person set foot on the continent. As to what they used them for and how strong they were I guess we will never know. I don’t hear slings talked about much and think at distances equal to a bows killing distance a rock sling in the hands of a person who knows how to use one could easily kill large game.
              I read that slings were used by tribes in northern California.

              Wappo, Pomo, Patwin and Lake Miwok are all said to have used them for hunting ducks and geese.

              Of course, it's unlikely we'll ever find an artifact to demonstrate it because the materials can't survive. Though small clay balls found at Patwin sites are thought to be sling ammo.

              In fact it's interesting to consider that there was an alternative tool to bow and arrow for almost every animal hunted.

              Deers were said to be snared or run into fence traps - as were rabbits - and then clubbed.

              Pit traps were used extensively.

              Nets and weirs for fish (or poison).

              Slings and nets for birds.

              Bow and arrow were used too, probably for all the same things (and stalking with a deer disguise on)- not to mention battle - and must have been the principle hunting tool in the end, but there were plenty of alternatives.

              Wappo made light bows from willow and elder but they were inferior to the sinew-backed bows they imported from tribes to the north which would have been used for anything serious.



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              • SGT.Digger
                SGT.Digger commented
                Editing a comment
                I also believe that dogs were great usefulness to the hunters as they could stir up anything. I had some championship blood line (Texas smoke)mountain Cur dogs and I could hunt anything that moved often after squirrels and small game and sometimes would let them chase deer but would always call them off. I could let them charge a group of pigs and they would surround it until I caught up to kill it. I don’t hear enough about the importance of dogs to the Indians . Invaluable if you ask me.

              • TJdave
                TJdave commented
                Editing a comment
                The romance of the noble hunter stalking a majestic deer alone in the woods is probably a one in one thousand kind of thing. Historic accounts in the great basin say pronghorn were only hunted once a year in coral traps, nobody wasted their time hunting a single antelope. I believe this to be true and prevalent in many areas. The woodland setting obviously you are hunting white tail deer one at a time (or in drives killing a few) but in general subsistence hunting one animal at a time is called starvation. Im betting my dinner on traps and snares with drives and nets in times of abundance, using a bow/atlatl only when I absolutely need to.

              • tomf
                tomf commented
                Editing a comment
                Patwin were known to keep dogs but, interestingly, their neighbors, the Wappo, did not.

            • #13
              Here's a picture of California indian with some gear.

              Click image for larger version

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              • #14
                That is a fantastic picture, I love that bow, distinctly American

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                • #15
                  This is from the info center here on AH.com.


                  Adoption Dates for the Bow in North America

                  John H. Blitz’s paper “Adoption of the Bow in Prehistoric North America” (published in North American Archaeologist in 1988) is probably the most complete and informed assessment of when Native Americans first acquired the bow as a replacement for the atlatl. Blitz provides this map as an approximation of the adoption dates:
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                  The bow seems to have come into America from the North, and is a relatively late technology. Blitz concludes: “In this case, a continent-wide perspective reveals a north to south chronological distribution for the initial adoption of the bow. Multiple episodes of independent invention or extensive movements of people are rejected as explanations in favor of a secondary diffusion process. The large-scale pattern suggests that this technological change is not to be explained by highly localized ecological conditions, but rather by a historical process of intergroup contact and competition. For those who adopted it, the bow as a weapon conferred a competitive advantage over groups who retained the atlatl and a rapid process of dissemination and technological replacement occurred.”


                  There's really no denying that the bow gradually made its way from the far North and began spreading south starting some 5,000 ybp eventually reaching the deep south some 3800 years later or 1200 ybp. The cumulative data from many sites all over the country really leaves no room for debate on this topic. Theres really nothing to support anything outside of this model beyond some copper conical points from the Midwest thought to possibly be 1,000 years older than previously believed the bow reached that area. There is nothing to suggest the earliest Americans used the bow and arrow. And I'm not aware of anything that places the Bow in the Andes 3080 ybp?!
                  Last edited by Kyflintguy; 02-13-2020, 09:58 PM.
                  Josh (Ky/Tn collector)

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