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Military Archery in Medieval Ireland

  • 13-04-2013 2:37pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Military Archery in Medieval Ireland: Archaeology and History
    By Andrew Halpin

    Military Studies in Medieval Europe – Papers of the ‘Medieval Europe Brugge 1997′ Conference, Volume 11 (1997)

    Introduction: In studying Irish medieval warfare the bow and arrow is of particular interest for many reasons. It is by far the most frequently represented weapon in the archaeological record and unlike other weapons it tends to occur in datable contexts on excavated sites. This is largely accidental, because bows and arrows were of little monetary value and easily broken and lost, but the fortunate result is that a more comprehensive and reliable archaeological study is possible for the bow and arrow than for any other medieval weapon. There is also a greater wealth of useful historical information available than for other weapons of medieval Ireland. Thus it is possible not only to study the bow and arrow as archaeological artefacts but to place them in their natural context, which is the history of warfare. A study of the history of the weapon reveals that it is particularly appropriate, and not entirely accidental, that the bow and arrow is so well represented in the archaeological record of medieval Ireland. There is probably no other period in which the weapon was of comparable military importance.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20101229195104/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/pdfs/halpin.pdf


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Halpin says there are not many sources for Gaelic archery compared to the many finds of Viking (or supposed viking) finds. He didn't go through the several historical documents which mentioned Irish archers attacking English forces and he didn't make any comment on pictorial evidence.

    One of the best pictorial evidences for Irish archery is Durer's Irische Kriegsleute und Bauern 1521:

    irish-soldiers-and-peasants.jpg!Blog.jpg

    In this piece a Gallowglass is shown carrying a (recurve) bow as well as a clíomh mór. I say recurve because the several extant pictures of Irish and Scots archers all seem to show this type of bow.

    The second picture is a woodcut of 1588 by Casper Rutz of an Irish archer serving on the continent, probably one of the Irish auxiliaries who accompanied the Earl of Leicester's expedition to the Netherlands in 1586. He carries a recurve bow as well as what seems to be a type of falchion sword.

    irish-soldier.jpg

    The third image is of Scottish soldiers serving King Carl Gustav in Sweden; they have been misnamed as Irrlander, but are obviously Scots Highlanders. Again two are armed with recurve bows. There was a great deal of crossover between the Irish and Highlanders at the time hence the inclusion. Interestingly three of the four are armed with what seem to be falchion swords, although they could be representations of scian as well.

    Scottish_soldiers_in_service_of_Gustavus_Adolphus%2C_1631-cropped-.jpg

    There are two other images of Scots archers carrying recurve bows of this type that I know of. Although these examples are at the end of the period in question, the fact of the existence of a technologically advanced (relative to the simple bow) form of the bow among the Gaelic people would suggest that archery was part of the array of weaponry in the Gaelic armies arsenal.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Another interesting aspect of the military archery question ( I know I'm kinda talking to myself at this stage but hey-ho, I'm my best buddy :( ) is when and why did archery give way to musketry.

    One of the main reasons given seems to be the idea that while archery takes great skill and practice, musketry takes a lot less skill and so your average Joe farm hand can be an effective soldier in double-quick time.

    The reason that this question arises is because of the high rate of fire the archer can achieve compared to the musketeer; there is a famous quote from the late 16th century in which Scots mercenary archers fighting against the English colonial forces in Ulster put the English musketeers to flight because of their high rate of effective fire against the slower musketeers.

    This action made the Pale government reconsider the idea of doing away with the archery force.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 11,959 Mod ✭✭✭✭ riffmongous


    You should get yourself a copy of 'The Irish Wars' by Osprey publishing, that has lots of info on archery and musketeers in Ireland in the 1500s, including some references that specifically refer to Irish rather than extrapolating Scots to Irish


  • Registered Users Posts: 316 ✭✭ Simon.d


    Here's another image. An 18th century sketch of a c1400 fresco in Knockmoy Abbey, Galway. Still partially visible on the walls of the Abbey to this day.
    URbjr15.png?1


  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ robp


    Neutronale wrote: »
    Halpin says there are not many sources for Gaelic archery compared to the many finds of Viking (or supposed viking) finds. He didn't go through the several historical documents which mentioned Irish archers attacking English forces and he didn't make any comment on pictorial evidence.

    One of the best pictorial evidences for Irish archery is Durer's Irische Kriegsleute und Bauern 1521:

    irish-soldiers-and-peasants.jpg!Blog.jpg

    In this piece a Gallowglass is shown carrying a (recurve) bow as well as a clíomh mór. I say recurve because the several extant pictures of Irish and Scots archers all seem to show this type of bow.

    The second picture is a woodcut of 1588 by Casper Rutz of an Irish archer serving on the continent, probably one of the Irish auxiliaries who accompanied the Earl of Leicester's expedition to the Netherlands in 1586. He carries a recurve bow as well as what seems to be a type of falchion sword.

    irish-soldier.jpg

    The third image is of Scottish soldiers serving King Carl Gustav in Sweden; they have been misnamed as Irrlander, but are obviously Scots Highlanders. Again two are armed with recurve bows. There was a great deal of crossover between the Irish and Highlanders at the time hence the inclusion. Interestingly three of the four are armed with what seem to be falchion swords, although they could be representations of scian as well.

    Scottish_soldiers_in_service_of_Gustavus_Adolphus%2C_1631-cropped-.jpg

    There are two other images of Scots archers carrying recurve bows of this type that I know of. Although these examples are at the end of the period in question, the fact of the existence of a technologically advanced (relative to the simple bow) form of the bow among the Gaelic people would suggest that archery was part of the array of weaponry in the Gaelic armies arsenal.

    I don't think there is any doubt archery was used by the Gaelic Irish in the later medieval period. All the pictorial evidence from you and Simon are from the later medieval period. Yet, there is almost no evidence of archery amongst the Gaelic Irish in the early medieval period which is relevant to the Vikings. People assume they used it for hunting but I don't even know if there is evidence for this. The real question is when did they start to adopt it from the Vikings or Normans.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,504 ✭✭✭ tac foley


    Simon.d wrote: »
    Here's another image. An 18th century sketch of a c1400 fresco in Knockmoy Abbey, Galway. Still partially visible on the walls of the Abbey to this day.
    URbjr15.png?1


    Bearing in mind the location and context, I bleeve that that depicts the semi-martyrdom of St Sebastian, who was ordered to be shot to death with arrows by the emperor Diocletion, who got the hump after Sebastian publicly insulted him. Sebastian ended up still alive and was subsequently clubbed to death. I don't think that this has anything to do with Irish longbowmen or archers of any kind.

    tac


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 58,675 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Wibbs


    The subject matter isn't local alright, but the representation of a recurve bow is likely to be local to the artist. People draw/paint what they see everyday kinda thing. Put it another way they don't look like Roman bowmen(or bows particularly).

    Rejoice in the awareness of feeling stupid, for that’s how you end up learning new things. If you’re not aware you’re stupid, you probably are.



  • Registered Users Posts: 5,504 ✭✭✭ tac foley


    I still find it interesting, even after being an archer of great lack of skill since the age of eleven, that the bows depicted appear to be recurved. Recurved and composite bows are the remit of the Eastern European [Magyars et al], middle eastern and beyond nations who had a marked lack of trees of suitable length and proclivity for making into bows, and were not a part of native Welsh or English archery. We might be looking, as Robert Hardy suggests in one of his treatieses on bows, at fancifully-formed horn string nocks, rather than a true recurve of any type, indeed, he, and the British Longbow Society, describe the longbow as a 'self' bow, made from one piece of timber - the string nocks aside - and not any kind of composite material or collections thereof. When Westerners first encountered the Turkish and Seljuk bowmen in the crusades, it was something entirely new to them, and came as a very unwlecome surprise to find that those gentlemen, even from the back of a galloping horse, were able to shoot enormous clouds of arrows at distances that not even the European crossbowmen/arbalastiers could hope to reach, using the comparatively weak self prods on their contemporary crossbows.

    tac, former FITA and GNAS instructor


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Interesting comment on the power of the bows used by the Irish in 1397...
    ...and there were some like foot soldiers with swords and knives and very long thin spears — like other old-fashioned spears they are two fathoms long; the swords are like those of the Saracens which we call Genoese swords; the pommel and the guard are different, almost like a hand stretched out; the knives are long and as narrow as the little finger and they are very sharp. This is their manner of arming themselves and some of them use bows which are as small as half the size of the English bow, yet they strike as hard as the English. And they are bold and have been at war with the English for a long time and the king of England cannot have his way.

    http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100079A/

    PS on the spears, ..."very long thin spears...they are two fathoms long", a fathom is given in several dictionaries as 6 foot, therefore they are 12 foot long spears :eek:


  • Registered Users Posts: 316 ✭✭ Simon.d


    tac foley wrote: »
    Bearing in mind the location and context, I bleeve that that depicts the semi-martyrdom of St Sebastian, who was ordered to be shot to death with arrows by the emperor Diocletion, who got the hump after Sebastian publicly insulted him. Sebastian ended up still alive and was subsequently clubbed to death. I don't think that this has anything to do with Irish longbowmen or archers of any kind.

    tac

    Like Wibbs said, It does in the sense that the painters of this fresco most probably had no clue as to what Diocletion's Archers looked like, and instead likely portrayed archers that were familiar to them.

    Thanks for the background though, was a bit confused as to what was going on, and why such a image would have been painted on a church wall..


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 11,959 Mod ✭✭✭✭ riffmongous


    The recurve bow does seem to be the common depiction of the Scottish bow too though.

    There isn't much evidence for the place of the bow in warfare in Ireland itself though, the majority of actual battle references to native kern still seem to have them armed with darts/javelins until they took up firearms later.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    simon wrote: »
    Here's another image. An 18th century sketch of a c1400 fresco in Knockmoy Abbey, Galway. Still partially visible on the walls of the Abbey to this day.
    URbjr15.png?1

    Good one, thanks for that Simon.

    I found this on Library Ireland .com:
    The establishment is said to have been founded and endowed in 1180, by Cathal O'Connor, monarch of Ireland, in commemoration of a victory obtained by him at its site over Almericus de St. Lawrence. Considerable ruins of the edifice, which still exist, contain some frescoes, which, though rude in design, and faded in colour, possess uncommon interest for the antiquary, as the most authentic memorials anywhere to be found of ancient Irish costumes. These paintings occur on the north side of the chancel, and owe their conservation to the circumstance of that part of the fabric being vaulted with stone; but they are now waning rapidly into decay. The figures are somewhat larger than life, and are arranged in an upper line of six kings, and a lower line representing a youth naked, tied to a tree, and transfixed with arrows shot by two archers, while the brehon or judge, who had pronounced sentence, sits by with a roll of laws in his hand. Three of the kings appear as crowned skeletons, and are usually conjectured to be the most distinguished regal ancestors of the house of O'Connor, but seem, from the highly antique character of their crowns, a character much known in the latter ages of the Roman empire, to be patriot monarchs of very early Irish times. The other three kings are painted as in life, and represented each with the accompaniment of a fighting bird, in the same manner as the Anglo-Norman kings on their seals, and Harold the Norman king in the Bayeux tapestries; and they seem, from the form of their crowns, to have belonged to the 12th or 13th century, and been among the distinguished native princes who defended their country against the aggressions of adventurers. The opinion respecting them which has hitherto been copied by almost every compiler, and which has the high apology of being sanctioned by Dr. Ledwich, is that "the centre one is Roderick O'Connor, who was monarch of Ireland at the period of the English introduction, supported by two vassal kings, one his grand falconer, the other his grand marshal." But Dr. Ledwich mistakes a bird in the hand of the central figure for a trefoil or shamrock, and employs his blunder as a chief argument for his opinion; he gives in his Antiquities an utterly incorrect engraving of the frescoes; and he destroys all confidence in his judgment by venturing the grossly improbable conjecture, that the paintings were the work of the confederate Roman Catholics of the 17th century.

    The lower line of figures represents the death of the young son of Dermod M'Murrough, for that ambitious man's perfidy in calling over the English. The youth was delivered to Roderick O'Connor as a hostage for his father's fidelity; and, according to Cambrensis, was abandoned by the inhuman parent to his fate. The figure of the brehon is now nearly destroyed by the oozing of rain from an opening in the roof.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    tac foley wrote: »
    I still find it interesting, even after being an archer of great lack of skill since the age of eleven, that the bows depicted appear to be recurved. Recurved and composite bows are the remit of the Eatern European [Magyars et al], middle eastern and beyond nations who had a marked lack of trees of suitable length and proclivity for making into bows, and were not a part of native Welsh or English archery. We might be looking, as Robert Hardy suggests in one of his treatieses on bows, at fancifully-formed horn string nocks, rather than a true recurve of any type, indeed, he, and the British Longbow Society, describe the longbow as a 'self' bow, made from one piece of timber - the string nocks aside - and not any kind of composite material or collections thereof. When Westerners first encountered the Turkish and Seljuk bowmen in the crusades, it was something entirely new to them, and came as a very unwlecome surprise to find that those gentlemen, even from the back of a galloping horse, were able to shoot enormous clouds of arrows at distances that not even the European crossbowmen/arbalastiers could hope to reach, using the comparatively weak self prods on their contemporary crossbows.

    tac, former FITA and GNAS instructor

    I agree it is a bit of a long shot. The fact is though that the recurve style bow is consistently depicted even in the 1630 etching of the Scots mercenaries. The Durer painting is mildly recurve looking and the 1577 Hybernus miles is more definitely recurve looking.

    Also the quote above from 1397, "some of them use bows which are as small as half the size of the English bow, yet they strike as hard as the English", leads one to imagine that there was something to the Irish/Scots bow to lend it more power.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    The recurve bow does seem to be the common depiction of the Scottish bow too though.

    There isn't much evidence for the place of the bow in warfare in Ireland itself though, the majority of actual battle references to native kern still seem to have them armed with darts/javelins until they took up firearms later.

    It's interesting that we have these depictions which are vital for info regarding dress etc and yet can we then easily dismiss them as evidence regrading bow types or whatever?

    The quote from 1397 above is early enough; I think between that and other such quotes lead to the conclusion that the bow was used as an occasional participant in some battles.

    I have a little scenario in mind for the Durer soldiers: The Pike soldier holds the enemy cavalry at bay, while the archer fires his arrows into the attackers, then wields his Claíomh mór and hacks lumps off the nearest, bravest enemy. Any enemy unhorsed is set upon by the Kern/trainee gallowglass. Multiply that by 300 or so and we have a "battle" :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,504 ✭✭✭ tac foley


    Neutronale wrote: »
    Interesting comment on the power of the bows used by the Irish in 1397...



    http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100079A/

    PS on the spears, ..."very long thin spears...they are two fathoms long", a fathom is given in several dictionaries as 6 foot, therefore they are 12 foot long spears :eek:


    Interesting, that comment. If they had wood long enough to make a twelve-foot spear, why not a six-foot bow?

    OTOH, they seem to have been copying the short Scandinavian bow favoured by the few Vikings that could be bothered with them, the bow being thought of by the majority of Vikings/Norse as being a rather effeminate way of avoiding a really good close up slaughter with an axe or sword.

    tac


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,108 pedroeibar1


    Forget Durer and the others, they had no idea of what was going on in Ireland in that detail, certainly not enough to draw it representatively. All the other images you post are Continental, so they drew what they thought a bow looked like.
    Most films on medieval warfare are BS, about as accurate as ‘cowboys’ in the ‘Wild West’, all totally created by Hollywood. Early medieval knights usually fought on foot; they dismounted and fought with their men. Set-piece battles came much later. Most deaths came from suffocation – you fell, you were trodden on, people fell on top of you and you could not move your lungs to breathe. The objective was to put an enemy on the ground, once there he was dead. It was worse when the battle area was on a stream/marsh/bog. Behind the lines were the mounted ‘prickers’, their job to ‘discourage’ deserters. In Europe, the Welsh had a reputation for being dagger men, skipping around and slipping the dagger into the chinks in the armour of fallen knights, who could not get up because of the weight of their armour. Dehydration was another problem, which is why many battles were over quickly. Statistically the side that moved first/ initiated the action lost.

    So, for starters, what English Army are you talking about? The English did not have a fulltime ‘army’ until Oliver Cromwell, with the ‘New Model Army’ put together under the command of Fairfax. Prior to that, England had the old feudal system of liegedom, yeomen and peasants practicing at the butts, made law under the Plantagenets, sports other than archery being banned, etc.. Longbows needed skill and many hours of practice to fire at and hit targets at the rate of 15-20 per minute. Each draw was +/- 100 lbs, so the arms would be numb about as soon as the arrow supply was over; xrays/scans of medieval archers have shown the development of bone structure as a result of this exercise. During several of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ battles (and many others also) there are reports of archers scavenging enemy arrows from the ground when their own were used. Crossbows were easier to aim and fire, required less skill but had a firing rate of only 2 per minute. They usually were used by mercenaries, frequently Genoese, called by a friend who walked me over a medieval battlefield as ‘the Polish plumbers of medieval battles’ – readily available, cheap and good at their jobs. Arquebusses, culverins, snaphaunces, etc., were uncommon and far beyond the financial reach of most, as was metal body armour. Most body protection was a quilted linen ‘stab vest’ and each about as useful as an amulet.

    The ‘English’ – if you want to call them that, but the Normans who came to Ireland were French/Welsh– had centuries of battle training and experience behind them, whereas the Gaelic fighters were primarily opportunistic cattle raiders. Their tactic was hit and run, ambush and harry. They, like the Scots, did not use bows, their weapons of choice were daggers and darts.

    Probably the bloodiest battle in England was the Battle of Towton in 1461; it is estimated that about 25k died that Sunday (Palm Sunday). To put that figure in context it is more than were killed in the first day of the Somme in WWI or, based on contemporary England’s population, the equivalent of 600,000 deaths today.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    tac foley wrote: »
    Interesting, that comment. If they had wood long enough to make a twelve-foot spear, why not a six-foot bow?

    OTOH, they seem to have been copying the short Scandinavian bow favoured by the few Vikings that could be bothered with them, the bow being thought of by the majority of Vikings/Norse as being a rather effeminate way of avoiding a really good close up slaughter with an axe or sword.

    tac

    As I recall the Waterford bows were 4 foot plus long. The Ballinderry bow is a 6 foot longbow and interestingly according to Halpin, no longbows have been found in Welsh archaeological settings.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    1517
    Besides they have at their belts very dangerous weapons, such as poignards with three edges having a handle like a bread knife of which the blade is more than an ell long; they know how handy this dangerous weapon is when hurling themselves against their foes; if it strikes them it kills them and pierces them through and through, as it is very sharp. In addition, they carry a rapier with a long handle which they hang in a sash; several have shields and spears and raillons. I saw some who had little Turkish bows which were a yard long, of which the string was a big sinew and the arrows were steel tipped reeds and feathered to shoot.

    http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T500000-001/index.html


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Forget Durer and the others, they had no idea of what was going on in Ireland in that detail, certainly not enough to draw it representatively. All the other images you post are Continental, so they drew what they thought a bow looked like.
    Most films on medieval warfare are BS, about as accurate as ‘cowboys’ in the ‘Wild West’, all totally created by Hollywood. Early medieval knights usually fought on foot; they dismounted and fought with their men. Set-piece battles came much later. Most deaths came from suffocation – you fell, you were trodden on, people fell on top of you and you could not move your lungs to breathe. The objective was to put an enemy on the ground, once there he was dead. It was worse when the battle area was on a stream/marsh/bog. Behind the lines were the mounted ‘prickers’, their job to ‘discourage’ deserters. In Europe, the Welsh had a reputation for being dagger men, skipping around and slipping the dagger into the chinks in the armour of fallen knights, who could not get up because of the weight of their armour. Dehydration was another problem, which is why many battles were over quickly. Statistically the side that moved first/ initiated the action lost.

    So, for starters, what English Army are you talking about? The English did not have a fulltime ‘army’ until Oliver Cromwell, with the ‘New Model Army’ put together under the command of Fairfax. Prior to that, England had the old feudal system of liegedom, yeomen and peasants practicing at the butts, made law under the Plantagenets, sports other than archery being banned, etc.. Longbows needed skill and many hours of practice to fire at and hit targets at the rate of 15-20 per minute. Each draw was +/- 100 lbs, so the arms would be numb about as soon as the arrow supply was over; xrays/scans of medieval archers have shown the development of bone structure as a result of this exercise. During several of the ‘Wars of the Roses’ battles (and many others also) there are reports of archers scavenging enemy arrows from the ground when their own were used. Crossbows were easier to aim and fire, required less skill but had a firing rate of only 2 per minute. They usually were used by mercenaries, frequently Genoese, called by a friend who walked me over a medieval battlefield as ‘the Polish plumbers of medieval battles’ – readily available, cheap and good at their jobs. Arquebusses, culverins, snaphaunces, etc., were uncommon and far beyond the financial reach of most, as was metal body armour. Most body protection was a quilted linen ‘stab vest’ and each about as useful as an amulet.

    The ‘English’ – if you want to call them that, but the Normans who came to Ireland were French/Welsh– had centuries of battle training and experience behind them, whereas the Gaelic fighters were primarily opportunistic cattle raiders. Their tactic was hit and run, ambush and harry. They, like the Scots, did not use bows, their weapons of choice were daggers and darts.

    Probably the bloodiest battle in England was the Battle of Towton in 1461; it is estimated that about 25k died that Sunday (Palm Sunday). To put that figure in context it is more than were killed in the first day of the Somme in WWI or, based on contemporary England’s population, the equivalent of 600,000 deaths today.

    "Forget", all the sources we have, I dont think so. I'm not interested in what Durer thought of the situation in Ireland, I'm merely commenting on what he drew.

    I've no problem with what you say about medieval warfare.

    I dont know what your point is about "the English" (are you commenting on another thread?). In this thread the comment about the English bow was made by a 14th century Spaniard.

    Also as I think we've proven in this thread, the Irish and Scots definitely did use the bow, from the viking period to the 16th century.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 11,959 Mod ✭✭✭✭ riffmongous


    ..

    There are English sources for scottish bowmen using the same style bow too, not only continental sources. I will see if I can find them online tomorrow, but they are in that Osprey book I mentioned earlier.
    Woodcut of Scotsmen
    hunting, from Holinshed's
    Chronicle, 1577. In his text
    Holinshed describes such
    'wild Scots' inhabiting the
    Highland region as being
    called 'the Redshanks, or
    rough footed Scots,
    because they go barefooted
    and clad in mantles over
    their saffron shirts after
    the Irish manner'.

    Also while Durer might not have known what was going on in Ireland, it is possible he and other continental sources might have witnessed mercenary units on the continent, for example contingents of Irish kern fought for the English in France.

    Also there was an 'English' army in Ireland in the 1500s, that of the Lord Deputy based in the Pale (recorded as around 6000 in 1598,also note that these seem to have had a substantial amount of actual English troops), this would have been separate to the various Irish influenced armies of the Anglo-Norman lords


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  • Banned (with Prison Access) Posts: 1,934 ✭✭✭ robp


    Neutronale wrote: »
    As I recall the Waterford bows were 4 foot plus long. The Ballinderry bow is a 6 foot longbow and interestingly according to Halpin, no longbows have been found in Welsh archaeological settings.

    I can't conform his report about Welsh bows but generally these weapons do not survive. Until the Mary Rose was discovered there was only around half a dozen surviving English longbows. It is very hard to understand why the Waterford bows are so short but variation in bow length can occur. Yet it is very hard to see how recurves would emerge in Ireland. It is a very specific technology and I don't see it emerging independently. Although it existed in Roman Britain in horn and sinew weapons it would have been completely absent from Britain and France by the Later Medieval Ages. Cupid style recurve bows appear all the time in art and do not always represent a local tradition.

    The Irish did use the bow, in Norman towns and in Gaelic areas. I would be hesitant to assume its use by Gaelic Irish began in the Viking period though without concrete evidence.


  • Registered Users Posts: 316 ✭✭ Simon.d


    Here's some very early evidence of it's use as a weapon on this island.. At Poulnabrone portal tomb, a pelvis bone that was discovered with an arrow embedded in it..


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    robp wrote: »
    I can't conform his report about Welsh bows but generally these weapons do not survive. Until the Mary Rose was discovered there was only around half a dozen surviving English longbows. It is very hard to understand why the Waterford bows are so short but variation in bow length can occur. Yet it is very hard to see how recurves would emerge in Ireland. It is a very specific technology and I don't see it emerging independently. Although it existed in Roman Britain in horn and sinew weapons it would have been completely absent from Britain and France by the Later Medieval Ages. Cupid style recurve bows appear all the time in art and do not always represent a local tradition.

    The Irish did use the bow, in Norman towns and in Gaelic areas. I would be hesitant to assume its use by Gaelic Irish began in the Viking period though without concrete evidence.

    Waterford bow: From memory these were from viking era deposits. Halpin makes a good point as to what actually constitutes a 'longbow'? Depending on requirements a Longbow might not have had to be exactly 6 foot. What we understand it to mean today might not be what was understood by the term in that era.
    In continental Europe it was generally seen as any bow longer than 1.2 m (4 ft). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_longbow

    Recurve: Practically all the illustrations of bows in Irish or Scots (highlander) hands are recurve. There is no need for it to occur independently (although one may ask why not?), as has been stated Irish/Scots mercenaries ranged far and wide in European armies over the whole period. It would only take one enterprising individual to bring back such technology and churn out bows and the skill to make them. The 1397 account states that the Irish were using short bows with as much power as an English longbow. The 1517 account actually calls the short Irish bows "Turkish bows".

    An interesting conundrum I'd say :)


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,108 pedroeibar1


    Neutronale wrote: »
    "Forget", all the sources we have, I dont think so. I'm not interested in what Durer thought of the situation in Ireland, I'm merely commenting on what he drew.

    I've no problem with what you say about medieval warfare.

    I dont know what your point is about "the English" (are you commenting on another thread?). In this thread the comment about the English bow was made by a 14th century Spaniard.

    Also as I think we've proven in this thread, the Irish and Scots definitely did use the bow, from the viking period to the 16th century.

    I agree that there is some overlap in my post above, but you started two threads that overlap as they both comment on the use of the bow.
    Contrary to what you say, it did not take this thread to prove that the Irish and Scots used bows; that has always been known – the bow is a means of obtaining food, the Irish of the era under discussion were primarily a pastoral people so it is logical the bow would have been used. The issue primarily is their tactical use of the bow and that has already been answered – it was not their major weapon, they used darts and daggers in ambush & harry actions rather than fight it out at a distance with bows and arrows.

    My comment on Durer’s drawings is valid. Just look up how he drew a rhinoceros. HERE Then you might understand why his bow drawings were represented in the manner shown and were not necessarily what the Irish used in Ireland.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    Simon.d wrote: »
    Here's some very early evidence of it's use as a weapon on this island.. At Poulnabrone portal tomb, a pelvis bone that was discovered with an arrow embedded in it..

    Wow, that's amazing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    I agree that there is some overlap in my post above, but you started two threads that overlap as they both comment on the use of the bow.
    Contrary to what you say, it did not take this thread to prove that the Irish and Scots used bows; that has always been known – the bow is a means of obtaining food, the Irish of the era under discussion were primarily a pastoral people so it is logical the bow would have been used. The issue primarily is their tactical use of the bow and that has already been answered – it was not their major weapon, they used darts and daggers in ambush & harry actions rather than fight it out at a distance with bows and arrows.

    My comment on Durer’s drawings is valid. Just look up how he drew a rhinoceros. HERE Then you might understand why his bow drawings were represented in the manner shown and were not necessarily what the Irish used in Ireland.

    You seem to be taking an argumentative approach for some reason.

    The other post was concerned with how one would defend against the English army of Henry Sidney in 1578, it had nothing whatsoever to do with 1169 and all that. The Derrick woodcut I posted is titled
    Sidney and the English army on the march with standards and trumpets/bg0060.jpg
    I never said it took the thread to prove anything.

    I never said it was their primary weapon.

    I am not saying Durer was taking photos, I understand for example that the great sword is too large etc. We are talking about taking all these sources together as supporting evidence.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,108 pedroeibar1


    Neutronale wrote: »
    You seem to be taking an argumentative approach for some reason.

    I never said it took the thread to prove anything. .
    You might like to look at what you wrote in
    Neutronale wrote: »
    Also as I think we've proven in this thread, the Irish and Scots definitely did use the bow, from the viking period to the 16th century.
    Neutronale wrote: »
    I never said it was their primary weapon.
    I never claimed you did.

    Of course I’m argumentative – why should I accept something just because you said it, particularly when you make no reasonable argument and avoid responding to interesting comments? When you had the opportunity to contribute something, you ignored valid and informed posts - to quote just a few – from RobP here and here and from Wibbs here and did not reply.

    You ignored an obvious illustration of St. Sebastian - who is the patron saint of archers BTW. You quote extensively from images that originate from overseas. Just because Durer (or any other foreign artist) portrayed ‘Irish soldiers’ on the Continent with a particular type of bow does not mean that particular model was used in Ireland or even existed in Ireland. Additionally, Durer et al could easily have drawn soldiers from reports and the bows depicted quite possibly were from their own imaginations, like the rhino example I gave in an earlier post. (Today ask a German kid to draw a car and it will have either a BMW grill or a Merc star on it, people draw what they think they see, particularly when doing so from memory.)

    Furthermore, soldiers have always used what they could get their hands on, i.e. what was readily available and preferably better. For example you could infer from several photographs of Canadian troops early in WWI that they had been issued with Lee Enfield 303’s. That would be incorrect, as they were issued a superbly engineered .303 rifle, the Ross, but it could not withstand trench conditions so they dumped it when they could and took the Lee Enfield from fallen British soldiers because, although it was not as accurate or had as good a range, it worked. It suited their needs. Same applies to the US Marines in Vietnam, who dumped the early versions of their Colt M16’s and used other weapons.

    Bows are common, they exist in all cultures, were used to kill and it is not a mind-blowing event to state that the Irish used them. I could go on but .....


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,504 ✭✭✭ tac foley


    Bows are common, they exist in all cultures...


    Not quite - the Australian Aborigines either never had the bow, or eschewed it for the spear/woomera and boomerang - see -

    'The favoured weapon of the Aborigines was the spear and spear thrower. The fact that they never adopted the bow and arrow has been debated for a long time. During post-glacial times the bow and arrow were being used in every inhabited part of the world except Australia. A number of reasons for this have been put forward, one of which was that the Aborigines were ultra conservative and incapable of change. This suggestion is now known to be wrong, they did adopt items such as the out-rigger canoe, they obviously saw the advantage over their bark canoes, which were not suitable for fishing at sea. When the dugout canoe was adopted by them, being introduced by the Macassans, it allowed them to fish for dugong and turtle further out to sea.

    The bow and arrow was assumed to be more efficient than the spear for hunting and fighting, but in Australia this doesn't seem to be the case. It has been suggested that bow and arrow were useful in places like New Guinea where the prey species were not very large. In Australia the animals hunted were often much bigger, several species of kangaroo grow to the height of a man, and their hide would no doubt be tougher than the smaller wallabies hunted in New Guinea.
    It is not that they don't embrace change, they have been demonstrated to have been doing that since their first arrival in Australia, it is just that they have been very selective in what that take. If they don't see an improvement over something they already have, they reject the item. This characteristic of the Aborigines was commented on by Captain Cook. Captain Cook saw the bow and arrow being used on an island close to the mainland at Cape York, as it was in the Torres Strait islands and New Guinea. But the Aborigines preferred the spear. And it seems they weren't the only ones to think it was a good thing to have. Spears and spear throwers were also appreciated by their neighbours. Cape York was the Switzerland of the prehistoric north, not getting involved in their neighbours' wars, but selling high quality weapons to all. It has been said that the spear and spear thrower were probably Australia's first export item. They had different points for different uses. The 2 main spears traded with the people of the Torres Strait islands were the fishing spear and the fighting spear. The fishing spear had 4 bone barbs. The fighting spear had a barbed bone point. The people of the Torres Strait islands also used them for hunting dugong.'

    tac


  • Registered Users Posts: 56 ✭✭ Yendred


    Folks,
    Not to drag the thread off its trajectory too much but
    I've read lots of references to "darts" being used in warfare in Ireland. Are these some kind of short javelin? Were they launched using any tool (thong, spear-thrower/woomera)? How would a dart head differ from a spear head or arrow head? Are these the ga of saga fame?
    -Yendred the Unperforated


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  • Registered Users Posts: 429 ✭✭ Neutronale


    You might like to look at what you wrote in

    I never claimed you did.

    Of course I’m argumentative – why should I accept something just because you said it, particularly when you make no reasonable argument and avoid responding to interesting comments? When you had the opportunity to contribute something, you ignored valid and informed posts - to quote just a few – from RobP here and here and from Wibbs here and did not reply.

    You ignored an obvious illustration of St. Sebastian - who is the patron saint of archers BTW. You quote extensively from images that originate from overseas. Just because Durer (or any other foreign artist) portrayed ‘Irish soldiers’ on the Continent with a particular type of bow does not mean that particular model was used in Ireland or even existed in Ireland. Additionally, Durer et al could easily have drawn soldiers from reports and the bows depicted quite possibly were from their own imaginations, like the rhino example I gave in an earlier post. (Today ask a German kid to draw a car and it will have either a BMW grill or a Merc star on it, people draw what they think they see, particularly when doing so from memory.)

    Furthermore, soldiers have always used what they could get their hands on, i.e. what was readily available and preferably better. For example you could infer from several photographs of Canadian troops early in WWI that they had been issued with Lee Enfield 303’s. That would be incorrect, as they were issued a superbly engineered .303 rifle, the Ross, but it could not withstand trench conditions so they dumped it when they could and took the Lee Enfield from fallen British soldiers because, although it was not as accurate or had as good a range, it worked. It suited their needs. Same applies to the US Marines in Vietnam, who dumped the early versions of their Colt M16’s and used other weapons.

    Bows are common, they exist in all cultures, were used to kill and it is not a mind-blowing event to state that the Irish used them. I could go on but .....

    As I say you persist in taking an argumentative approach, I think that is to the detriment of our historical investigation.

    You've taken the 'proven' comment out of context.

    You said the bow wasnt the 'major' weapon, you're being disingenuous if you're qibbling over the difference between the two words.

    I 'liked' wibbs post you refer to but I had nothing to add to them.

    I replied to the St sebastian fresco here: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showpost.php?p=84295965&postcount=13 This fresco also adds to the recuve bow image as being used by the Irish.

    I am using images that have been used many, many times as images of Irish soldiers and as images of Irish clothing etc. You could use your argument about any other aspect of these images to discount them, yet they are and have been so used by historians many times; either we accept them in their entirety as evidence or we must discount them, it is for you to make the case as to why they should be discounted.

    I'm not sure what you are making your 'bows are common...' etc comment, we all know this.

    Anyway, lets concentrate on the evidence and stop talking around the issue and arguing for arguings sake.


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