Military Review

Compound onion: technological breakthrough of antiquity

Compound onion: technological breakthrough of antiquity

Typical design of a compound bow. Figure

According to various estimates, the first bows appeared several tens of thousands of years ago. Subsequently it weapon constantly changing, and its evolution led to the emergence of new varieties with various features. One of the main results of such processes was the appearance of the so-called. compound onion. Characterized by increased complexity of design and manufacture, such weapons showed higher characteristics.

History and Versions

It is believed that the compound bow was invented by the nomadic peoples of the Great Steppe. The first archaeological finds with features of a complex structure date back to the III millennium BC. Other finds, distinguished by a more perfect design, belong to later periods, until our era.

According to one version, a shortage of materials contributed to the emergence of a complex structure. In the steppe it was difficult to find suitable trees for making simple onions, but gunsmiths found a way out of this situation. A new type of onion was less demanding on the size of wooden blanks, although it needed other materials.

Scythian with a "signature" bow. The work of the ancient Greek artist Epictetus

The resulting design showed advantages over existing ones, which contributed to its distribution throughout Eurasia, as well as in North Africa. There are many variations of this onion, created by different peoples to their needs and taking into account the needs. With all this, the design continued to improve, and a search was made for new effective manufacturing technologies.

Construction and Technology

Compared to other types of onions, it was distinguished by the construction of the pole. This product was not made from a single wooden blank and not from several wooden parts, as on simple or composite bows. In different versions of a compound bow, the hilt and shoulders could consist of many wooden and horn parts fastened with tendons or leather strips.

General manufacturing techniques for such onions did not undergo major changes throughout stories. The basis of the future shaft was made of suitable wood. In this capacity, birch, maple, etc. were considered. - depending on the area of ​​manufacture. The billets were steeped, softened by steam and molded as needed. Then they were glued together, strengthening the joints with skin or tendons. At these stages, the shape of the future onion was determined.

Graphics B.A. Litvinsky "Compound onion in ancient Central Asia (On the problem of onion evolution in the East)." // Soviet archeology. 1966. No4.

Individual parts of the shaft, such as the ends with recesses under the bowstring, were reinforced by gluing the horn plates. Horn or bone plates were also glued to the inside of the bow. The system in the form of several layers of a horn and a tree made it possible to deform the bow while pulling the bowstring and accumulate significant energy, but it provided the required strength. The finished shaft could be painted, covered with thin skin or other materials.

Depending on the materials, technology and type of onion, the manufacturing process could take from several months to several years. The timing of the work was adversely affected by the need for prolonged and high-quality drying of adhesive joints. In addition, to create the correct shape, the shaft at some stages was bent in the opposite direction almost into a ring - time was also required to fix such a deformation.

The compound bow was distinguished by increased tension, which made special demands on the bowstring. It was made from silk or linen yarn, from the intestines of animals, from hair, etc. Different materials provided different characteristics. In addition, they behaved differently under certain external conditions. Usually the bowstring was spun from several dozen separate threads. At the ends, special nodes were provided that left a loop.

Central Asian compound bow, XVI century. or later. Exhibit of the Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève Museum. Wikimedia Commons Photos

The exact composition of the components, sizes and technical characteristics depended both on the variety of the onion and on the time and place of manufacture, the skills of the master, the wishes of the customer, etc. At the same time, most of the compound bows of different nations had similar shapes and contours.

The sigmoid bow, also known as Scythian, turned out to be the most effective in the ratio of dimensions and characteristics. His shoulders have a characteristic round bend, turning into flat ends. The Scythian bow without bowstring bends forward, until the shoulders touch. The height of the weapon in the combat position was in the range of 0,6-1 m.

Such a design had a major advantage. Due to several bends and other features, the shaft was not a single spring, but the correct combination of several. Due to this, onions more efficiently stocked and gave energy. From the point of view of energy, a compound bow was about a third superior to even the most successful simple designs. This made it possible to reduce the dimensions of the weapon, increase the firing range and / or get a larger penetrative effect.

Inuit bows. Wikimedia Commons Photos

Another important advantage of a complex structure was a high resource. Simple and compound bows lose their elasticity as they are used. The special multicomponent shaft of a compound bow retained its characteristics for much longer. Among other things, this made it possible to keep the bowstring on the bow almost all the time - it was necessary to remove it only for long-term storage.

Triumphal procession

A successful combination of basic characteristics has contributed to the rapid and widespread dissemination of compound onions. Moreover, in just a few centuries, these weapons managed to reach the most remote countries.

For example, in Egypt, a compound bow appeared during the wars with the Hyksos - after the XVIII century BC In the same period, such weapons appeared among the Hittites, Assyrians and other peoples of the region. Quickly enough, a new version of the onions pressed the existing ones. By the middle of the XNUMXnd millennium BC from the Middle East, a new bow falls into the hands of the Cretan-Mycenaean civilization. A thousand years later, the Greeks met with a sigmoid bow - this time weapons came from the other side of the world, from the Scythians.

"Children of the Boyars", engraving for the book "Notes on Muscovy" by S. von Herberstein. The warrior on the left holds a compound bow

From Central Asia, compound onion fell into the territory of modern China. There they appreciated a new weapon, and quickly enough it became a familiar attribute of warriors. A bow with enhanced characteristics continued its march through Eurasia, and ended up in India. As in the case of some other countries, in India, the complex structure was considered a good addition to the existing varieties of onions.

As the compound compound spread around the world, it underwent significant changes. We used different materials available in specific regions, improved technologies, etc. Much attention was paid to the size and tension. Thus, equestrian archers of nomadic peoples preferred smaller systems, while in India bows of almost human size were created.

Over time, a complex bow appeared in Europe, but it was not widespread and could not displace other varieties of throwing weapons. It is believed that in the European lands such a bow appeared thanks to the Romans, who took it from the Middle Eastern peoples. Then he returned to the region with the nomads.

End of an era

The compound bow was in service with many armies for several millennia. In some cases, it was supplemented by bows of other varieties, and in other armies it was the main throwing weapon. Onion production was accompanied by improved designs and the emergence of new solutions. However, after many centuries the situation has changed.

Old Russian archer. Drawing from the book "Historical Description of Clothing and Arms of the Russian Troops"

The first blow to all bows was the invention of the crossbow. This weapon, using similar principles, showed obvious advantages. However, even for several centuries he was not able to completely supplant bows. But later firearms appeared and became widespread. Even early imperfect fire systems could seriously compete with both bows and crossbows.

The arms competition ended in a convincing victory of gunpowder and bullets, and the propellant systems withdrew from the armies, although they remained as hunting or sporting weapons. However, a complex onion, unlike other varieties, has by now largely gone out of use. Now you can see such weapons only in museums or at military-historical events. The niche of sophisticated but effective high-energy weapons was taken by the modern block bow.
Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must to register.

I have an account? Sign in

  1. Lexus
    Lexus 26 February 2020 18: 20 New
    The first blow to all bows was the invention of the crossbow. This weapon, using similar principles, showed obvious advantages.
    And no less obvious disadvantages. And they existed together until the final formation of firearms. Here is a nice article in addition
    1. Bar1
      Bar1 26 February 2020 22: 15 New
      Sigismund Herberstein Notes on Muscovy.
      Going to describe Muscovy, which is the head of Russia and extends its dominion over the vast areas of Scythia 24, I, a supportive reader, will certainly need to mention in this essay many of the northern countries that were not well known not only to the ancient, but also to modern writers. Therefore, I sometimes have to disagree with their writings; and so that my opinion on this issue does not seem suspicious or arrogant to anyone, I declare that, as they say, I personally saw and examined Muscovy, and more than once, twice, acting as ambassador of the blessed memory of Emperor Maximilian and his grandson Roman King Mr. Ferdinand; I obtained most of my information from the inhabitants of that land, as knowledgeable as they were trustworthy; besides, I was not content with the reports of one or two, but relied on the consensus information of many 25. So, supported, among other things, by a beneficial knowledge of the Slavic language, which coincides with Russian and Muscovite, I wrote it down not only by hearsay, but also as an eyewitness, and not by a pompous syllable, but simple and clear, and betrayed the offspring to memory.

      Well, Herberstein claimed that Muscovy ruled over Scythia, and the Slavic languages ​​coincided with the Russian. Should the spears break further, who are the Scythians and what language did the Slavs speak?
      Therefore, we can say with confidence that this bow is OUR-Russian invention.
      1. Dzungar
        Dzungar 29 February 2020 13: 25 New
        For example, in Egypt, a compound bow appeared during the wars with the Hyksos - after the XVIII century BC
        By the middle of the XNUMXnd millennium BC from the Middle East, a new bow falls into the hands of the Cretan-Mycenaean civilization. A thousand years later, the Greeks met with a sigmoid bow - this time the weapon came from the other side of the world, from the Scythians.
        Therefore, we can say with confidence that this bow is OUR-Russian invention.
        You have strange logical conclusions ..... How else do you need to explain, in what language, and with what ... ???
      2. Living7111972
        Living7111972 12 May 2020 07: 34 New
        Here, Scythia is the territory of the steppe, I think, the Black Sea and Dnieper parts, and there was no one there. As I heard, there were no Russians there. By time.
  2. Operator
    Operator 26 February 2020 18: 39 New
    The compound bow is the invention of the Black Sea Aryans (originally living in the steppe zone), which introduced all the peoples who fell into the range of Aryan migration from Hallstadt, Egypt, Asia Minor, Iran, India, Central Asia and to China.

    Another thing is that in the forest zone of the European subcontinent, complex onions did not take root due to the abundance of raw materials for the manufacture of simple and cheap onions, including those that are superior in strength to complex ones due to geometric dimensions (up to the size of a person).
    1. Dzungar
      Dzungar 29 February 2020 13: 29 New
      Kazakhs try to convince that your Aryan Scythians are the ancestors of the Rus. By the way, these are the same adherents of "new history". Their "new history" ..... You will learn a lot about yourself ...
  3. Slon379
    Slon379 26 February 2020 19: 23 New
    Bird cherry steers! How many branches are bent in childhood!
    1. 3x3zsave
      3x3zsave 26 February 2020 20: 04 New
      "I broke off a lot of branches,
      I broke a lot of firewood "(C)
      Sorry, comrade, inspired .... laughing
    2. Nyrobsky
      Nyrobsky 26 February 2020 20: 17 New
      Quote: Slon379
      Bird cherry steers! How many branches are bent in childhood!

      Juniper will be cooler, but heavier. As soon as the film about the Indians is shown at the club, the next day in the village all the children are Indians and you will not find a single pale person. If the film was about heroes and knights, then the half-fence of shtaketin on swords was gone. laughing
      1. 3x3zsave
        3x3zsave 26 February 2020 21: 13 New
        "What is now called" parkour ", 40 years ago was called:" Rebzya, let's climb the construction site! "
        1. Nyrobsky
          Nyrobsky 26 February 2020 21: 15 New
          Quote: 3x3zsave
          "What is now called" parkour ", 40 years ago was called:" Rebzya, let's climb the construction site! "

          So it was yes
          1. cost
            cost 27 February 2020 00: 24 New
            And here is how the Scythians themselves depicted their bows.
            Scythian pulling a string on a bow Scythian golden vase.
  4. Undecim
    Undecim 26 February 2020 20: 03 New
    Inuit bows
    Inuit bows are not complex or composite. This type of onion is classified as a laminated bow - a laminated bow typical of North America.
    It consists of a wooden arch reinforced with tendons that, when wet, stuck to the back of the bow.
    There was another variety (in the photo - the second top) - a bundle of tendons was attached to the back. This design made it possible to compensate for the lack of quality wood.
    1. 3x3zsave
      3x3zsave 26 February 2020 20: 13 New
      What is Japanese technology for producing asymmetric bows?
      1. Undecim
        Undecim 26 February 2020 21: 17 New
        As a long time ago, under the article, in my opinion, by Shpakovsky, this issue was covered a little. Somewhere there is an archive, I’ll look, I’ll drop the links. Japanese onions are also rather laminated.
      2. Undecim
        Undecim 26 February 2020 22: 42 New

        The design of the Japanese onion is Yumi and its changes in the process of evolution.
  5. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 26 February 2020 21: 22 New
    Thanks. It was interesting to read.
  6. Protos
    Protos 29 February 2020 12: 52 New
    All Ruhnolo with the invention of firearms yes
    Now it was not necessary to teach the archer from infancy, it was enough to teach the peasant a month to move on foot and shoot from the bipod towards the enemy bully
  7. Zaits
    Zaits 5 March 2020 22: 13 New
    A good article, apart from the penultimate paragraph. In general, a positive plus.

    Well, as for the penultimate paragraph.

    - The crossbow was not so much crowded out as it was supplementing the bow.
    And its only undoubted advantage was the relative simplicity and speed of preparation of the shooter. A good archer should have been taught since childhood, and even a townsman militia could become a good arbalester.
    Other advantages of the crossbow - from the series of dipends he. On average, ceteris paribus, a well-trained archer was much more effective than a crossbowman. Both due to the accuracy of shooting, and due to the significantly higher rate of fire. The Hundred Years War showed it especially well.

    - "Early imperfect firearms" ... not even close ... "could seriously compete with both bows and crossbows." Initially, they also mainly supplemented these, performing slightly different functions. Due to the extremely low rate of fire and accuracy, it makes no sense to oppose them to bows and crossbows.
    And the increase in demand for a handgun and the rapid progress thereof, was rather due to changes in the nature of hostilities due to the development of artillery.
  8. seagull
    seagull 10 May 2020 18: 26 New
    I recommend the book E.V. Chernenko about Scythian weapons and armor based on archaeological excavations.
    A lot about bows ....