Throwing Arrows, Ouneps and Amentum

In my recent post about throwing sticks and stones, I mentioned that creating a good spear was not as easy as some survival manuals make out, and that the throwing stick might be a better investment of your time and energies.
I had wanted to link this comment to an article that I had written back in my early days on the internet. However, the throwing weapons group I had originally written it for had long since disappeared, and to my surprise, I had not placed a copy on my other website.
Since then, I have discovered several of my original articles are preserved on this site.
The spear article, in turn, referenced an article I wrote on throwing arrows, so I have updated that and reposted it here.

Throwing arrows, or at least javelins that resemble arrows, have been used by several cultures, including the Romans and the Plains Indians.
One form of Roman weapon, the plumbata, is described as being about 10 inches long with an iron head, lead or lead‑weighted shaft and tin fins. There are references to legionaries carrying a rack of such missiles on the inside of their shields, at least in some regions or periods of the empire.
The Celts are known to have used a hardwood and iron weapon of about 21 inches length. (These are the weapons termed “Irish darts” in “Slash and Thrust” by John Sanchez. Sanchez claims these were the inspiration for the lead, iron and tin Roman dart. The example of the latter that he illustrates differs from most modern reconstructions.)
By the Middle Ages, such short spears or darts were also popular in other regions, particularly with the Arabs and Spanish (no doubt with the latter due to Moorish influence). “Spanish Darts” were one of the many weapons Henry VIII was proficient with. “Top dartes” were thrown from the rigging of warships.
Hand‑thrown arrows are sometimes referred to as “dutch arrows”.
This article will deal with less conventionally thrown arrows.
In his book “The Art of Attack”, H.S.Cowper refers to a class of weapon that he calls “javelins”, although he concedes the term is also used for conventional spears.
Cowper uses the term javelin to define "“…short pointed missiles flung by the wrist, not propelled straight by the forearm, but twirling in the air end over end before striking the object aimed at”. In other words, something that looks like a spear but is thrown like a knife.
Most of these weapons he describes are between one and three feet in length.
Obviously, this use of the term “javelin” has fallen into disuse.
Cowper suggests such a javelin was the type of weapon Saul threw at David: sitting around the throne room with a full size spear and throwing it a such short range seems to him unlikely.
Cowper describes several examples of javelin:
The Persians used an all metal weapon 2.5 feet long, and sometimes carried two or three in the same sheath. The Arabs used the “mizrak”, which had a 15 inch head, 23 inch shaft and a spiked butt.
The Greek version had a head at each end, but then so do certain much longer Greek spears.
The Knights’ Armoury at Malta had large stocks of sticks with a spear point at each end. These two foot long weapons were intended for throwing from the walls.
Most of the two‑pointed weapons have one head smaller than the other. It is true that this is a feature seen on many double pointed throwing knives, but it is just as likely the lesser point is for close combat or sticking the thing in the ground.
Short throwing sticks with a point at each end date back to prehistoric man.
Two‑pointed examples certainly exist, but the majority of these weapons are single‑pointed, and single‑bladed tumbling weapons seem to have seen very little battlefield use .
Cowper's javelins resemble short spears or throwing arrows, but are thrown end over end like a throwing knife. Pretty obviously, it is hard to tell by looking if a short spear was thrown knife fashion or spear fashion, and in many cases the answer may be either.
I have seen suggestions that the Roman plumbata may have been thrown like a German stick grenade.
Short, spear-like throwing weapons
The best evidence for such missiles being used that I have found comes from Japan. The “uchi‑ne” resembles a short stocky arrow about 12 inch long with a 4 inch head. naga-yari and uchi-ne
The “nage‑yari” (“thrown/throwing spear”) is a short spear about 17 inch long with a 5 inch head. Often tassels are fitted behind the head, which may aid drag stabilisation.
According to some books, these short missiles are used in the defence of palanquins.
Michael Finn's book “The Art of Shuriken” plainly shows an uchi‑ne being thrown in the same way as a knife, but holding the bottom of the shaft just above the vanes. Finn’s illustration appears to show an uchi‑ne brought up to touch the shoulder and then flipped forward by straightening the arm.
Throwing uchi-ne from Michael Finn's "Art of the Shuriken"
Don. F. Draeger, in “Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts” lists “uchi‑ne jitsu” as a skill practiced by samurai.
Shirakami Uchi-ne
In Shirakami Ikku Ken's book “Shuriken‑Do”, there is also an illustration of uchi‑ne throwing, but this arrow is about two and a half feet long, and obviously thrown as a spear. Interestingly, this illustration also shows a retrieval cord, and the text mentions that some uchi‑ne are fitted with these. Shirakami tells us that for long ranges the uchi‑ne is thrown like a spear, but for shorter ranges it is gripped differently and thrown in a turning style.
Interestingly, Shirakami precedes this description with a few words on more conventional Japanese throwing spears, which he terms “uchine” (spelt without a hyphen).
Most illustrations of uchi‑ne that I've encountered have been of the shorter variety, however.
The uchi‑ne was obviously intended to fly point first, and there is some indication that the nage‑yari was drag stabilized: the shaft appears to be tapered and there seems to be a tassel behind the head.
The question that intrigues me is were nage‑yari thrown like spears or like knives, and did they have enough drag stabilization to fly point first or did they tumble as Cowper assumes?

These weapons pose several questions which are worth investigating.

  • How long a shaft is needed to get a knife to fly point first? This will of course vary with head length and mass. Could a formulae to predict the length needed be found?
  • Will adding a shaft to a knife significantly increase its range?
  • Will adding a shaft to a undersized or too light knife turn it into a more effective missile?
Sadly, I don't have the room nor resources to experiment with these ideas at the moment, but would like to hear from anyone who decides to give them a try.
In addition to wood, a good shaft material may be plastic pipe.

Throwing with Strings

In his book “The Crossbow”, Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey describes arrow throwing as it was practiced by pitmen of the West Riding region, Yorkshire.
Where the Yorkshire technique differs from most arrow throwing is that it uses a length of string.
This string had an overhand knot tied at one end and this end was attached to the arrow by means of a half hitch. Hitching point was 16 inches back from the head, just behind the centre of gravity. The other end of the string was wrapped around the index finger of the throwing hand.
The arrow was then grasped just behind the head with the thumb and second and third fingers, the index finger keeping the string taunt.
The arrow is thrown like a spear, but the string increases the efficiency/duration of energy transfer. (I'll leave it to a physics teacher to explain this better!)
As the arrow leaves the thrower, the half hitch unties itself and so the string stays with the thrower.
The arrows used were 31 inches long, with an ogival tip and 5/16 of an inch wide at the head end. The arrow tapered to a point 3/16 of an inch wide at the back end.
Centre of balance was 13 inches from the head.
The entire arrow would have weighed only a little more than half an ounce. Usual material was hazelwood with a pith core. This would be dried for two years before being used to make an arrow.
A good arrow was highly prized by its owner.
The purpose of this arrow throwing was for amusement and competition.
An typical throw ranged from about 240 to 250 yards, although the better throwers may manage 280 to 300 yards.
The longest recorded throw was 372 yards.
As an experiment, Payne-Gallwey asked a thrower to use this technique with a flight arrow from a bow. A range of 180 to 200 yards was achievable. Given Payne-Gallwey's other interests, I suspect that the arrow used was a Turkish arrow which would have weighed 7 dr, or 7/8th of an ounce.
The arrows used in Yorkshire were not used for hunting or war, but the technique of throwing a missile further with a length of cord was used in a more belligerent manner by other cultures.
Natives of the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and New Guinea used a device called the “ounep” by Cowper.
The only difference between the ounep and the Yorkshireman's string is that the ounep was used on full‑sized spears and the hitch was tied at the centre of gravity rather than the butt.
The finger end of the cord might have a loop tied rather than just being wrapped around the finger.
The ounep allowed a spear to be thrown further, and theoretically a thrower would not be in danger from a return cast unless the enemy had a ounep of his own.
Throwing spear with amentum
The principle of the ounep was known to the Greeks and Romans, although they used a loop of cord tied permanently to the shaft. This was known as the “amentum” (thong or strap) to the Romans and the “ankulé” to the Greeks. This device was used by the javelin armed pelasts of the Greek world.
A comparison of hand‑throwing, ounep, amentum and atlatl spear‑throwing would be interesting.

Survival Spears

In my recent post about throwing sticks and stones, I mentioned that creating a good spear was not as easy as some survival manuals make out, and that the throwing stick might be a better investment of your time and energies.
I had wanted to link this comment to an article that I had written back in my early days on the internet. However, the throwing weapons group I had originally written it for had long since disappeared, and to my surprise, I had not placed a copy on my other website.
Below is the original article from many decades ago, with some minor updating and editing.
Since I wrote this, I have discovered several of my original articles are preserved on this site.

A Short Essay on Spears

Sometime ago, I started putting together notes on easily-made weapons and started off with spears since most survival books make this out to be quite simple. Just grab a length of wood and sharpen one end, and off you go!
Not quite!
Assuming that you do have a handy forest nearby, you won't see that many six foot+ lengths of timber of suitable width just growing from the ground, not anywhere I've been, anyhow.
If you do find something without needing to chop down a tree, it probably won't be straight, so you have to beath it.
Beathing involves gently roasting the wood over a fire or in hot ashes to make it temporarily supple. After this, you will probably have to hang your spear up to dry a day or so. Hanging a heavy weight from it may help the shaft stay straight. Bell towers were sometimes used to make and store pikes and spears.

Throwing Spears

For a throwing spear, just sharpening a point on one end and throwing it may not be enough. The spear will probably yaw like crazy and you may miss your mark by at least a foot.
Your spear needs flight stabilization.
Although fletching is sometimes used, most throwing spears are stabilized by drag, for which the front half needs to be heavier than the rear.
For a “self” spear (one made of a single piece of wood), drag stabilization may be achieved by tapering the shaft towards the butt, or better still. selecting a length of wood that is already tapered.
Hawaiian All Wooden Spear
Captain Cook's expedition to Hawaii acquired a very nice example of such a spear (above), which must have been the product of many hours carving, particularly since the owner was unlikely to have had metal tools.
Throwing Spears
A simpler option is to fit a heavier head or a fit a weight just behind the head.
Most spears that have a separate head have a head that is denser than the shaft material.
Flint heads are well known, but one can also carve a blade from wood, maybe gumming flakes of flint or shell to it.
Fixing a knife as a spear point will do, but the blade length handy for a knife is often too short for a good spear and any cross guard will limit penetration. Traditional boar‑spears penetrated at least ten inches, and bear‑spears more than double this.
A point can be carved from wood, and fire hardened in some cases, but if for a throwing spear, ensure it has sufficient weight.
Fire hardening is a process that is often mentioned, but not described in detail in many survival manuals. Fire hardening is “lightly toasting” the sharpened point of a wooden weapon to drive out some of the moisture. The point is then sharpened further. Fire hardening may make a wooden tip harder, but also makes it more brittle. Sometimes grease, oil or fat is applied to the treated point afterwards.
Other useful construction materials include flint, obsidian, glass, shell, slate, bone, horn, antler or metal, either on their own or added to a wooden head.
Drag stabilization may also be increased by adding cloth streamers or long tufts of grass or hair behind the head.

Thrusting Spears

Sometimes your intended meal will have other ideas and will want to come up and inform you of its differing opinion. In such a situation, a thrusting spear is useful, no matter what other weapon you were using to hunt.
Forward balance is not such a problem for a thrusting spear but penetration still is. In this situation your concern is too much rather than too little.
Some beasties have been known to impale themselves further onto a spear or sword attempting to get the hunter within reach of their horns, tusks, claws or teeth!
The solution to this hazard is some form of arrest, usually a crossbar a foot or more down the shaft.
Examples of methods of creating barred spears
A number of examples are shown in the illustration above, taken from “Hunting Weapons” by Howard L. Blackmore.
The leftmost uses a boar tusk thrust through the bindings. Several others use plates of bone or horn attached by cordage. Blackmore, p.91: “To start with, in the fifteenth century, the bar was a piece of wood or horn held firmly in position by thonging. It was then realized that if the bar hung loose it was still effective and was not so liable to cause accidental injury to the bearer or his companions. The piece of horn forming the bar, often only roughly shaped, was fastened to the haft by a leather strap passing through a hole in the socket or woven into the binding which normally criss-crossed the head of the haft to provide a grip.”
In some weapons, the arrest is not so obvious, being incorporated into the design of the blade or socket. Examples of this include the partizan and the lugged or winged spears.
Having more than one point automatically limits penetration, as can be seen with the Chinese tiger fork.
Chinese Tiger Fork
Thrusting spears are also used for hunting, usually from ambush.
A thrusting spear should lack any barbs so that it can be easily withdrawn for a second thrust or to be used against another target.

Barbs and Multiple Points

A throwing spear may be barbed, and in a hunting situation this may be done for two reasons:
Firstly, it is done to keep a poisoned blade in the animal's body long enough for the poison to take effect. Often the head detaches so that the shaft (the production of which may have involved quite a lot of work) will not be lost or damaged as the animal escapes through the brush or tries to rub the head loose. Having a wound partially plugged by a shaft reduces the rate of blood loss, but the movement of the shaft will also inhibit clotting, prolonging bleeding time.
Heads are also barbed to prevent an animal escaping from the spear head when the shaft of the spear is held or the weight of the shaft will hinder escape.
The most familiar examples of this are fishing spears (which may be more effective thrust rather well as thrown).
Sometimes the head of a spear will be designed to detach but will be on a line so that the fish/seal/hippo(!) can be hauled in once exhausted.
The drag of the detached shaft through the water may further tire the animal and sometimes a bladder or buoy is added to the shaft increase this effect.
This technique is also used with arrows.
Fishing Arrow
An very nice example (above), taken from “The Art of Attack” by Henry Swainson Cowper. The drag of the arrow shaft being pulled sideways through the water tires the prey. The barbed arrowhead is made from bone and inserts into a socket in the end of the shaft.
Because fish are often hard to hit, many fishing spears (and arrows) have multiple points, and this strategy may also be used on small elusive furred and feathered game too. For ideas for such designs, I suggest browsing Cowper and Blackmore, paying particular attention to the multi‑pointed spear, harpoon and arrow heads made from non‑metallic materials such as antler, wood and bone.

Throwing Cords

A useful trick that can be applied to spears is to tie a loop of cordage to the shaft and slip the first two fingers through the loop when throwing. This increases energy transfer to the shaft and was known to the Greeks as the “ankulé” and to the Romans as the “amentum. Cowper describes this on p.230.
A variant of this is to tie the cord with a half hitch, either near the centre of gravity or the butt. Using this knot allows the cord to remain with the thrower after the spear is cast. Cowper describes this on p.231, using the term “ounep”.
Miners in West Riding, Yorkshire, used this method to throw 31 inch long drag stabilised arrows, and ranges commonly exceeded 200 yards. Cowper describes this on p.230, the source being “The Crossbow/The Book of the Crossbow” by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey.
Conventional arrows can be thrown by the same method and this maybe a useful hunting technique for a bow hunter should your bow be broken.

If suitable materials are available, and the above design principles are borne in mind, quite effective spears can be made.
Spears are also useful as walking and wading aids, as carrying poles, shelter supports etc.

Throwing Sticks and Stones

Recently, my computer began to lag, so I ran a chkdsk on it. This took some time, so I decided to read in the more traditional manner.
My choice was a printed copy of Richard F. Burton’s “The Book of the Sword” (1884). I have dipped into this book on occasions, but never actually read it from cover to cover.
Bigfoot attack a cabin

Throwing Stones

In the introduction and preamble, Burton discusses humanity’s need for weapons, their disposition to violence and the forms and possible inspirations of early armaments.
I was particularly struck (pun intended!) by the discussion of hand‑throwing of stones.
Various apes, monkeys, kangaroo mice and some octopuses will throw a variety of objects to discourage intruders and predators.
Humans, however, are able to throw with sufficient accuracy to deliberately hit and injure an intended target. Indeed, there are indications that aptitude in this ability may have been an evolutionarily selected trait and have contributed to human sexual dimorphism.
In the Iliad, duelling heroes pick up great rocks and hurl them at each other.
Classical armies are believed to have included units of stone throwing warriors, known as “petrobóloi” or “lithobóloi”. Since these terms mean “stone-thrower”, some of these references may alternately refer to men armed with slings or catapult‑type war engines.
A little later in history, the Roman Vegetius states: [Legionary] Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling.” and “Formerly all soldiers were trained to the practice of throwing stones of a pound weight with the hand, as this was thought a readier method since it did not require a sling.”
It is worth bearing in mind that accurate use of a sling is very difficult and requires considerable time and training. Having legionaries lob stones at enemies was much more practical.
Japanese armies also had low-ranking warriors whose speciality was throwing stones (ishinage/ishiuchi/inji/sekisen/tōseki/isi arasoi/isi gassen), the stones known as tsubute. (“Classic Weaponry of Japan, p.156, Serge Mol)
Japanese stone throwing
Burton gives several examples of stones used in hunting or war (p.16): “Diodorus of Sicily (B.C. 44)…says that the Libyans [possibly a generic term for North Africans] ‘use neither Swords, spears, nor other weapons; but only three darts [javelins] and stones in certain leather budgets [bags/sacks], wherewith they fight in pursuing and retreating.’”
He also describes how raiding “Arab Bedawin”, rather than use their matchlocks, will pelt an enemy with rocks, causing him to uselessly expend his ammunition.
Burton also remarks: As a rule, the shepherd is everywhere a skilful stone-thrower.”
In “The Art of Attack” (1906), p.153, Henry Swainson Cowper notes: “Stone throwing as a method of attack would come natural to our earliest forefathers, like the use of the simplest club. Indeed such use might precede the last named, since no branch could be used without some trimming, while suitable stones lay ready almost everywhere.” and on p.159, footnote 2, “It seems natural for man, when irritable to " chuck " the nearest available object, whether a stone or a decanter, at the offender, whether that be a dog or a relative.”
As well as being a weapon system for hunting and war, stone‑throwing has been used for a number of other purposes.
Stones may be used to bring down fruit and nuts from trees. It is probable that thrown stones have been used to drive predators and scavengers away from a kill, and birds and other animals away from the crops and herds. Thrown stones have been used for duelling, as a means of execution, and as an exhibition of disapproval, discouragement, harassment and religious devotion. I even encountered suggestions that throwing stones could be used for stress relief (other than the obvious option of throwing them at whoever bothers you!).
One might also reflect at the various sports and fun‑fair or carnival games that involve throwing balls or other stone‑like objects.
While researching this topic, I came across this interesting scientific paper.
Stones deemed most effective as missiles were those of 0.5 to 0.75 kg (figure 6). The stones used naturally weathered into spheroids, and diameter of suitable missiles was approximately that of a tennis ball, which would be around 67 mm, incidentally very close to that of an M67 grenade (64 mm).
Another interesting feature of this study was that the simulated target was a 57 kg antelope at 25 metres.
In a genuine survival situation, a thrown stone may be useful for more than just squirrels, rabbits and birds!
Not all stones are created equal, and good throwing stones may not be as readily available in some environments as you may wish.
Cowper (p.150) notes that the natives of Tierra del Fuego carry a little store of stones for throwing in the corner of their mantles. Many other stone throwing peoples also carried stones on their person.
Undoubtedly, stones were often selected for suitable mass, and for regularity and consistency of shape. Shaping and polishing stones to create better missiles is not unknown.
Despite this long and broad history, the potential of hand‑thrown stones is often overlooked by survivalists.
In modern times, we associate stone‑throwing with rioters and hoodlums.
Survival manuals that describe field expedient weapons generally ignore the use of stones, other than as ammunition for slings and hand‑catapults/slingshots.
Rubber and elastic perish and break.
While a sling is easily constructed and has formidable power and range, learning to use it accurately enough to hunt with will probably involve weeks and months of practice.
As an aside, if you do have the cordage to make a sling, you may be better off making a bolas! The bolas is a clubbing weapon as well as an entangling one, so is related to the thrown stone.
Bolas are best used in open terrain. Bushes and trees give them problems.
Cords of more than a metre may be used for bolas, and heavier weights than those suggested in FM 3‑05.70 used. Blackmore (p.327) gives a range of 1 to 1.5 lbs for each weight.
If you are serious about keeping yourself fed or defended, putting in some practice at throwing stones by hand would be prudent.
A practice range for stone throwing is easily constructed, even when out in the wilds. A tree, post, mound or object hanging from a tree may be used as a target.

Throwing Sticks

Throwing stones may be supplemented by throwing sticks.
Compared to a thrown stone, a throwing stick has a greater chance of hitting a target, and a greater range.
In their very simplest, a throwing stick is a piece of wood picked up off the ground or broken from a tree and thrown at a target. Such simple throwing sticks are useful for knocking fruit out of trees, or casting a bear‑line over a tree branch.
This video shows a very simple baton-style throwing stick made from a length of hardwood timber, as long as the arm and as thick as the wrist. Ideally this should be as free of knots and other non‑aerodynamic projections as possible.
Sharpening each end will increase its utility both as a weapon and as a digging tool.
More effective throwing sticks will take a little more fabrication.
Throwing sticks may be dived into those that have an aerodynamic cross‑section, and those that do not.
Throwing Clubs
The latter type (above) are often weighted towards one end, and may resemble a knobkerry or shillelagh.
The next illustration is taken from “Hunting Weapons” by Howard L. Blackmore, and shows hyrax being hunted.
Two hunters would work together, about 50 yards apart. Both would throw at the same time so that an animal dodging one club would be hit by the other. When hunting birds, one hunter cast his club above the bird, the other below.
Hunting with a throwing club
A knobkerry or shillelagh‑type club may be made from where a branch or root grows from a larger part.
The next illustration shows an alternated configuration of throwing club, cut from the junction of where a minor branch joins a major one.
Throwing club made from join of two branches
When it comes to aerodynamic throwing sticks, some mention must be made of the “boomerang”.
In modern usage, the term “boomerang” is generally used for returning throwing sticks. To return, a boomerang needs to be launched in a specific direction, relative to the wind. It also needs to be relatively light, making it impractical as a hunting weapon except against lightly-framed fowl.
Non-returning boomerangs intended for hunting and warfare may be up to a metre long, and may have a range of 150 yards (Cowper, p.166).
The term “boomerang” was originally a name only used in part of Australia, and according to many authors, was originally used for non-returning hunting and fighting weapons!
Burton notes (p.33): “The form of throwing-stick, which we have taught ourselves to call by an Australian name ‘boomerang,’ thereby unduly localising an almost universal weapon from Eskimo-land to Australia, was evidently a precursor of the wooden Sword. It was well known to the ancient Egyptians.”
Survival field manuals such as FM 3‑05.70 tell you to make a “rabbit stick” from “a stout stick as long as your arm, from fingertip to shoulder” (p.8‑26) and from “a blunt stick, naturally curved at about a 45-degree angle” (p.12‑8)
Some sources will tell you that a hunting throwing stick should be widest at the centre and thinner and tapered towards the tips. This is an effective form, but even if we restrict ourselves to looking at Australian designs, other forms may be encountered.
The illustration below shows a “beaked” war‑boomerang (3). Boomerangs
The image below shows an Australian weapon known as a “lil‑lil” besides a more familiar style of throwing stick.
Lil-lil and Boomerang
The lil-lil is classed as a club rather than a boomerang, but is also used as a throwing weapon. This design has inspired some weapons that do have an aerodynamic cross-section.
Both the beaked boomerang and lil-lil clearly concentrate mass towards one end rather than the centre.
Cowper shows a wide variety of curved throwing sticks, ranging from gentle S‑forms to sabre, hook and horn shapes.
In other words, you have considerable leeway in the shape of your throwing stick.
FM 3‑05.70 also tells the survivor to “Shave off two opposite sides so that the stick is flat like a boomerang.” which I think is a little misleading.
Aerodynamic throwing sticks often have a cross‑section that is described as “semi‑lenticular”. In other words, the lower surface flat‑ish and the upper convex. The edge formed concentrates the force of impact, hence Burton’s reference to wooden swords or edged clubs.
Cowper notes that some war‑boomerangs have one side flatter, which suggests this may not be as pronounced as seen on “comebacks”. He also mentions an Indian war-boomerang with both sides rounded. There is therefore some leeway in the cross‑section you give your throwing stick, depending on the tools and the time you have.
A practical bow and arrow, or even a good spear take considerable skill to produce in a survival scenario.
Manufacture of a throwing stick is easier and more forgiving. Your chances of bagging a meal with it are also much greater.
Like any other weapon system, you will still need to put in the time practicing!
There are plenty of websites and videos describing how to make and use throwing sticks, so I will not go into further detail here.
Depending on how it was constructed, a throwing stick may serve other purposes too.
Many types are suitable for use as digging sticks. Some knobkerry or shillelagh are long enough to serve as walking sticks, which is handy when traversing rough terrain. Throwing sticks may also serve as hand weapons, useful in dispatching caught fish or trapped animals.
It is a good idea to construct a pair of throwing sticks, providing you with the means to make a follow‑up attack, or defend yourself.

Bows in North America and Pellucidar

Reading through my file collection the other day I came across an old (1930’s?) article on how the North American Indians made their bows. I have some knowledge of English and Asian bows but this was a field I was less familiar with. One of the reasons that this article so interested me was that I am currently reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar series. Many of the characters in these books use bows and there are frequent references to them constructing new weapons after escaping from capture. The Indians tended to favour flatbow designs and I have heard it suggested that such a bow is easier to construct under field conditions than the D-section English Longbow.
I will not bother to reproduce the entire article since there are some excellent websites on the topic available on the internet. Some interesting points from the original article were:
    • The best time to cut wood to make bows was February since the sap had not yet risen into the wood. This was defined in the article as “when the geese return”.
    • The wood of choice was Osage Orange. Where this was not available a number of other woods were used including ash, hickory and yew.
    • Like the English Longbow, the bowstave needed a considerable period of seasoning before any carving could be done. Bowstaves were hung high up in the tepee above the fire to gently season in the heat. Arrowshafts and other items were seasoned in the same way. The bark side of the stave was used for the "back" of the bow: the part that faces away from you.
    • Bow length varied with tribe, intended use and probably the individual. Bows of six foot or longer were known, as were bows of only a few feet. A suggested measure for a bow was the distance from the left hip to the right hand when the hand was held out horizontally to the side. This is about four feet. Some readers will recognize this as illustrated in Lofty Wiseman’s “The SAS Survival Guide” and doubtless this book and the article drew from a similar source. The bow illustrated in that publication is a flatbow.
    • Arrows were often marked with three lightning bolt carvings. Practical purpose of these may have been to reduce the tendency of the arrow to warp. It was also suggested in the article that the grooves might have encouraged blood loss.
    • Arrowheads were bound into the end of the arrowshaft. Some war arrowheads were constructed so that impact with the target would cut the bindings, leaving the head in the target even if the shaft was pulled out.
    • Hard sinew (from the neck of a buffalo) was sometimes used as an arrowhead. The stated advantage of this was that such heads had a tendency to deflect from the ribs of an animal and slip between them while flint or iron heads would stick, shatter or bend.
ERB does not give us any description of the type of bows his characters use, although David Innes in “Land of Terror” does tell us:
“A species of the genus Taxus is more or less widely distributed throughout Pellucidar; and I had discovered that its wood made the best bows. For arrows I used a straight, hollow reed that becomes very hard when dry. The tips which I inserted in the end of the reeds were of wood, fire-hardened.
A modern archer of the civilized outer world would doubtless laugh at the crude bow I made then at the edge of the Valley of the Jukans. If he uses a yew bow, the wood for it was allowed to season for three years before it was made into a bow, and then the bow was probably not used for two more years; but I could not wait five years before eating; and so I hacked the limb I had selected from the tree with my stone knife and took the bark from it and tapered it crudely from the center toward each end. I prefer a six foot, eighty pound bow for a three-foot arrow, because of the great size and formidability of some of the beasts one meets here; but of course my bow did not attain this strength immediately. Every time we had a fire, I would dry it out a little more, so that it gradually attained its full efficiency. The strings for my bows I can make from several long-fibered plants; but even the best of them do not last long, and I am constantly having to renew them.”

In “Return to Pellucidar” in the anthology book “Savage Pellucidar”:
“Fruit and nuts grew in abundance on the trees and shrubs of the little canyon; but fighting men require meat; and one must have weapons to have meat. These two had not even a stone knife between them, but the first men had no weapons originally. They had to make them.
Innes and Hodon went into the little stream and hunted around until they found a large mussel. They pried it open with a sharp stone, and each took a half shell. With these they cut two pieces of bamboo-like arborescent grass to form the hafts of two spears. Searching again they collected a number of stones: soft stones, hard stones, flat stones, stones with sharp edges; and with some of these they chipped and scraped at others until they had fashioned two spear heads and a couple of crude knives. While Hodon was finding the toughest fibers with which to bind the spear heads to the hafts, Innes made a bow and some arrows, for this was one of his favorite weapons.”
Since Pellucidar was constantly under an unmoving noon-day sun it presumably had no seasons and the trees would have always been filled with sap. Perhaps that was why the bow was so rare on Pellucidar!
The Boy Scout Handbook (1911) has a nice section on archery.