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Traditional Recurve Bow

Perhaps the most ancient written record of the use of recurved bows is found Psalm 78:57 ("They were turned aside like a deceitful bow" KJV), which is dated by most scholars to the eighth century BC. Adam Clarke points out that "If a person, who is unskillful or weak, attempt to recurve and string one of these bows, if he take not great heed, it will spring back, and regain its quiescent position; and, perhaps, break his arm. And sometimes I have known it, when bent, to start aside, - regain its quiescent position, to my no small danger...this is precisely the kind of bow mentioned by Homer, Odyss. xxi, which none of Penelope's suitors could bend, called καμπυλα τοξα [kampula toxa] in the state of rest; but τοξον παλιντονον [toxon palintonon], the recurved bow when prepared for use." [3]

Recurve bows made out of composite materials were used by, among other groups, the Persians, Parthians, Sarmatians, Scythians, Alans, Dacians, Cumans, Hyksos, Magyars, Huns, Bulgars, Greeks, Turks, Mongols, Koreans and Chinese. The recurve bow spread to Egypt and much of Asia in the second millennium BC. The standard weapon of Roman imperial archers was a composite recurve, and the stiffening laths (also called siyah in Arabic/Asian bows and szarv (horns) in Hungarian bows) used to form the actual recurved ends have been found on Roman sites throughout the Empire, as far north as Bar Hill on the Antonine Wall in Scotland. During the Middle Ages composite recurve bows were used in the drier European countries; the all-wooden straight longbow was the normal form in wetter areas. Recurve bows depicted in the British Isles (see illustrations in "The Great War Bow") may have been composite weapons, or wooden bows with ends recurved by heat and force, or simply artistic licence. Many North American bows were recurved, especially West Coast bows. Recurve bows went out of widespread use, for war, with the availability of effective firearms. Self bows, composite bows, and laminated bows using the recurve form are still made and used by bowyers and amateurs and professional archers.