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Replica medieval ash longbow.

The longbow is a self (one piece of wood not artificially laminated) bow of varying length, used frequently in the middle ages and became synonomous with English warfare. Whilst the longbow was not unique to the English, it was used in great numbers by that nation and their longbow were greatly feared and reviled. Historically it was referred to simply as a 'bow'.

The bow was preferrably made of yew (Spanish yew was prized) although it could also be made of ash, witchhazel or witchelm. These bows typically have a stacked D section to the centre part of the bow and could have a heartwood belly and sapwood back to enhance their performance. The upper and lower tips of the bow limbs were tipped with horn and did not appear to have a bound grip or arrow shelf.

Longbows themselves vary in length and examples from the 16th century Mary Rose ship find are between 1.82 to 2.12m long. Earlier longbows from Nydam are 1.73m, Ballinderry 1.85m and Hedeby 1.92m long. D section longbows of yew are known in England from approx 2665 BC and there are examples from Scotland dated to between 4040 and 3640 BC.

The draw weights of the Mary Rose bows have been calculated at mostly between 150-160 lbs with the upper limit being around 190 lb. Some modern longbow archers can draw and accurately shoot longbows of over 150 lb draw weights, but they are in the minority. The current world record for a drawn and shot longbow is 200lb. To compare, modern SCA combat bows are 30lb at a 28" draw and target archers rarely use above a 60 lb bow.


The Great Warbow, Strickland and Hardy 2005

See Also