did sub-Saharan Africans have bows and arrows?

I can’t think why they would not have, it’s a such a simple and useful and widespread invention. But, in all the movies I’ve seen where Africans are hunting game or fighting Europeans or fighting each other, they use spears, or sometimes swords, but never bows.



Arms buffs discussing everything you ever wanted to know about African archery, with some cool pix.

I wonder: Was the bow-and-arrow invented many times in many places, or was it more likely only invented once and spread from there?

References say it was invented as much as 64,000 years ago (some say 71,000 years ago). It spread through every continent except Australia after about 10,000 years ago. (It reached the Americas maybe 6,000 years ago long after people first arrived, through cultural diffusion.)

Bows and arrows were widely used in sub-Saharan Africa. East African bows and arrows are really common in the antique arms realm - I have several in my own collection, from Kenya, Tanzania etc. South and Southwest Africa also saw ample bow and arrow usage up until modern times; equatorial Africa, too. Many sub-Saharan peoples favored the spear, but others favored the bow, and most used both.

The San use bows with poison arrows.

Looking at the bows in this picture it makes me thinks they were lacking in good bow wood. The angles of the limbs facing back to the bowyer are usually used only in cases where woods have to be stressed less. With a decent bow wood that same bow would have been turned around and shot the opposite way. Some of the American Indian tribes used willow in a similar fashion. I have always suspected these were tourist bows made by native Americans who were really lacking in bow making skills. The large majority of African bows I have seen were tourist bows.

I’m not seeing too many in that article with the limbs facing back to the bowyer, except where they are already strung. Even in a full recurvebow, the limbs look like that when they are strung. It tells you nothing about how the bow is made.

One of the bows later in the article looks like it *might *be made the way you describe, though it’s hard to be sure. But those bows also look like they are designed for hunting birds or very small game, so that’s not surprising.

A longbow or yew self bow are usually considered decent bows, and it aren’t shot that way.

I am talking about the curves that they put into the bow, this design is only used when using very poor bow woods. I know a little about this. I hold 3 world records shooting primitive bows in flight shooting competition.


Africa does lack a broad range of softwoods, but has a great diversity of hardwoods, I doubt it’s lack of suitable wood that’s an issue anywhere outside the deserts. More likely to be a lack of sophistication in design, IMO probably because horse archery was never an African thing so things like composites and recurves never took off.

   The tips on these bows bending toward the archer look to be consistent and intentional. In most cases I have found tribal designs to be at least reasonably good designs based on the materials they had access to. Marginal bow woods are compensated for by extra length, extra width or prebending the wood back toward the archer. All of these things relieve stress on the wood. Most of the African hard woods I have worked with tend to lack compressive eleasticity. I know a lot of the South Africans buy bow wood from the U.S. and complain about lack of good woods.

Why is it, then, that one so rarely sees African archers in the movies?

I think they lacked decent bow wood so never developed good designs. They did have good access to horn and sinew that coud be used for composite bows but never developed that technology.

Why do you believe movies, most of those old time movies were made to make Africa look bad. If you are talking about Zulus, they just preferred close contact. Go out and research, you’ll see amazing things in African history not some stupid hollyWeird movie.

Also Nubian were the best archers in the world during their time as an Independent people. The kingdom of Kongo defeated the Portuguese with archers. All African kingdom used archers. The stereotypical view of Africa come from East and Southern Africa who were usually more likely to be herders or hunter-gathers and were by far more tribal. We west Africans were very centralized.

Nubian were the best archers in the world during their time as an Independent people. The kingdom of Kongo defeated the Portuguese with archers. All African kingdom used archers. Stop just going off what you see in stupid popular culture, what is an African “thing”.

I don’t get my experience of Africa from popular culture, mate.

Oh, and …

what’s a Nubian?