What did ancient people use to attach feathers to arrows?

I’ve seen references to “fish glue”. Did they boil fish bones to make some sort of glue?

Boiling up connective tissue made glue. No doubt ancient man discovered this by accident and thought “That’s useful…”. Fish bones were just one source:

I had always thought they were tied on with sinew. The cool thing about sinew (of some sorts, anyway) is that it shrinks when it dries, so as to make some very tight binding.

(This is also how the disparate elements of Zuni fetishes are bound together. Wet sinew is tied around the parts, then dries to incredible tightness.)

However, glue works too. Here’s a fun cite explaining how to make “hide glue” and other adhesives.

Googling suggests that one common method was to tie them on - specifically, to make a wrap above and below the fletching with wet animal sinew (which has the property that it shrinks as it dries).

ETA: Ninjaed.

According to this Primitive Technology video link he uses tree resin and then secures the feather with a strand of bark fiber.

Iroquoised! :wink:

Cree-sus that’s bad. You oughta be Siouxed.

Ute think he’d know better.

Inuit, the puns start flying.

You know, when I saw the thread title, I thought it sounded like the setup for one of those silly kid’s jokes with a punchline on the order of “To keep his wigwam”, but wasn’t going to mention that because it would derail the thread. But given the last few responses…

One problem with gelatin (hide and fish) glues is that they are not waterproof. Not a problem if you can keep your arrows dry, but it is a consideration.

Casein glue is waterproof, and was recommended in at least one old (modern, 40s) archery manual, but pitch, resin, binding, glue - all have been used in different times and places.

The San, for instance, rarely fletch their arrows at all. When they do, it might just be a single whole feather tied off on one side with fine fibres, and glued with a gum arabic-like acacia resin.

So, before gunpowder, did folks speak of “keeping your arrows dry”? :slight_smile:

I remember an anecdote (I thought that it was in one of Jared Diamond’s books, but I’m not finding it) about a New Guinea native visiting the outside world and the only thing that really impressed him was seeing feathered arrows, which he had never seen or heard of before, and adopted the technique after returning home.

You could tie a trimmed half feather to the arrow or put a groove in for the quill. Maybe they glued it too. I’m remaining Neutral, Toqhuat many puns.

There was more consideration at keeping your bowstring dry … it needed the elastic spring for best function. [I did a few classes on primative survival tech as part of my interest in archeology so I took flint knapping, which lead into fixing said chipped pieces of stone to wood for knife or hatchet handles, arrow shafts and spear shafts. There is an [interesting bit](http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/defy-stereotypes.html) on extracting pitch for glue that demonstrated how sophisticated ancient tech could be.] I would say that one of the more interesting things I learned was how to split and secure knife and axe blades using sinew and pitch glue. THough the knapping process was absolutely fascinating. It actually sort of takes tools to make tools, though you could use a picked up hammer stone and salvaged deer horn instead of needing to carry around your own tools …

Practical archeology is a fascinating field. For example, for years they kept finding evidence of little dug out hollows beside entry doors in celtic round houses and figured they were for holding grain or whatever. It wasn’t until they built a reconstruction village and populated it with people and appropriate farm animals that they discovered that the chickens would dust bathe in just that spot, creating a hollow just like they used to find in digsites.

Reminds me of a story about anthropologist sometimes finding small, elongated pieces of clay that were thought to possibly be phallic symbols–until someone decided that maybe the artists were rolling a small piece of clay between their hands to test the consistency.

Used as short-range weapons in PNG, and the fact that they missed at long distances was the only thing that kept them from all killing each other when they turned out to fight (which would have been a self-limiting activity). The arrow could go 2 feet into the ground, and was barbed. so it did a lot of damage to anything it hit.

Lol! Good one!

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was it this article?

You would be PaWNEeD