Laminated bow

A laminated bow is an archery bow in which different materials are laminated together to form the bow stave itself. Traditional composite bows are normally not included, although their construction with horn, wood, and sinew might bring them within the above definition.


The Egyptian, Scythian and Assyrian people had been making laminate bows out of combinations of wood, horn and sinew as early as the 2nd millennium BCE.

The oldest-known laminate bows (made entirely of wood) belong to the Scythian cultures. A Scythian wood-laminate bow was discovered in the 19th century in Ukraine, and is currently held at the Institute of Archaeology.[1] It was constructed by laminating several fine strips of willow and alder wood, bound with fish glue and wrapped in birch bark. It had a double-curved shape, was just 32 inches (813mm) long and may have been capable of firing arrows at distances of over 500 yards (457m).[2]

In 2006, an international expedition to the Altai mountain region in Western Mongolia uncovered a laminate bow, associated with the Scythian Pazyryk culture. It is of a complicated construction, with many fine strips of wood glued side-by-side, and a wooden reinforcement plate glued to the handle. The entire bow was wrapped in spiral form with rawhide and birch bark; in addition to reinforcing the construction this also made the bow resistant to water and humidity.[3] The bow is dated to the 3rd century BCE.

The modern Japanese bow is a laminated bow. Laminated bows in Japan first appeared around 1000 AD, during the late Heihan or Kamakura period. They were made of wood and bamboo laminated with glue, evolving from simple bamboo-backed bows to complex bows of 5 piece construction (higo yumi) by the 1600s.[4] The Saami and their neighbours[5] across Northern Eurasia[6] also made laminated bows for centuries. Hijāzi Arabs may also have used a laminated bow.[7]

Reading Museum is in the possession of an Inuit laminate bow. It was made in Pelly Bay and consists of three shims of bone laminated near the handle region, and reinforced at the joints with rawhide. It has two short driftwood arrows with bone points.[8] They reflect the shortage of wood in the Arctic region and the improvisation of pre-contact aboriginal Inuit people.

Further readingEdit

  • (1992) The Traditional Bowyers Bible Volume 1. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-085-3
  • (1992) The Traditional Bowyers Bible Volume 2. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-086-1
  • (1994) The Traditional Bowyers Bible Volume 3. The Lyons Press. ISBN 1-58574-087-X
  • How to make fiberglass-laminated modern bows by John Clark, available from Ausbow Industries
  • The Design and Construction of Composite Long (Flat) Bows by John Clark
  • The Design and Construction of Composite Recurve Bows by John Clark (2002)
  • Design and Construction of Flight Bows, a supplement to The Design and Construction of Composite Recurve Bows by John Clark


  1. ^ Insulander, Ragnar (2002). "The two-wood bow". Acta Borealia. 19 (1).
  2. ^ The National Geographic Magazine, Volume 190. National Geographic Society. 1996. p. 66.
  3. ^ Molodin, Vjaceslav; Parsinger, Hermann; Ceveemdorz, Durensuren; Garkusa, Jurij; Grisin, Artem (2008). "Das skythenzeitliche kriegergrab aus Olon-Kurin-Gol Neue Entdechungen in der Permafrostzone des mongolischen Altaj". Eurasia Antiqua: 241–265.
  4. ^ Green, Thomas; Svinth, Joseph (2010). Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia of History and Innovation. ABC-CLIO. p. Q53. ISBN 1598842447.
  5. ^ Ragnar Insulander. The Two-Wood Bow. Acta Borealia 2002; 19: 49-73[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ The Neolithic Age in Eastern Siberia. Henry N. Michael. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser., Vol. 48, No. 2 (1958), pp. 1-108. doi:10.2307/1005699
  7. ^ Arab Archery. An Arabic manuscript of about A.D. 1500 "A book on the excellence of the bow & arrow" and the description thereof. Translated and edited by Nabih Amin Faris and Robert Potter Elmer. Princeton University Press, 1945.
  8. ^ "Inuit bow and arrows". Reading Museum.