Did you know archery is one of the oldest sports? Depending on whom you ask, the exact time when ancient people started using a bow and arrow is debatable. Some claim it arose from the late stone age while others believe it dates back anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 years.
What historians and academics do agree on is that the Egyptians left behind the first known composite bow around 2,800 B.C.E. Warriors likely used it to shoot from chariots. Both the Greeks and Romans adopted archery, and it’s likely the latter’s widespread conquests are to thank for archery’s spread across Europe and the Far East during the early part of the first century. But Europe wasn’t the only continent who embraced archery.
On five continents, civilizations independently developed their own unique versions of bows and arrows for hunting and defense. Australia is the only continent whose indigenous people never invented some form of bow or archery equipment. Those people who invented and mastered archery equipment quickly learned the value of archery both in hunting and in conflict. Archery in combat waned after firearms were invented and became the weapon of choice. Still, archery remained a part of eastern Asian warfare well into the 19th century.
Archery debuted as an Olympic sport in 1900 but only appeared in the games three more times – 1904, 1908, and 1920 – before it reemerged in 1972. Since then archery’s popularity has only grown.
Today firearms remain the weapons of choice in warfare, yet bowhunting and recreational archery have stood the test of time. Equipment has evolved into a high-tech array of colorful materials and record-breaking performance that even 40 years ago would have dazzled the savviest of archers.
Modern movies like Avatar, the Hunger Games trilogy and Brave have driven archery’s popularity further into the mainstream. It’s a sport enjoyed by all ages and abilities at any skill level. Archers can choose between shooting classic recurves, compounds, or crossbows on various platforms including everything from target archery on your local range to outdoor 3D and indoor virtual digital ranges.
Field archery, the most popular competitive archery in the world, involves target shooting for accuracy at various distances. In Europe and the United States, it’s popular to shoot outdoors in fields, in the woods or on rough terrain. Since 1970 the International Field Archery Association has grown to represent 50,000 field archers in 40 countries including New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. http://www.ifaa-archery.org/
Crossbow popularity has risen in recent years in both hunting and competition. The International Crossbow Shooting Union, founded in 1956, calls Switzerland home. As the governing body for Match and Field crossbow shooting, they hold continental and international championships in 15 countries across four continents. Although crossbow-shooting is non-Olympic sport, the International Crossbow Union’s goal is to fulfill the criteria necessary make it an event at the World Games. http://www.iau-crossbow.org/en/
One organization stands above the rest in keeping archery vibrant. In Poland, 1931, World Archery was founded with a mission to promote the sport worldwide. From the beginning and still, they are committed to modernizing archery, unifying the rules, promoting gender equity and developing international events. “World Archery’s vision is for a world in which everyone has the opportunity to make the important Olympic sport of archery their activity of choice. Its mission is to empower its member associations to make archery a leading sport in nations around the world.” (worldarchery.org)
Today World Archery continues to promote, regulate and develop archery as a sport through its 160 member organizations worldwide. https://worldarchery.org/
There’s only one organization in the archery world today that’s older than World Archery. In 1896, when the Olympic Games were reinstated after a 1,500-year hiatus, the International Olympic Committee was born. Like the World Archery, the IOC’s mission is to promote, develop, and advance various sports in addition to supporting ethics, advancement of women and anti-doping. https://www.olympic.org/the-ioc
Now, 5,000 years after the Egyptians were shooting their bows from chariots, the archery world is thriving. More and more people are enjoying the sport throughout all its various platforms. Popular culture continues to boost interest, equipment performance continues to up the game, and Olympic archery has captured international headlines, thanks in part to those international archery organizations and one little country that dominates all team and individual world records.
Next month, in part 2 of our International Archery series, read about that and more.
By Jennifer Kraai Gottfried