Compound arcs are considered a weapon

Why did the steppe arch not expand further?

Question: Why did the steppe arch not expand further?

Short answer:

  1. Compared to other types of bows, the Mongolian bow was particularly labor and skill intensive to manufacture. Manufacturing over a long period of time (up to two years) required considerable collaboration from skilled craftsmen. Compared to an English longbow which could turn out in a few hours, the preparation and time that went into the Mongolian bow was not typical of other bows.

  2. The glue, which contained the composite of bone and wood and which gave the Mongolian bow its strength, was subject to a deterioration in moisture. It took a trained person considerable discipline to maintain the weapon. Special storage, wrappings, containers and handling or the delicate weapon would be ruined. If you captured the gun and didn't know how to take care of it, the gun could literally dissolve in some climates. Again in comparison to the English longbow, which only had to be oiled occasionally, the Mongolian bow was particularly demanding in terms of the care required to maintain the weapon. This would be counterintuitive to many of the enemies the Mongols fought against.

  3. The bow was not very useful, apart from the special and unusual skills of the Mongol soldier. Shooting required special training that could not be transferred to other types of bows. The grip, pull, and release were unique in Mongolian archery. A skilled archer from a non-Mongolian tradition would therefore not be able to easily transfer his skills to this new weapon. In modern archery, it is enough just to switch from a bent back to a compound bow to completely change the capabilities of the weapon. This requires the same pull, clearance, and major difference in strength required to hold the weapon while aiming for changes from connection to recurved. Think what it would mean to change the grip, double the pull, use different and unfamiliar hardware and different fingers to hold the string and arrow and let go! The Mongolian bow was just so powerful and so difficult to draw that when other archers tried to shoot using traditional techniques, they were either unable to draw the bow or risked serious injury if the string was released.

  4. Not only was the Mongolian soldier a skilled archer, he was also a skilled rider who could assemble his bow as well as he could stand. This unmatched combination of skills by the Mongol soldiers made the Mongolian bow significantly more deadly in their hands. These diverse skills would have been difficult to maintain in any other culture. The Mongols were nomads who lived on horseback. Culturally non-nomadic peoples would have been at a disadvantage in attempting to reproduce the same skills, even if they could start at birth like the Mongols.

More detailed answer.

The answers are:

  • costs
  • Knowledge
  • Access to materials
  • opportunity
  • skill

costs - It took an experienced craftsman up to a year to make the Mongolian bow and another year to vote. The multiple pieces (bone, antlers, wood, tendon) all had to be glued and dried completely, and then the arch had to be tuned (tillering). The tuning was done iteratively, testing, reheating, and rebalancing the bow until it warped consistently without warping. After production and coordination, the delivered sheet had to be preserved in special containers to keep it free of moisture. Otherwise, the glue used to make the composite would weaken and the arch would be ruined. A typical Mongol would hold 3 bows. Compared to a typical European bow (English longbow), which could be made in just a few hours and which required relatively little maintenance once it was made. (oiled from time to time so that it does not dry out).

Knowledge Many cultures in the east used military formations organized around the bow. Many Mongolian contemporary Eastern cultures even used compound arches. The Mongol's specific recipe for making it was unique and difficult to master, let alone copy. It was time consuming and arduous to perfect. Even if you caught one of their arches without knowing how to take care of it, without proper maintenance it would soon warp or fall apart completely. The making of the Mongolian bow was so difficult that even the Mongols lost the technology in the 17th century.

Mongol military tactics
The Mongolian tradition of bow making was lost during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912).

Access to materials The wood (bamboo) and the types of antlers and animal bones used in the composite by the Mongols were not readily available to many of the people the Mongols fought against.

opportunity The Mongols were nomads who lived on horseback. This was part of their motivation in creating such a small, powerful arch that was easier to assemble. Mongols have always been mounted, so it was natural for them to set a premium for mounted use. Other cultures, even those that used mounted archers like the Japanese, did not place the same emphasis on the horse's demands on archery technology. Other cultures that used composites were less motivated to innovate for the same combination of strength and size, as benefit was not given equal importance.

skill The Mongolian bow was extremely difficult to master. A trained archer from a different culture would find it a completely different experience than he was used to. The " Mongolian release "contradicted other archery disciplines. The left hand pushes the bow while the right hand pulls the stab. Because the bows were so strong, the string could not be held by the string hand with two fingers like other bows. The Mongols pulled the string with the Thumb back as this was the strongest finger. The thumb supported by the index finger held both the string and the arrow, while the other fingers curled up so as not to get in the way. In addition, a special ring is worn on the thumb that holds both protects the thumb and further supports the drawn cord from letting go.

Now all that had to be done at a gallop on horseback and the release of the arrow had to be timed when all four of the horse's hooves were in the air so that the animal movements would not jeopardize the target. It took a uniquely trained archer, a skilled rider, and lifelong practice to produce a Mongolian soldier. Without this soldier, the bow wasn't nearly the same weapon.

If you heard rumors, the Mongolian Horde planned to invade your territory in the next ten years. It was already too late for you to train and equip your defenses by Mongolian standards.


J Asia

"A full-size Mongolian composite bow made of sheep horn and wood had one normal range of about 325 meters, but could with a strong archer in optimal conditions Reach more than 530 meters . "Christopher Atwood, Encyclopedia of Mongolia and Mongol (2004), 349.

J Asia

Your answer is very detailed and includes a good account of Mongolian archery. It would be even better if you just included the sources (of your research), even if there was just a list at the end.