Bows vs. Muskets


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glockten
July 6, 2003, 02:39 PM
Found an interesting exposition at Bernard Cornwell's website.

Go to this page (www.bernardcornwell.net/index.cfm?page=7) and scroll down to question #4.

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Oleg Volk
July 6, 2003, 03:03 PM
More by our own madmike: http://www.keepandbeararms.com/information/XcIBViewItem.asp?ID=1097

CWL
July 6, 2003, 03:07 PM
True, but he didn't list economic factors which led to rise of firearms.

It was simply cheaper for armies to field musketeers (actually arquebusiers) than to field bowmen.

Shooters could be handed a firearm and trained on the rudimentaries within a day. Matchlock firearms were cheap and easy to make, pound out a barrel from wrought iron, attach to rough wood and add a serpentine matchlock device. Lead bullets were cheap to cast. Bows and arrows required precision to make and archers took forever to train and needed constant drilling to retain effectiveness.

On campaign, archers would weaken from lack of food, illfed musketeers could still shoot to same effect.

Oh yeah, if a smelly musketeer ever got killed, you just handed his gun to the next peasant conscript.

telomerase
July 6, 2003, 07:17 PM
Europeans never did learn to make decent composite bows; making a Mongol bow took over a year. And the English longbows required ITALIAN yew saplings to make. I recall reading that longbows didn't work in the rain (the strings failed); anyone know whether Mongol bows have the same problem?

Ben Franklin was right that archers would have been better than musketeers with no powder, but I don't think he understood how hard it was to make good bows (or how long it took to train archers). Now crossbows (steel crossbows work in the rain) and naginatas might have worked, combined with guerrilla tactics and night fighting... but Washington wouldn't have allowed that any more than he allowed the frontiersmen to hunt the British around Boston.

Cadwallader
July 6, 2003, 08:31 PM
With regard to rain and bowstrings - getting wet doesn't exactly cause "failure" in twisted or looped fiber (hemp or linen or whatever, or modern B-50 dacron for that matter) bowstrings (which are just small well-made ropes when it comes down to it) -what it does do is screw accuracy and effective range up in a big way - a heavy hemp or linen bowstring will absorb a significant amount of water, effectively raising arrow mass (the bow has to cast against the mass of the string plus the mass of the arrow), reducing effective range and changing point of impact by lots - as much as 10-20 yards shorter at combat ranges, so your volley of what should be solid hits into the enemy ranks turns into a whole bunch of misses, and good luck correcting instinctive aim accurately for that change in the middle of a battle.

Mike Irwin
July 6, 2003, 08:36 PM
In terms of raw money, a firearm was far more expensive than a bow to produce for the simple reason that working metal was a true artisan's job, creating the metal was an artisan's job, etc. etc. etc. It would be easy to say that the village smith could turn out a barrel, but that's actually not so much the case. The bics and mandrels and swaging blocks needed to form a barrel were expensive as hell, and well beyond the capabilities of the village smith. Boring the barrel smooth and straightening it also required the services of a highly skilled artisan.

That's why firearms were largely the product of government arsenals, because of the amount of specialized equipment required to make them.

An effective bow, on the other hand, could be roughed out by a great deal of the population. Making an arrow shaft isn't particularly difficult, but it is time consuming, the same with fletching. Making a point required only the services of the village smith. I watched a demonstration at a renaissance fair a few years ago where a blacksmith turned out bodkin points using 8 hammer blows and less than a minute.

Seasoning the wood did take a long time, but it wasn't uncommon for an archer of the time to have 20 to 100 "blanks" for bows stashed away in various stages of production at any one time.

That in and of itself is thought also another hint as to why the firearm replaced the bow -- firearms tend to last a LOT longer than a bow.

As for the wood, Italian Yew was not a requirement. English Yew or even ash were also very acceptable woods, and produced fine bows. The long bows brought up from the Mary Rose were all, I believe, made of English Yew.

As for the strings, each archer knew that waterproofing the string with tallow was a mandatory step in bow maintenance. The grease also helped the strings last longer (just as string wax does today) by reducing intra-fiber friction as the bow is drawn and released. A string that isn't lubricated regularly on a bow today will wear out fairly quickly.

As Henry's men proved in their invasion of France, archers could still be extremely effective in periods of protracted wet weather.

As others have mentioned, though, the amount of training required was what truly killed the bow.

telomerase
July 6, 2003, 09:36 PM
Thanks for clearing up my vague misconceptions about wet bowstrings. (Although I still don't know why the colonists didn't use any crossbows). Oh, and I just remembered the colonists had "spontoons", which are polearms.

Orthonym
July 6, 2003, 09:54 PM
I seem to recall reading that it wasn't wet weather but hot weather which degraded the elastic properties of the yew bow, anything above about 80 degrees F.

Cadwallader
July 6, 2003, 10:58 PM
Cold weather is even harder on yew than warm weather - more than a few traditional bowhunters have found out the hard way when they broke their expensive yew selfbow by drawing it fast and hard to take a shot at a nice buck in the December woods.

glockten
July 6, 2003, 11:14 PM
This is one of the great things about THR: all I did was post a link and it sparked an enlightening discussion.

The TFL tradition is alive and well! :)

4v50 Gary
July 6, 2003, 11:17 PM
Last time archers were used on any scale in Europe was when Napoleon's troops invaded Russia. Sharpe meets Kutuzov. ;)

Harold Mayo
July 7, 2003, 01:16 AM
Didn't read the links as of yet and I might regret it since I'm posting on this thread...

Anyway, did you guys know that one of the "big deals" about firearms in battle is the noise that they make?

I can't cite authors or web sites...this is all from watching the History Channel or the Discovery Channel or from reading...but one of the biggest pros of firearms is the effect of the noise on morale.

One of the best-known examples is in WWII with the German machine guns (MG42, I think?). Their high rate of fire would frighten the Allied troops so much that captured MG42's (?) would be used in training to get the G.I.'s acclimated to it so that they wouldn't freeze up when hearing it in battle.

There are others that I can vaguely recall but that example gets the general point across.

Mike Irwin
July 7, 2003, 01:52 AM
"Although I still don't know why the colonists didn't use any crossbows."

By the time the Americas were colonized in any great numbers, crossbows were pretty much a thing of the past, just as bows were. Crossbow making was also a highly specialized art, and those makers could likely easily move sideways into the manufacture of firearms, or at least parts of firearms such as the stock and lockwork. In many ways, the early match locks were derivitives of the locks found on crossbows.

I wouldn't at all be surprised to find that the colonists would be a little shocked in finding out that bows were still in use by the native populations.

As for the noise effect, in some ways I think it's overrated, in some ways perhaps underrated.

The noise factor can be quite unnerving when troops are facing a weapon for the first time, but once familiarity sets in, it's not such a factor.

For example, contemporary accounts of battles where large numbers of archers were employed describe the moaning shriek that a thousand or more arrows, loosed at the same time, make.

You get some idea of the effect of this noise if you watch Henry V with either Lawrence Olivier or Kenneth Brannagh (sp?). They show the scenes of the battle of Agincourt where the English archers fire on the French knights, complete with sound tracks that are, from what I've heard of smaller numbers of archers, rather authentic.

Yet, in the face of that noise, which was likely deafening as the arrows descended, the French knights not only stood their ground, but made repeated charges across the field.

CWL
July 7, 2003, 03:15 AM
Early firearms didn't use bored-out barrels made from forgings. A pounded-out flat of metal was wrapped around a dowel of appropriate bore and then welded together. This was cheap, easy and safe enough since it allowed enough gas-leakage to prevent explosions from the powder used during the early eras (1300-1600s). There certainly were rifled bores, but these were reserved for the weapons of the nobility or rich -primarily wheelocks or snaphaunces.

to drift a little, the last confirmed longbow kill was made in France during the retreat from Dunkirk in WWII. An English Captain (name escapes me) who was an ardent longbowman, shot an advancing German while manning one of the delaying forces. -he was obviously a nut, but he must have surprised the heck outta the Germans.

Keith
July 7, 2003, 11:06 AM
There are bows and bows, and firearms and firearms...

While the English longbow (in well-trained hands) is certainly capable of everything Mr. Cornwell attributes to it, other bows in use around the world had nothing like that range and accuracy.
Certainly, the bows used by Native Americans were far inferior to that, having an effective range of only fifty yards or so.
Of course, the North American bow was a hunting weapon adapted for war, rather than a war weapon in and of itself. Its primary use was to stalk up to an animal and shoot it at close range. A hunter has no use for seven foot long, a 100 pound pull bow used for long range volley fire.
And early on (in North America), the European populace began adopting and developing the rifle, a weapon which far surpassed the range and accuracy of the native bow - something recognized early by all the tribes, who threw their bows away as soon as they could acquire a firearm.
You can certainly shoot faster with a bow, but that's not very useful if you your opponent can begin shooting you at 250 yards, while you have to get within 50 to shoot back...

Keith

telewinz
July 7, 2003, 01:21 PM
The bow and arrow developed by native Americans ranks among the worst in the World and hardly brings credit to their culture. In Europe archers and crossbowman were very much looked down upon and often were left unprotected on the battlefield. The first firearms were very much inferior to the bow or crossbow but it did take much less training to master. The most effective crossbows had a much slower reload rate compared to the musket and had greater accuracy and power. I disagree that muskets were cheap and easy to make, the forging and machining required to make a musket (just the barrel alone) exceeeds the vast majority of the crossbows fielded. The crossbow was considered the "ultimate infantry weapon" even after the matchlock made its apperance on the battlefield. The need for large armies, simplified training, and massed firepower gave the nod to the musket, the military firearm has not looked back since. The crossbow was the ultimate developement of the bow and arrow, their was nowhere else to go.

Mike Irwin
July 7, 2003, 01:57 PM
"Early firearms didn't use bored-out barrels made from forgings. A pounded-out flat of metal was wrapped around a dowel of appropriate bore and then welded together."

That's partially correct, partially incorrect.

By boring out, I meant that the interior of the barrel was "chased" with reamers to what it was smooth. You're correct, barrels were formed from flat stock, hammer welded around a mandrel. It could be either one piece of flat stock, or just as commonly, a damascus-type barrel where multiple strips of iron were spiral wound around a mandrel.

BUT, the interior of such a bore is quite frankly a mess, with many high and low spots. It's not an effective, or even usable, firearm.

The bore has to be chased smooth, using a succession of larger reamers. In the early days this was often done by apprentices with a bow drill, while later it was done on progressive feed horizontal boring machines (which are a LOT older than most people think). These could be powered either by hand, by water, or other means.

Boring solid blanks for small arms didn't start until the 18th century, and began mainly as a method of manufacturing cannons.

Rifling, I believe, is first noted to have started in the 1500s.


"The bow and arrow developed by native Americans ranks among the worst in the World and hardly brings credit to their culture."

Hum... I'd have to take a "linear" exception to that, Telewinz. Think, developmentally, where the native Americans were in relation to the Europeans. Roughly a 2,500 to 5,000 year difference. Native Americans were still in the stone age -- no wheel, no screw, none of the complex machines that Europeans had been developing for many centuries. It's very likely that the bows and arrows developed by NAs were comparable to those of Europeans of a similar developemntal era.

Cosmoline
July 7, 2003, 02:13 PM
I agree that longbows have an advantage over primitive muskets. I disagree with the author's claim that the bow would have an advantage until the advent of breach-loaded weapons. Comparing primal muskets and with Civil War era muzzle-loaded rifles is like comparing Drake's Golden Hynde with a Napoleonic frigate. Yes, they're both using muzzle loaded weapons. But that's about the only thing they have in common.

The muskets throw roundball out to 100 yards or so, and at that range it might or might not hit something. The rifle muskets shoot Minnie Balls out to 400 yards and are quite accurate even at that range. Certainly minute-of-reb or minute-of-yankee.

Can you imagine a bunch of archers trying to take on a division from Lee's army, or Grant's for that matter!? Absurd.

Mike Irwin
July 7, 2003, 02:18 PM
"Can you imagine a bunch of archers trying to take on a division from Lee's army, or Grant's for that matter!? Absurd."

Yes, I can. Wouldn't be a pretty sight.

Feudal Japan provides an excellent classroom into the clash between bows and muskets around the time of the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

agricola
July 7, 2003, 02:26 PM
"The bow and arrow developed by native Americans ranks among the worst in the World and hardly brings credit to their culture."

Hum... I'd have to take a "linear" exception to that, Telewinz. Think, developmentally, where the native Americans were in relation to the Europeans. Roughly a 2,500 to 5,000 year difference. Native Americans were still in the stone age -- no wheel, no screw, none of the complex machines that Europeans had been developing for many centuries. It's very likely that the bows and arrows developed by NAs were comparable to those of Europeans of a similar developemntal era.

thats true enough. Even a "developed" preconquest state like the Mexica were, from an Old World point of view, at an average level of development somewhere in the Bronze Age - probably earlier than that in terms of weaponry. Prior to Cortes, the might of the Aztec empire was humbled by the Tarascans who had developed the novel and unsporting use of copper weapons (and rejection of the "flowery war").

That said, there was probably no impetus for any of the American native peoples to develop further in terms of military technology. One imagines pretty much anyone from Cyrus the Great onwards (had they been able to reach the Americas) could have walked in and took what they wanted.

[edit: also, the best longbowmen in the service of the English crown were Welshmen :D :D :D :D :D cymru am byth]

Cosmoline
July 7, 2003, 02:47 PM
Not all the natives were alike. The Tlingit and other tribes on the NW coast of North America had body armor, thick helms, and fought with copper and iron weapons. I remember seeing a really nasty war hammer one famous chief used to bash in a number of Russian heads down in one of the SE museums. They held their own against the first Russian forces, and while pushed out of Sitka in 1804, they were never conquered in the way so many lower 48 tribes were.

braindead0
July 7, 2003, 02:48 PM
BUT, the interior of such a bore is quite frankly a mess, with many high and low spots. It's not an effective, or even usable, firearm.

I don't think that's always the case. The interior of the firearm is as good (when done properly) as the mandrel used to forge it. A good quality mandrel could leave you with a servicable barrel right off the bat (assuming the smith does his job properly). If not, you could follow up with a long slug drift which would leave a servicable bore (good enough).

I've made 2 useable matchlock barrels without boring of any kind, certainly not 'match grade' stuff but servicable.

telewinz
July 7, 2003, 02:57 PM
You do an excellent job of explaning why the American Indian had a stone-age culture, thousands of years after most of Europe, Asia, the near, middle and far East came out of there stone age. Why they didn't develope advanced weapons of warfare escapes me, they had as much motivation as any other culture. They fought between themselves long before Western culture arrived on these shores and they took plunder and slaves and sometimes they did it for "sport".

True, their certainly are "noble indians" but some tribes richly earned the title "savage" and the low opinion held by many settlers in the past. How much would you sell your wife or children for? Hopefully you wouldn't and certainly not for a bottle of whiskey!

How many 1000's of years would you have to go back to find an equal to the American Indian culture of 1800 AD? Ancient Persia or Athens were superior by almost any measure. They were tree huggers too just like the American Indian because there technology was still too primitive to give them a choice. There are more than a few cultures that were real "stinkers", maybe some American tribes should be part of that list. Do you think they would have invented the wheel yet on their own? They were nomads to a certain extent.

Sunray
July 7, 2003, 03:10 PM
"...English longbows required ITALIAN yew saplings to make. I recall reading that longbows didn't work in the rain (the strings failed)..." Nope it was Spanish yew that made the best bows but not all were made of yew. Other woods elm, ash and a few others were used as well. And no English archer would be daft enough to not have a spare string under his hat or otherwise safe and dry. It is rumoured that the Genoese crossbowmen had wet troubles at Crecy but even that can't be true as they were professionals and would know how to deal with rain.
"...high rate of fire would frighten the Allied troops..." Nonsense. Green troops, like your lot at Kasserine Pass, are virtually useless. Your Generals refused to listen to the Brits, who had been fighting for two years at that point, and thus made the same stupid mistakes the Brits had. Pershing did exactly the same thing in WW I. Too arrogant and stupid to listen to the Brits and French who had been fighting for 4 years by the time your lot showed up.
Archers would clean the clocks of any musket armed army. It was the training and constant practice required to have these archers that caused the demise of archers. They'd have so until the advent of the rifled musket. Cannon and grapeshot notwithstanding.

telewinz
July 7, 2003, 03:19 PM
Well said Sunray!

But you must remember that Americans reserve the right to die under American commanders due to American mistakes.:uhoh:

Rain played hell with blackpowder also.

CWL
July 7, 2003, 03:59 PM
Gents and ladies,

We are talking about a period which spans roughly 200 years (1380-1580) in which firearms were introduced, competed with and then superceded bows/crossbows.

In the late 1300's firearms were in early form of handgonnes and hackbutts. These were crude, inaccurate and fired by dipping a hot wire into the touchhole.

1400-1450s introduced matches to firearms, where gunners used slow-burningmatches (twisted cord dipped in saltpeter) to ignite the touchhole of handguns. Best application of firearms was in static defense (siege)applications -or by the Hussites of Bohemia who would mount handgunners on wagons to fight armored knights.

Late 1480s-1530s introduction of arquebus (precursor to musket) & serpentine matchlock. First practical integrated firearm. French invasion of Italy and the beginning of the Valois/Hapsburg wars. Slow dominance of firearm over bows and crossbows. Massed pike & shot formation introduced. Decline & dissapearance of bows & crossbows during this period from the Continent (England keeps longbows until 1620s). Crossbows reserved for hunting purposes only. Bowcraft dissapears west of Hungary/Balkans.

1580-1630s. Religous wars, Dutch wars and 30-Years war. Destroyed much of Germany (cannibalism), France and Spanish Netherlands. Introduction of muskets, wheelocks, doglocks and flintlocks. Wars become so devastating that technology goes backwards and rough matchlocks are only weapons available. Scots mercenaries only remaining users of bows in Europe.

After 1650-1680's introduction of bayonet & national armies. Rise of professional armies. No archery weapons anywhere on continent.

-these were a rough 200 years, and firearms were rough and ready. 'gonnes' were sold as 30-pace weapons or 50-pace weapons and by no means accurate. They were cheap and easy to manufacture since accuracy was not the issue -especially since technology went backwards during much of this time. Also, since nations didn't really exist during this period, there were few national armories. Possibly one in France, one in Austria and several in Turkey.

Japan had armed itself with firearms since the 1540s when introduced by the Portuguese. By 1600, Japan had more firearms than all of Europe combined (spend $10 on Amazon and read "Giving up the Gun, by Noel Perrin). These 'tanegashimas/teppos' were made along European designs and derisively referred to as "noodle guns" by their users since the barrels were notoriously weak and inccurate. This did not prevent their application in in massed battles in Japan as well as Korea. Cheap as they were, they dethroned the Japanese longbow and allowed the unification of that country.

Oleg Volk
July 7, 2003, 04:06 PM
by the Hussites of Bohemia who would mount handgunners on wagons to fight armored knights.

First drive-by shootings?

Mike Irwin
July 7, 2003, 04:15 PM
I'm not even certian that American cultures were as advanced as the bronze age, Agricola. Elemental metals would be a better description of those cultures that were working metals other than gold or silver.

But I think the biggest reason why the Americas didn't develop advanced weapons and warfare is pretty simple -- location location location, otherwise known as isolation isolation isolation.

The Euroasian and even African landmasses have few natural barriers of any truly great difficulty. The Americas are, however, largely isolated by oceans. Crossing was possible, but generally extremely difficult, and the crossings that were made were in very small and isolated numbers, which tended to make an impact only locally.

In Euro-Asia, however, developments and ideas could spread relatively freely as the result of trade or conquest.

"How many 1000's of years would you have to go back to find an equal to the American Indian culture of 1800 AD?"

In Europe and Northern Africa, probably about 5,000 years or a little more, or around the time of "The Ice Man."

In Asia, probably closer to 6,000 to 7,000 years, and even then Chinese culture was coalescing at a frightening rate.


Sunray,

A large part of Pershing's obstinacy was due to the French and British wanting to break up the American army and us it in a "hole plugging" method. Pershing adamantly refused to allow this.


Cosmoline,

The use of iron in the North Western US and Canada can be attributed largely to one thing -- iron development in Siberia. The Bearing Straits are the one spot where regular trade between North American and Asia is routinely possible.

Trade is, however, a much slower way of introducing a new cultural development into a society, as you get the implements, but not the knowhow needed to make those implements. Conquest, on the other hand, is much quicker.

Harold Mayo
July 7, 2003, 04:27 PM
"...high rate of fire would frighten the Allied troops..." Nonsense.

Not nonsense. There were Army training films that explained it to trainees and exercises that demonstrated it. Proven, irrefutable fact.

agricola
July 7, 2003, 05:01 PM
CWL,

Cheap as they were, they dethroned the Japanese longbow and allowed the unification of that country.

I'd disagree with this point. At Nagashino the bow found itself in (an admittedly) a support role to the teppo-ashigaru, but the role was vital to cover the reloading time, along with spearmen. At that time the dominant force in Japanese warfare was the cavalryman, and Nagashino represents the overthrow of the mounted man by the firearm-wielding soldier. That said, prior to the invasion of Korea, one would be able to argue with some confidence that, in terms of military strength on land, Japan was the most powerful state in the world.

Mike,

By "Bronze Age" one meant an overall level of cultural development - the Mexica and Inca score points for their architecture, development of a proto-written language, city development and supply, trading systems, the development and idea of tribute and relationship to the state and so on, as well as artistic achievements.

In addition to isolation from the rest of the world, I'd also add isolation from the native peoples themselves and the general availabilty of land. There has in the Old World never been enough land or resources and so people have always fought over them, which accelerated development of arms, tactics, and the social structures necessary to support the state in gaining and defending land and resources. Aside from one or two examples, this is absent in the Americas - I (admittedly my reading isnt the best on the area) can only think of the Tlaxcala and the Tarascans.

telewinz
July 7, 2003, 05:11 PM
One of the german weapons that US troops were terrified of (and rightly so IMHO) was the MG42 with its very high rate of fire (1500 rpm?). A US WW2 training film WAS made and shown to the troops to ease this fear. The film goes on to state "it's bark (the MG42's) is worse than its bite".:what:

The North America continent offers all the raw materials that a stone age civilization would require to progress as quickly as any other land mass, but it can't supply motivation. This land of abundance was also a curse for Native Americans, they refused to make life better for themselves and their children, why bother when the next meal is just an hour's hunt away. And if hunting is poor, make war against the next tribe and pick up a few slaves and captives for entertainment.

CWL
July 7, 2003, 05:19 PM
Hey Agricola,

At Nagashino, the arquebusiers were arrayed behind bamboo palisades for protection. Longbowmen and spearmen were very secondary.

What it meant to every feudal lord in Japan was that, cheap peasant-based (ashigaru) armies of arquebusiers could and would defeat expensive well-trained and disciplined forces of samurai. Cavalry or longbowmen aside, the training & expenses put into professional troops meant nothing compared to inexpensive shooters.

The Shingen army stood in the way of reunification for decades, Nobunaga removed this bother in one day with one application of firearms.

in terms of military strength on land, Japan was the most powerful state in the world.

I'd have to qualify this by stating that Japan was the most well-armed country in the world, but since it wasn't unified, it was not the most powerful. China or Turkey would probably be better examples.

gun-fucious
July 7, 2003, 05:57 PM
how do you stop a Samurai archer?
Show gun!

;)

Silver Bullet
July 7, 2003, 08:50 PM
isolation from the native peoples themselves and the general availabilty of land
I can add some perspective to this. In the early 60s I read that in the contiguous 48 states there were never more than one million Native Americans living at any one time, which is a very low population density.

I can't vouch for the source because it was so long ago, but at least I didn't read it on the Internet. :)

telomerase
July 7, 2003, 09:01 PM
>In the early 60s I read that in the contiguous 48 states there were never more than one million Native Americans living at any one time, which is a very low population density.

Your memory is correct but recent estimates are much higher. Smallpox killed millions of Indians before Europeans came into contact with them; the huge abadoned villages along the Mississippi, for example.

gun-fucious
July 7, 2003, 09:37 PM
i have also read that the hardened leather shields of the American Indian were effective against the early blackpower matchlocks

Mike Irwin
July 8, 2003, 01:57 AM
Agricola,

Ah, one's gotcha. One wasn't certain what one meant, but one decided to error on the side of one's apparent literalism in one's message. Upon review, one does agree with one...

Oh, and one couldn't resist oneself... :neener:


Silver,

Quite frankly, the experts simply don't agree on how many NA were here in pre-Columbian times. I've seen estimates ranging from high six figures to well into the mid eight figures.

Personally I think high seven to low eight is a very plausible figure.

Why?

Cultural diversity.

In the simplest terms, some claim that a baseline reference for population can be determined from examining the distinct cultures in any given area, the number of outposts, and their duration in years. From that, and a lot of other factors, a rough guesstimate can be made as to the relative size of the population that followed those cultural traditions at a given point in time.

For example, if you've got 85 separate Anasazi sites in an area of the Southwest, each dating roughly to the same time period, you can survey things like known food crops, climactic conditions, number of people each site could comfortably support, etc., etc., etc., and arrive at a rough population estimate.

Some scientists point to the vast array of document cultural traditions in North America coexisting at roughly the same time as another indication of rough population.

In simplest terms, in order for a culture to be measurable hundreds, or even thousands of years later, it has to have time for its traditions to set, usually quite a few generations. For this to happen successfully, the population of the group practicing those cultural traditions has to be self-supporting.

Too few members, and the culture, and its traditions, die out before they can leave a distinct cultural memory, while too large and too far flung, the culture beings to disintegrate at the edges, where groups begin their own, new, cultural traditions, and possibly become linked, but distinct, cultures in their own rights.

Orthonym
July 8, 2003, 02:28 AM
Did the Maoris have bows? I think they were a Stone Age culture when the white folks arrived, but are famous for having given a VERY good account of themselves against firearms.

fallingblock
July 8, 2003, 03:13 AM
The Maoris were truly a stone-age culture when the first whalers and missionaries arrived in the late 18th century. No bows, no wheels, no written language...yet within a few years the tribes were selling their women for muskets and powder:D

The Maori culture was a great example of a warrior culture....from a few canoes of settlers they filled all the habitable land of New Zealand in only a few hundred years. The Moas and other large flightless birds were exterminated and non-marine protein became scarce as the human population continued to increase. In short, if you and your tribe wanted to survive, you had to fight others much of the time for that priviledge.;).
Failure meant slavery and/or providing some protein for the victors.

The warrior culture produced a savageness that shocked the early missionaries, but it also produced quick-thinking tacticians who appreciated superior weapons and tactics and were well-versed in the assessment of these Aeoteoroan necessities of life :)

By the mid-1830's (less than fifty years following first European contact), the Maoris were killing each other with new-found efficiency, and had learned to reinforce their fortified villages (Pa) with earthworks to defend against musketry and British cannon. No European could assume a victory in any engagement even remotely equal in numbers with the Maori, and the warfare flared and subsided for several years.

Summary: The preconditions of organized warfare and intense competition for resources existed in Maori culture and when superior weaponry came along it was adapted as immediately as was possible for stone age economic conditions. The Maori were overwhelmed by sheer numbers of Europeans, new diseases, and their own tribal rivalry, but their example of appreciation of new weapons technology is a testament to the adaptability of the human condition. :)

Orthonym
July 8, 2003, 03:43 AM
Right, they didn't have bows? (trying to stay on-topic here:D )

Edit: failed to read previous post thoroughly;didn't see "no bows".:o

Sean Smith
July 8, 2003, 08:17 AM
Nice to see that the nonsense quotient remains high here... :rolleyes:

KMKeller
July 8, 2003, 08:42 AM
Why they didn't develope advanced weapons of warfare escapes me, they had as much motivation as any other culture.

The native american culture took great pride in their abilities as warriors. Most fighting was done hand to hand and was considered a measure of their stature within the tribes. Using a bow to dispatch an enemy wasn't commonplace. There was no honor in that.

Bows were used mainly for feeding the tribe.

Stoker
July 8, 2003, 11:02 AM
With reference to the ease or otherwise of using a longbow, I believe that recent excavations of medieval burial sites in France have revealed some remakable skeletons. They date from the hundred years war and seem to be those of archers.

Without exception they display an exceptional, and even excessive, development of the shoulder girdle. This is believed to have been caused by regular and extensive archery practice from boyhood. These men would have looked something like the Amazing Hulk.

It would seem that such men became harder and harder to find.

Mike Irwin
July 8, 2003, 11:41 AM
Such development has been noted in skeletons before. The bones in a knight's weapon arm tend to show two things -- evidence of thickening of the bones, which is an indication of increased muscle development from swinging the weapon, and wearing of the joints and bones consistent with the kind of eliptical weapons handling one would expect from someone wielding a sword.

CWL
July 8, 2003, 04:02 PM
From excavations of 15th-18th century graves, the wrists of sword & bucklermen and rapier fencers have been noted to be twice the size of their weak hand.

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