Recurve Bows: Archaeology. Reconstruction. Experiment

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The cavalry fighters of the Scythians, Huns, Avars and Hungarians were feared for their fighting techniques with bow and arrow. Their bows were made of wood, horn and sinew, which generated tremendous power. But what remains of the bows after they have been buried underground for centuries? What are experimental archaeologists able to read from it in order to reconstruct a bow? And how did the cavalry fighters use bows and arrows? The exhibition “Recurve bows: Archaeology. Reconstruction. Experiment” will not only follow the archaeological traces of historic Recurve bows at the MAMUZ castle in Asparn/Zaya, but will also deal with their complex reconstruction and the way how to use them.

The exhibition “Recurve bows: Archaeology. Reconstruction. Experiment” at the MAMUZ castle in Asparn/Zaya is dedicated to the historical Recurve bows of the cavalry fighters from the wide steppes of Eurasia. Bows of the Scythians, Huns and Avars as well as from Hungarians, Cumans, Mongols and Turks find their place in the exhibition. The time span of the exhibition ranges from 500 B.C. to 1600 A.D. However, not only their bows are placed in context, but also the respective arrows and quivers convey the martial arts on horseback in an impressive way. “Therefore, the Chinese called them very appropriately a ‘big family of bow-spanning tribes’. From the Scythians to the Turks, each individual tribe of riding nomads used the bow as a weapon, however, the details make each type unique”, says Attila Kiss, one of the curators of the exhibition. Depending on the timing as well as the soil condition, antlers, bones and metal or even entire bows can be found. The exhibition also shows historical finds, such as bow stiffeners, quiver elements or arrowheads, which reveal a lot about the archers to experimental archaeologists. A special highlight is a painted Turkish bow from the 17th century.

Another highlight of the exhibition is a bow which was buried in 2010 and excavated again after three years. The aim of this experiment was to test the decay of the individual materials when buried underground. “The experiment is not only a highlight of the exhibition, but it also represents a centrepiece of what the MAMUZ castle Asparn/Zaya stands for. The experimental archaeology serves as an important foundation for the MAMUZ as knowledge centre and adventure museum” according to Peter Fritz, Managing Director at MAMUZ and Franz Pieler, Scientific Director at MAMUZ.

In addition, the exhibition also deals with the use of a recurve bow. A historical text, which was written in the 17th century at the palace of the Turkish Sultan, describes training with a bow and arrow and thus provides insights into the education and how hard the lessons must have been. The practical understanding is provided by another experiment in which shooting tests with different bows and arrows are performed. The results show which impacts the different bow types with different tips have on the arrows.

3D Exhibition Tour


An exhibition in cooperation of MAMUZ, Zengő Nyíl Hagyományőrző Lovas- és Íjászegyesület and MAGYAR TÖRTÉNELMI ÍJÁSZ TÁRSASÁG

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