Take a Bow … From the Woods into the Community
Centre Figure: Dansk Holmegaard bow lavet af Elmetræ…translated from Danish to English: “Danish Holmegaard bow made of Elm Tree”. The oldest extant one-piece bow dated to 9,000 BCE; the Mesolithic period.
We examine the bow as an artefact and its transformation within New Zealand culture. We describe how the bow originated in that country and later developed a cultural intrigue through acquisition. We discuss how an everyday life activity such as hunting changes into a form of war, and will further evaluate archery leisure showing post-consumer societies through philosophical, educational and cultural contexts. Our opening title and the simplicity of the illustrations has led us to research exactly how the bow has changed from its most raw sense and become part of a modern community.
Climate changes, weathering and degradation significantly limit how far back we are ever likely to find a bow made from perishable materials. Four-thousand-year old remnants have been discovered in Egypt, and in Germany, bow fragments dating to 8000 BCE have proved the use of bows from that time. Traces of arrowheads have been found dating back 70,000 years. But what use would an arrow be without a bow? The answer comes from a primitive spear discovered by archaeologists. This ancient shaft led to a smaller version becoming an arrow with feathers, which was first thrown rather than shot. As that method has expired, so too should the ambiguity about whether it was hunting or war that produced the first bows. The oldest depiction of war recorded on stone was from 2700 BCE with reference to the war between Sumer and Elam under the Akkadian Empire in what is now southern Iraq. Chronologically, evidence that the Danish Holmegaard bow had over 6000 years of use before the first recorded bow use in war, and arrow remains that back a further 67,000 years, also suggest the bow began for purposes other than combat. It probably began as a tool to stalk prey through hunting and self-defence (not just in war), which in medieval times needed an evolutionary catalyst for greater firing distance, impact force and accuracy that the bow came to provide. The bow changed through history by staying ready for war, training on targets and progressing into a social leisure movement, which popularly commodified itself into a universal art and wartime artefact. Thus, the respected bow rearticulates as winning many battles and competitions, although it is more noticed for the weekly discipline and commitment of training. This transformation caught on around the world and influenced how cultures hunted, fought and identified themselves.
Periods of transformation
All the history described above is culturally and geographically distant from New Zealand. Framing the topic of archery and bow artefacts in our New Zealand upbringing and combining it with Maori cultural perspectives will focus on how the bow came to arrive in New Zealand and what it means. According to Best (1976), there is “no evidence to show the Maori folk of New Zealand ever used the bow and arrow, even as a toy” (p. 183). Best revealed that bows and arrows came from the South Seas trade, which developed after Europeans had fought with the Maori and colonized their land and soon after making peace. This trade was partly driven by the British revolution that influenced cultures, economies and environments. These exploration voyages reached across the globe, later sharing manufacturing and economic thinking. As early as 1842, the first Friendly Society (originating from the United Kingdom) started in New Zealand for the security and leisure of gentlemen. Interestingly, one of these groups had a close affinity with archery; it was known as the Ancient Order of the Foresters (AOF) and was established in New Zealand in 1852. It was the first dedicated informal archery club, where later formalities established another at One Tree Hill in Auckland in the 1870s. This reflected the development of the Romantic period when New Zealand archery formed and influenced the use of the bow during the country’s growth into a modern society. Urbanites popularised the competitive sport and leisure side of hunting through a regulated and representative body set up in Auckland during 1942 known as the New Zealand Archery Association. The archery clubs of the 19th century began to disappear in New Zealand when the art of bow-making also faded away. The World Wars halted production of bows and participation in archery clubs, but military technology and materials caused them to make a strong return thereafter. Later, the modern (compound) bow appeared after all traditional (recurve) bow disciplines settled, and later featured specifically for hunting. It is a more compact, transportable, efficient and accurate form of bow than the recurve style. In New Zealand today, both styles of bow appear in all disciplines of archery and hunting. Yet the recurve is a slight opposition to the compound because the latter uses advanced technologies to simplify the skill, which neglects the former’s traditions. Through these periods of disciplinary distinctions, a dealing of cultural practices grew; sourcing new woods from nature and adopting techniques. Some people enjoyed crafting their own bows, being self-reliant, using raw materials and not conforming to modernity.
Bow preservation and reproduction
Studies of literature have metaphorically placed bows through hermeneutic interpretations of written, verbal and nonverbal communication. These works feature representations of what it meant and means to be human, well-kept through taxonomy, statue work, poetry and paintings. This ekphrastic symbolism has been popularised in everyday life hobbies and habits by public museums where one can view the world’s oldest bow. It is less common to venture out alone or in small groups with a primitive weapon into the bush and kill an animal. War and hunting has brought forth public ambivalence towards primitive weapons and methods situated in sublime states as horrible, unsettling, or anxiety-provoking that considered military and medieval metaphors of arrows that “fell like snow” and looked like “the death arch”, all embedded within the ekphrastic nature of poets who like to represent imaginary existences. The bow and its intentionality was precarious and perilous; the idea of the hunter, the hunt and the hunted. Because the bow preceded the 1750–1850 sublime period, it did not begin full of awe, which suggests an emotional and symbolic turn later. Such notions show that studies of literature and art serve as a way to explore nature through archery. This turns into a romanticised and enlightened experience as something that is pleasurable, aesthetic, and life-affirming. Shooting a bow served as a nostalgic reimagining of preindustrial eras that romanticized Greek figures like Apollo (the god of archery), who metaphorically shot invisible arrows and Artemis (the goddess of hunting). Myths, legends and stories persisted and permeated in our cultures which led to a focus on combat, where the influence of the bow is most readily seen through the records of ancient and medieval warfare. Sports drawn from military practices seen in New Zealand archives included archery that, since the 1990s, has had groups forming to re-enact historic battles. The AOF traced their mythical beginnings to the Forest of Sherwood where the Robin Hood story was central to their membership, symbolism and rituals. The AOF courted scenarios based on Robin Hood and his followers, involving at least one person carrying a bow and arrows to threaten initiates until they were formally accepted into the society. Once accepted, a member would receive a membership certificate.
These practical representations and the bows’ provocation share historical roots, as seen in literary studies of New Zealand schools educating students who might recall this battle of societal power: the 13th of August 1346 BCE in Paris Normandy where Edward III of England with 7000 archers invaded 25,000 French enemies during the Hundred Years Wars at the battle of Crécy. Edward IIIs’ archers were successful against the French cavalry, but that a captured English archer had his right index and middle fingers (used to draw back the bow) cut off. English archers prove themselves as a threat by intimidating the French before battle with these two fingers still existing. We suggest the bow – not the two-fingered (or lack of) gestures – carries the terror. This leads us to believe that the taunting of an archer towards an enemy or animal has changed humankind through an objective power and instrumental symbolism over everyone’s lives. These scholarly tones linger in children’s stories such as Robin Hood. Robin Hood was a bourgeoisie Yeomen who, despite rebellious thievery, makes a statement: his name today echoes with the best archers, not the best thief as it did then. In New Zealand, Robin Hood has influenced the way in which many scouts and bush craftspeople dress; with or without a bow. The characters depicted on the AOF advertisement (figure 2) are in formal attire and one of them is an archer. This enlightens not just a liberal and moral movement but also heroism and symbolic messages through archery and the bow. Robin Hood was a celebrated figure of radicalism where such idolism of superstars is showcased by modern cinematic characters who are heroic (for example, Legolas) and patriotic (such as Katniss). What these three characters share is a moral reasoning of egalitarianism by challenging inequality, fending off evil to keep peace, and fighting for justice, respectively. Since The Lord of The Rings and later The Hunger Games, sales in archery equipment have risen. Recurve bows and the use of the back-mounted quiver are popular choices, as compared to the modern day side-hip quiver and compound bows.
Symbolic bow use in modern New Zealand
This space of archery has transformed and settled now in two domains of hunting (shooting living animals) and leisure (shooting manufactured targets, either inside or outside). The meanings of the hunt and the pursuit of target shooting will explore the heritage, traditions and advances in practices as they relate to modern New Zealand society. The use of target bows in New Zealand is mainly in outdoor settings, conducted with rich nature and three-dimensional dense-foam animals that sustain sublime milieus. Hunting in New Zealand romantically portrays nature and animals as an idyllic backdrop during the hunt and remains this way.
The story of hunting and its various meanings in New Zealand reveals cultural values and practices of the bow. Changes through intellectual enlightenment underlined a reasoning of ideals that rationalized the use of bows. Bow use in New Zealand has transformed into a strong personal leisure hobby, losing its original connotations of defining a whole culture and hunting for food. As civilization has spread out and natural land areas have shrunk, hunting has become more controlled and regulated, yet the desire to hunt remains part of human nature. Today, New Zealand’s expansive forest affords less direct supervision, which can result in poor morals. There are stories of drunk hunters firing rifles from a high vantage point. This is less hunting and more a sport of shooting, further complicated by the contested approach of ‘heli-hunting’ transport (an industrially derived, quick, thrill-seeking and often paid-for experience), which is less about the hunting, the tool or the journey through the forest. Rather, in our view, hunting should be more about the primitive use of a bow, and deep connections with flora and fauna. These differences and liberalisation within hunting has encouraged activist arrangements in New Zealand that underline the roots of archery by resurfacing human-nature and animal affairs . A demonstration like this through media and forms of participation captures the benefits of bow hunting but shows public opposition and dualism of bow use and firearms. Issues of ‘heli-hunting’ on public land managed by the Department of Conservation have raised debates. Protestors who argued that such methods constituted an ‘unfair chase’ for other foot hunters were unsuccessful in having this practice banned. Counter-arguments from such debates bring forth incongruities of hunting, suggesting among other things that bow hunting has unethical wounding and slow times to reload, subjecting itself to inhumane, unsafe and unskilful practice. The persistence and popularity of archery has proven many notable qualities by chasing a closer bond and ethical ethos towards animals and undertaking hunting under indirect supervised national frameworks as best practices. Today the ability to get close to prey remains the essence of all bow hunting; the average shot distance is about 25m, which emphasises the skill of stalking within close range. Bow hunting should depend on an understanding of nature through holistic experiences where more skills than just aiming are necessary and trained.
Sport and leisure through archery has similarities to hunting, such as clubs and competitions commonly shooting from 25m, being surrounded by nature, politicising the ‘state of play’ and managing the disciplines of archery. Although hunting with a bow and archery leisure are distinctive activities, there is a link that binds a city’s nearness with nature places. Many New Zealand archery clubs are located in green reserves, which interweaves the past and present as well as the raw and industrial. Therefore, the distinction of demography and archery is less clear when many people live in urban spaces and escape to secluded natural locations to participate in archery. Urbanisation is not a strictly demographic way of life. Target shooting is often performed outside on green field reserves, away from public and in the bush. Natural places were where the bow was once predominantly located, partly functioned to hunt animals: a consequent interaction and creation of the human–animal hyphen that assumes history emancipating humanity over animals. Now the bow has found its way into the suburbs, where experiences are intersubjectively connected within archery that offer the bow as a medium within which to explore oneself. Work too becomes entwined through play; many long-time New Zealand archers have used archery as a hobby. Later, they have transformed it by professionally teaching archery through an apprenticeship and diversification of cultures that engage in this pursuit. Target archery shooters who hone their skills become similar to the historic archers who traditionally prepared for battle. These archers moved from the discipline of work (to serve an empire) to a joy of leisure (hunting for food and recreation). This symbolic use of the bow means a change in practices that we believe is now instrumental. People form part of their identity through changed lifestyles because they want to, not because they have to for survival.
Cultural change through people’s livelihoods
The last chapter is about symbolic change through communities gathering for leisurely shooting, differences in hunting and how the environments appear according to people’s living needs. These different meanings further change people’s living through cultural change. Thus, social classes of participants form through bow and archery participation. The activity of shooting a recurve bow in New Zealand is, among other things, reflective of the shooter’s social circles. People identify similarly to other recurve shooters and commonly feel to be older and less accurate. We colloquially define culture as “the way we do things around here”. Therefore, the choice of bows depicts an otherness, whether it is the craft and skill of a recurve or the complexity of a compound bow. For humans, weaponry and tools are relevant to our livelihoods; Maori in New Zealand continued to use their primitive weapons despite the modern alternatives that their imperial English colonials had. Thus, objects and possessions say something about people as they symbolise our societal position, environmental contact and economic or political (in)balances. Modern New Zealand culture and livelihoods are not chosen because of survival. Rather, they are socially sustainable and symbolic of ideals that are typical of ‘manhood’,
Pursuit in any of these realms holds high regard for the user and participants celebrated in social existence. The idea of this public receptiveness – renowned during times and places of Roman empires courting ‘games’ in Coliseums – was merciless then and has only become civilized recently. This is a subjective term becomes the Romans had a “civilization” and were therefore “civilized” by the definition at the time. Future generations may consider Olympic sports (such as boxing) to be “uncivilized”. The bow originally involved cruel entertainment but has become more socially accepted in the modern Olympic Games. This modern sporting event where archery first appeared in the Olympics at Paris in 1900 symbolizes a heritage of global cultures using the bow.
Archery as an education
Here we will examine archery and education (according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau), which admittedly is just one philosophy, to stage our argument. Rousseau said that three parts teach us: parents, nature and object; education is often a by-product. We believe that archery achieves all three of these areas, implying forests or grass fields as the space, with parents (as adult figures; these could also be teachers, peers, etc.) teaching their “children” how to use the bow in its construction, performance and technique. Herrigel (1981), a German professor who taught philosophy in Tokyo, used the objective bow within archery toward learning Zen. Herrigel overcame his early restraints and preconceived ideas and started to look toward new ways of seeing and recognizing not only the sport but life. In Japanese cultures, a significant feature of archery is to train the mind and connect it with the supreme reality. This activity and others are conducive to learning if in a stimulating environment. To strengthen this, we affirm the guide as a key driver, influencing participants in developmental courses that use environments, activities and objects to learn. This is important because motivation of self-teaching – especially of younger people – is low. Objects (bows in this case) can be designed with intentional educational goals. An education of archery could go beyond learning by doing through communities that discover how we fit the world and who we are. Such rhetoric would enable opportunity to explore a pedagogy of New Zealand places that have not had such strong ties to the bow. We believe that if archery were to take quality pedagogical principles adopted from cross-curricula teaching, such a method would be effective. Rather than have national curricula impede us from deeper connections with nature the whole educational experience and individual opportunities will not pass. The bow is a medium with which to explore self, place and others. This model is possible in New Zealand archery clubs but has not yet been implemented. In practice this could happen so that an archer apprentice understands more than just their performance, and instead absorbs the New Zealand context of curricula learning areas. We suggest that this could involve elements of archery associated with the following subjects: English (writing reflective accounts of hunting), arts (painting landscapes), languages (connecting with animal sounds), mathematics (calculating distances), science (awareness of scent traces), social science (understanding hunting or sporting comrades), and technology (knowing your equipment limits). Such practices can increase learning objectives resembling metaphors and memories. These could include discipline and training, understanding success not in a beginner’s luck kind of way, but in the consistent positioning of arrows and overcoming obstacles (metaphorically or otherwise). Alternatively, there are those that only use their feet to shoot the bow in archery so an exploration of gymnastic ability can arise. The bow as an extension of the body can also be good for disabled people; some people paralysed from the waist down have become involved in wheelchair archery. This idea of wholeness in participation comes to many New Zealand schools at a young age by teaching children and young people primitive and practicable lessons about having fun and having less technical focus on the mind and social skills. This is obvious in the lack of survival and outdoor equipment literature, which rarely suggests anything technologically advanced for survival. Rather, New Zealand primary schools embrace the simplicity who offer examples one can do with a stick, through over 70 ‘things’ featuring the bow and arrow. We prompt readers to go on an adventure … all you have to do is run outside and find a stick. Popular activities for young people in New Zealand include holiday or summer camps that often offer archery. Here, kids run from their cabins to participating in various events and pick up a bow, which to them is adventurous discovery. This does not suggest the presence of sticks or their crafting into bows means that it is educational, rather how one scaffolds education within a context is.
Ways of engaging with animals
Further than a general education as above, we address this capacity for further learning. Having discussed the pedagogue, and before that the school, parent, nature and object, we believe these all share – in an engagement – what animals can do for us as we can for them, eventually diluting this othering. Seen literally, humans are in a position of power and proximity that sees us (humans and animals together) as important to natures form. Instead, understanding animals in modernity has dislodged the theology of nature, replacing or supplanting human parts and roles with artefacts of technology. The importance of the bow can shorten the human and animal separation from urbanisation and commercialisation, thereby organising and conceptualising our worlds. We surfaced an interspecies relation of liberal modernity about animals educating us; people can re-inhabit spaces with nature and animals through a new urbanisation that interacts with humans. Affairs like these with fauna can trend toward interactions, relationships and bonds with animals that are wild, agricultural and domestic, respectively. These opportunities will exist forever. An example from the wild is hunting deer and an agricultural one is horses ploughing farm fields. Two hunters shared their report of shooting geese with intense engagement towards animal, environment and activity showing how thoughts and feelings can improve human to nature connections in a sense of biophilia. This biophilia is a fundamental and genetic human need affiliating the living. Our converse fear of distance from nature softens with relational schemas, which are good for justification towards attachment theories; the awareness of animal, environment and activity ties together, creating quality and duration of contact. As stated earlier, there needs to be a skilled teacher to guide them towards this education because people will experience various approaches. Another example is the ownership of cats, dogs, fish, chickens and birds, to name just a few of the animals that domestic relationships afford. This identity – the interplay and nuances of relationships – asks how nature and animal landscapes shape our lives through awareness of behaviour and culture. With regard to hunting, a farmer and rural residents may have large lands that are home to wild animals such as deer, pigs and goats. Such was the case in the Scandinavian Bronze Age showing how Danes kept bow and arrow use for land management and controlling unwanted species. This can display objectification that expresses social norms engaging with material that foregrounds relationships with animals, humans and objects. As agro-pastoralists, Danes invested their practices, mindfully integrating animal species through cohabitation. Living with nature in this way from a New Zealand example consists of practices – not with horse-powered agriculture but – with foreign cultures of people and traditions. Here, the bow as environmental appreciation and application is a constant reminder of the way Maori (who did not have the bow) engaged with nature. In the end, the emphasis is on regularity and closeness to animals achieved if fewer people use guns shot from further distances and step back into slow movements where animals are used for more than meat. Also, focusing on bows and nearness means there will be better ownership of one’s actions, dedication to the time invested and an awareness of landscape affordances and animal exchanges.
Cultural interactions and comparisons
By diversifying dealings of bow development, education and animals, we will analyse traditional interpretations and influences that have intrigued archery becoming a cultural phenomenon. The Japanese once used the bow for war, court ceremonies and games that now mostly practices physical, moral, and spiritual development. In New Zealand, that belief justifies many archers’ motifs, which we believe based on observations and experience gives a satisfying rejuvenation. Shooting a bow for sport or hunting is also a rite of passage for American Indians, whose use of the bow honoured their enskillment and means to provide for dependents. Their deeply rooted practices were for survival, while the only modern imitations in New Zealand are for food. Clothing (made from the animal’s leather) was essential for American Indians and killing the animal in this sense, as opposed to the otherwise sadistic focus discussed below, had to happen. The difference is the connection to these hunted environments and the engagement with the animal. Bows in New Zealand are not popular for reasons of survival (especially in the sense of defence) or clothing but as a means of adopting the Japenese Kyudo philosophy meaning: “the way of the bow” that looks at understanding one’s self. What is emblematic from the animal in New Zealand is trophy heads and various craft works made from antlers and fur hides as equipment and house furnishings. New Zealanders generally have a strong respect for nature and animals with various heritage and national parks, protected and endangered species, and many laws and controls that manage such spaces. By contrast, the behaviour of some European and North Americans, through wealth creation, moral superiority and mass economic territory, led to the term ‘white hunter’, named for professional big game hunters who shot animals for sport, predominantly in Africa and India. New Zealanders have mythical legends of a big game moose roaming the wild and restricted expanses of the South Island fjords, although this has yet to be proved. Exaggerating this as perilous, racial and colonial characteristics of the hunting profession displayed how white hunters and imperial British dignitaries believed between 1800 and 1875 that tigers (personifying Asian rulers) were dangerous and powerful kings of the jungle. By defeating tigers, the British symbolically believed they defeated three features of the Asians: their culture, politics and environment. New Zealand does not have exotic animals that have ever been popularly worthy of such controversy, although some New Zealanders still poach (sheep and deer) to provide food. We think New Zealand’s culture is more reasonable and ethical towards nature, animals and practices, which is the same in Denmark and others where legalised bows exist.
Intuition of the bow hunter and the practical use of the bow resembles old cultures and, in a fundamental sense, has not changed. However, losing an archery contest today or walking home after a hunt without meat on the kitchen table does not equate to death on the battlefield or starvation, as was once the case. Measuring the impact of these changes today does not focus on death, rather on pleasure. This centres the bow and archery more on humanistic instinct connecting fun, senses and subjectivity. Such individualisation must resurface opinions of the bow that can be deceptive. For example, the bow assumes use only if one is strong and able (disabled people and those shooting with their feet have dispelled this myth); cinematic stars are envied for their archery skills rather than primary aims of justice for example; threatened enemies (like the French in the Battle of Crécy) are so because of the bow not the bearer, whom without the bow is disarmed. This means that the bow can signify a plethora of values that have shown its conception as a hunting tool, its use by weaponry defence and later a leisurely and educational instrument. We note, when discussing archers, that it is unlikely the NZ Forester archer was ever anything but a minor diversion that was more symbolic than it was a serious pastime. Still, possession of a bow still sits subconsciously as a form of protection rooted in history. Consider the Maoris who drove New Zealand’s largest flightless bird (the Moa) to extinction without the use of the bow, instead the spear. The use of weapons is now contested by those who govern the rules through species and environmental policies stemming from British political ideology, since changed because New Zealand is no longer a colony. Development has been linear and constant towards modernity, focusing on understanding and awareness of this instrumentality and environmentalism. Such an activity and artefact can be cultivated in everyday life through homes, schools (sport and exercise) and work (pest control). Gradually introducing the bow in these areas would diversify the interest of unique individuals, while still achieving mainstream objectives by intentionality and theory of practice. The bow has been used by many cultures, has been listed as one of the top five inventions in the world and is closely connected to nature in its materiality and origins by timeline breadth. Following this journey in the future will remain interesting as the symbolism reflects a cultural revolution. Created within a socialscape and made from the landscape, the bow is natural; therefore, anyone can explore nature by taking a bow from the woods of its origins and doing what they please with it, in accordance with the law and morals.