Variability and change in ancient Egyptian archery technology



Cook, SL
(2018) Variability and change in ancient Egyptian archery technology. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Abstract

This thesis is an artefact-centred study of the archery equipment from Pharaonic Egypt. Investigating the bows and arrows themselves, this thesis analyses the technical choices made by ancient humans, using these to draw conclusions about how the Egyptians used archery technology. While the Asiatic-style composite bows have been comprehensively published, the wooden self bows and arrows have been almost entirely overlooked. The existing studies focus purely on the artefacts themselves, neglecting when, how, and why the ancient humans – the craftworkers and archers – interacted with this technology. Utilising contemporary pictorial evidence, ethnographic parallels and modern reconstructions results in a full, holistic evaluation of these ancient technologies, grounded in their social context. The Early Dynastic Period horn bow fragments, previously assumed to be non-functional, are analysed and their effective potential is clearly demonstrated through an evaluation of their material properties and ethnographic equivalents. The prior misunderstandings concerning the existence of various wooden self bow types are resolved with the creation of a new and fully verified typology, finally determining the existence of only three side profiles—the segment, decurved and double curved shapes. The ancient arrows are treated in the same manner, with the creation of a new typology to establish clarity on the arrow constructions that were present in Pharaonic Egypt; this addresses the weakness of the previous arrowhead-centric typologies. For both bows and arrows, a primary objective remains to record their morphological characteristics so that the outstanding questions on these artefacts can be addressed: what can the variability of archery technology reveal about its use by ancient Egyptians? How and why did the archery technology change over time? The extent of variability and differential use are considered in the different contexts of human-technology interaction—craftworking, hunting, human conflict, archer identity, and funerary practice. Both bows and arrows were selected for their varying performance characteristics as required by the ancient craftworkers and archers. Crafting considerations were focused on the availability of natural resources and the ease of crafting, maintenance and repair; this ensured that the relatively easy to craft self bow endured throughout the Pharaonic Period. Hunting with bows was conducted for a range of reasons on a scale from subsistence hunting for necessity, to the elite pastime of hunting in desert enclosures. Additionally, archers were a mainstay of ancient human conflict, with self bows comprising a prominent feature of siege warfare in the Middle Kingdom. Despite this, the advent of the Asiatic-style composite bow heralded concurrent changes in the style and use of existing archery technology and other military equipment that persisted until the end of the Bronze Age. In summary, throughout the Pharaonic Period archery technology served as a dynamic and versatile weapon system that could be effectively tailored for individual instances, but also had the capacity to adapt to the wider societal changes occurring over this time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Fac of Humanities & Social Sci > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2018 14:57
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2021 04:38
DOI: 10.17638/03028153
Supervisors:
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3028153