Military Archery in Medieval Ireland: Archaeology and History

Military Archery in Medieval Ireland: Archaeology and History

By Andrew Halpin

Military Studies in Medieval Europe – Papers of the ‘Medieval Europe Brugge 1997′ Conference, Volume 11 (1997)

Introduction: In studying Irish medieval warfare the bow and arrow is of particular interest for many reasons. It is by far the most frequently represented weapon in the archaeological record and unlike other weapons it tends to occur in datable contexts on excavated sites. This is largely accidental, because bows and arrows were of little monetary value and easily broken and lost, but the fortunate result is that a more comprehensive and reliable archaeological study is possible for the bow and arrow than for any other medieval weapon. There is also a greater wealth of useful historical information available than for other weapons of medieval Ireland. Thus it is possible not only to study the bow and arrow as archaeological artefacts but to place them in their natural context, which is the history of warfare. A study of the history of the weapon reveals that it is particularly appropriate, and not entirely accidental, that the bow and arrow is so well represented in the archaeological record of medieval Ireland. There is probably no other period in which the weapon was of comparable military importance.

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