What is the history of Archery? What are its origins? Where did Archery come from? Who invented it? Here is the history of Archery.
Archery existed for a long time before it was made a sport, as a means for hunting or for defending one's self. The sport involves a person using a bow to shoot an arrow at a target, whether that target be stationary or moving. In competitive archery, the archers will stand a specified distance away from a target and try to hit as close to the center of the target as possible. A target is made up of ten rings, with the rings closer to the center being worth more points than those on the edge. Archers earn points for each shot they land on the target and are trying to hit the center bullseye as much as possible. The archer with the most total points wins the competition or round.
As one of the oldest sports of all time, archery originated as an art over 22,000 years ago in southern Africa, before countries even existed! Archery spread throughout the entire world (except for Australia!) as a way to hunt prey and fight in battles. As firearms became more and more popular for those purposes, the bow began to be used for sport among the wealthy in Europe in the 1400's and 1500's. The target would be placed a certain distance away and men would shoot their arrows at the target in the same way we do today! It was not until 1583 that the British began to hold large tournaments and not until the 1800's that governing bodies were established, but the sport remained popular in high society during that entire period.
Since archery was invented so long ago, no one knows who exactly the first archer in history was. The first truly known and recorded users of the bow were Egyptians. The Chinese held archery tournaments for entertainment during the Zhou Dynasty (1027-256 BC), which would be the earliest known archery competitions for sport and recreation.
Once archery became a common pastime of the wealthy English society in the early 15th Century, it started to become much more similar to what it is today, due to many royal family members. In 1787, the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) established a set of distances for targets to be placed at when he would shoot his bow. Some of these distances are still used in competitions today, so we can at least attribute those to a singular person.
As you've learned by now, archery is truly an ancient sport, so we don't know exactly when it was established. It has been utilized and practiced for thousands and thousands of years and has developed and improved in that time. The archery governing body in the United States was founded in 1879 and Britain's in 1844, but international standards were not set until 1931, through the creation of the Federation of International Target Archery. 1931 also marks the first year of the World Archery Championships, which are still held today!
Archery has always been popular, but it began its peak of popularity as a sport in the late 1700's, with the royalty making the pastime a true symbol of wealth and athleticism. As governing bodies and official tournaments began to pop up in Europe and the United States, the sport became much more popular and moved beyond its status as a symbol of wealth. It became an Olympic sport in 1900 and despite a 52-year period without it, it remains one today!
Here is a quick timeline to help you remember some of archery's most important years!