Nomadic Archery Accessories History

The Evolution of the Quiver

Along with the evolution of armors the evolution of weapon owners started out as well. Infantry archers carried the arrows –seldom accompanied by the bow itself– in the quiver affixed on their back by a shoulder belt, while chariot archers profited from the advantages of the battle vehicles, and affixed the quivers on the side of the carts. In these flat cases, that usually aligned to the side of the chariots, many different weapons were held: bows, arrows, spears, and the typical Hungarian battle ax, the „fokos”. In some of the high relieves it is also distinct that for the quartering of different types of armors different compartments were made.

 Only about five hundred years after the big military achievement of the 2nd Millennium, namely the chariot archery, appear the horse troopers. This period, from the 9th to the 13th Century B.C. is generally known to be the time of the evolution of nomad shepherding in the steppes. Horse riding becomes widespread in this epoch gaining greater and greater significance. Today it still can not be decided with certainty whether horseback combat in the great empires of the antiquity developed from the Assyrian culture, or it was the invention of the nomad equestrian people, who were forced by their lifestyle to be ever ready for battle. One of the first equestrian archer nations were the Assyrians. Their bows were relatively long, arched, and their arrows were held in back-quivers. This posterior positioning of the arrows is rather inconvenient in case of horsemen, since it interferes with the fighters’ motion. It is due to this fact that the latter method went quickly out of fashion.

From the back-quiver to the combined standby quiver

 Apart from the small bow protectors of the Egyptian infantry archers, that was only meant to shield the bow from the hands’ sweat, short after the evolution of the arrow case (also known as the quiver), came the next phase of development: compartments in which it was possible to carry both the arrows and the bow. The predecessors of the combined quiver are to be found in Asia Minor, more precisely in Mesopotamia.

 In this area of constant battles and conflicting nations armors were quick to improve.

The Assyrian developed an outstandingly high standard of combat techniques. Already in the first representations of battle chariots quivers and different compartments are visible affixed onto the side of the vehicles carrying all sorts of weaponry such as bows, arrows, spears, mauls etc. Similar cases or compartments on the side of the battle cars can be traced all the way to the 7th Century. It is often apparent in the imagery, that the bow and the arrows are held in the same case, only in different compartments.

Almost contemporary to the evolution of the complex chariot-cases infantry archers as well started to hold their bows in their spacious back-quivers.

 Beginning form the 7th Century nomadic representations are more and more likely to depict images of bows held in back-quivers, thus these cases can be already looked upon as combined-quivers. Both foot and horse wore them on belts flung over the left shoulder. As it was mentioned before soldiers were constraint to carry numerous types of weapons in their back-quivers. The princes’ cavalry were escorted by lance-bearers carrying all the lords’ armors. The simple warrior couldn’t afford to do so: in order to keep his hands free –especially as long as cavalry was concerned—kept all of his weaponry in the case on his back. In Mesopotamia the same procedure took place concerning the back-quiver as mentioned earlier regarding the chariot-quivers: it first became a generic armor-case, later evolved into the complex compartment for bow and arrow, the so called combined back-quiver.

 Outside of Mesopotamia the combined case for carrying the bow and arrow appears in 6th Century Minor Asia, in Klazomenai, on the sarcophagi depicting Kimmer horsemen. The shape of this case completely corresponds to that of the back-quiver. The Kimmer riders of the steppes however, as an innovation, wore these quivers on their waist belt.

 The combined quivers suitable for carrying the bow and arrow therefore preceded the appearance of equestrian nations. Thus the equestrian people had practically inherited the infantry’s and the chariots’ combined back-quivers in their unchanged form,only that they placed them on their waist belts making them more suitable for horse riding. Hence that when riding it is not favorable if the rider’s back in under a lot of weight since the control of the horse doesn’t only depend on the rein, it is just as much a subject to the motion of the shoulders and the waist. Moreover, weapons carried by the waistline provide a more balanced posture to the rider, since the center of gravity moves lower, underneath the horse’s backline.

Amongst the equestrian people the quiver affixed to the waist belt dispersed quickly, and became completely common during the 5th Century BC. In the images of the Scythians of Pontus that were made around the 6th and 5th Century BC. only waist-quivers can be found with a sort of cover on top. The tiltable cover overlay (thus protected) both the bow and the archer. In the following century, 4th century BC., that is, it was a sort of open and combined compartment that became widespread in the Eastern and Western Scythian steppes. It covers approximately two thirds of the bow, the rest sticks out.

 Regarding their material, quivers must have been made of thick leather and were most definitely strengthened by fish bones. Relying on the archeological findings we can deduce that the external side was richly decorated by embroidery, leather overlays, more over for the nobility golden plates were used as well.

 In fact it took quite a time until cases for bows and arrows became fashionable.

It was especially the bow that found its place in the collective quiver quite late. It wasn’t until around 2000 BC that bows were to be found in the complex weapon cases on the side of the chariots, and it took even some more time until they moved onto the warriors’ back. Therefore the collective case for the bows and arrows developed by the First Millennium BC by the 6th Century BC moved onto the waist-belt of the horsemen first with, later without a cover.

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