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South American bow and arrows

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not realy military and yet.........

Notice the arrow tops are made of wood as well.

 

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Interesting collection - and probably quite rare.   I would expect them to be poison tipped for hunting.   Didn't they use curare ?    Mervyn

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Although this is an older thread, I am happy to see something about South American bows & arrows, a topic very important to my research interests and related to collections I have donated to museums in the US and Venezuela.

Almost all South American bows & arrows are quite long, up to 2 m is quite common. The lanceolate arrowpoints are for large terrestrial game, most commonly peccaries. Even today most of these are made of wood or a species of New World bamboo (probably what these were made from) rather than steel because it is not uncommon to lose the quarry, and the arrow. Metal can be scarce, and arrows that are commonly lost are still made of more replaceable materials. The barbed hardwood point (probably a species of palm heartwood) are used for monkeys. Monkeys will try to remove the arrows, and this is why they have multiple backward directed barbs, to make that difficult and to make a more grievous wound as they worry the arrow. Often folks will cut a slightly deeper notch a short distance from the most distal barbs so that they break off in the animal as they try to get them out of their bodies. These long points can be recovered and are re-trimmed to sharpen the point and continue using them until the foreshaft is too short. A new point is then inserted into the cultivated arrowcane. The use of what appears to be native cotton windings suggests these were made by agricultural populations, who also probably grew the arrowcanes themselves. The monkey arrows and peccary arrows indicate these were from a tropical rainforest group. None of these would likely have employed curare, that is almost exclusively used for blowgun darts which are delicate and quiet poison delivery systems for arboreal game. The muscle relaxation of curare not only suffocates the animal by relaxing the diaphragm, but also prevents monkeys' tails from remaining coiled around branches as they die, so that they can be recovered after they drop to the ground. The 2 arrows on the far right of the 2nd image have sharpened hardwood foreshaft points that were probably for birds. Bird arrows with blunt and expanded ends are common for stunning birds who are hunted for their feathers in order to minimize damage and blood staining of their plumage. The arrow 3rd from the right on this image exhibits a broken foreshaft, possibly another example of a pointed bird arrow or for a lanceolate point. These 3 wooden arrows are unlikely to be for bow & arrow fishing as these normally have at least one barb to prevent fish from  slipping off of such smooth points. 

The illustrations below are arrowpoints from my fieldwork with Savanna Pumé hunters & gatherers living the open neotropical savannas in west-central Venezuela that are part of the Orinoco Plains (llanos). These examples are among the dozens I have donated to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology as part of a collection of over 1,300 artifacts from my research. 

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This shows most of the currently used arrow forms employed by the Savanna Pumé. From top to bottom, it shows: a cold hammered steel nail point that is squared to produce a wound that tears rather than a round hole which will seal up a bit (as known in forensics that an ice pick wound does nor do as much damages as a screwdriver), this point is used for small terrestrial game such as armadillos, lizards, or rabbits, and some birds, it has a small proximal barb visible at the right where the windings end; a fishing arrow also made from a steel nail that is heated, hammered to shape, and then cut to produce the distal barb, a proximal barb is barely visible as well; a heated, hammered, and shaped lanceolate point made from worn-out machetes or other steel tools for terrestrial game such as the tamandua anteater, the great anteater, deer, or other much more rarely captured animals such as peccaries or tapirs. I have been on defensive war pray trips in response to seeing prowling strangers near the dry season camps where men nocked two of these kinds of arrows on their bows and stationed themselves away from the edge of camp. Considering the likely intruders were FARC guerrillas armed with automatic weapons, these parties only expected to provide time for the rest of the community to escape, not to defeat these folks who sometimes travelled deep into Venezuela during the dry season when long-distance foot travel was practical for non-indigenous folks; a wooden point for hunting birds; and a caiman harpoon arrow that has a detachable point and line to allow the animal some play before being dispatched. The cord is made from moriche palm leaf fiber. Scale in cm. 

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An illustration of the individual Savanna Pumé arrowpoints and their foreshafts, which are inserted into the long arrowcane mainshaft. From top to bottom: the squared small game point; the distally barbed fishing point; the foreshaft showing a slot (not cut through the entire foreshaft) for fitting the above two point styles into; an example of the small game point seated in the foreshaft with a tree resin and wrapped in windings made from the leaf fibers of a wild pineapple relative; the same kind of  foreshaft assembly with final coating of tree resin & charcoal, and a  coating of resin more proximally to assist with adherence in the mainshaft; a heated and hammered steel lanceolate point for large game; the typical short foreshaft for lanceolate points showing the double tongued carving of its slot. Scale in cm. 

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Fletching of the Savanna Pumé arrows. From top to bottom: the radial fletching of a lanceolate point, radial fletching is made from a feather split in half through the vein and attached as 4 pieces of fletching around the proximal end of the arrow, as are modern competition arrows, providing the best flight characteristics; an example of tangential fletching for a small game or fishing arrow where a piece of intact feather is simply laid againts each of 2 sides side of the arrow, this example has striping of tree resin that identifies the arrow maker; another example of tangential fletching without any markings. All windings and the nock are made from tree resin and the wild bromeliad fiber shown used for foreshafts above in the 2nd photo, then coated with resin and charcoal and smoothed by hand with face oil. Scale in cm. 

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An example of a Savanna Pumé caiman harpoon point and cordage set for a variant where the point is seated on a long pole used instead of an arrow, for larger and more dangerous caimans. The cordage is moriche palm leaf fiber, the steel point was made by hearing in fire and hammering to shape, the barb cut with an axe edge, and attached to the cordage with tree resin and wild bromeliad fiber. Scale in cm. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
correction of auto-correct

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Here is an image of an older Savanna Pumé man making a fishing arrow. 

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Photo of a ~65 year old Savanna Pumé man in the Venezuelan llanos making a fishing arrow in a dry season camp of 2006. In front of him are two pieces of firewood providing heat to soften the tree resin (used to bind the point into the foreshaft, the foreshaft into the mainshaft, and any fletching and nock construction), which is a thick black stick resting against the furthest piece of firewood. The fine, white bromeliad fiber used for the windings is seen just to the viewer's right of his left knee. These are a few strands pulled from a larger hank of fiber that he will use as one set of bindings, and a thicker group of fibers further to the right, that will be split out into several strand groupings to twist into a strong thread he will pull across the tree resin to make it sticky so it adheres as winding. The tree resin is heated and used to coat those windings. He is crushing the windings and coating them with resin with 2 small pieces of arrowcane held in his left hand while he rolls the arrow on his thigh with his other hand. Note that the nock for the arrow is not yet made and it is unfletched. Many fishing arrows do not have fletching as they are shot from a short distance from a fishing platform <2 m above the fish and there is no need to stabilize such short flight. Many of these unfletched arrows will later be fletched to use during the wet season when they are employed as small game arrows. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves

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Thanks for your input!

Most interesting reading. Liked I said, something I know little of.

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I am always fascinated and impressed when an expert expounds on his or her speciality.  I would have assumed that wood points were used, as you say, because they were readily replaceable but not being a bow hunter would not have made the leap to 'things that get away'.  On the same note, notched points for monkeys make sense.  I assume that the hunters track the animal, even if the arrow is recovered, till it dies?  

The harpoon for caiman is quite similar to some of the similar implements used for seal and narwhale by Canadian indigenous groups.  Parallel evolution works for tools as well as animals!

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Your point about monkey tracking is interesting from the perspective of animal conservation. The folks I work with do not hunt monkeys, simply because there are none in the savanna. Some anthropologists have recorded that as a "taboo", which in my experience is just a silly anthropology term that means the anthropologist has no idea and probably never learned to speak the languages so they can't understand an explanation about why they don't hunt them.  Adjacent populations along the major rivers do because there are gallery forests there. Colleagues of mine working in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon who also did long-term fieldwork looked at conservation issues related to hunting. Populations of Machiguenga and Piro Indians within the park are prohibited from using shotguns, deemed "non-traditional" technology. Groups of the same Indians living outside of Manu do use shotguns. When shotgun using groups of men encounter monkeys, the inquisitive males descend slightly when they see these potential predators, and "blam" they are killed and the hunters go home. Within the park, the use of bows & arrows almost always results in missed shots in the first encounter with monkeys in the canopy. The Indians run shooting (and often losing arrows) through the forest until they are able to tire the stragglers, whom they are then able to kill. Who is slow in those troops? Females encumbered with young. Monkeys have long and slow reproduction, and one prime conservation goal in the Biosphere Reserve is to encourage the recovery of all primate populations. From a conservation perspective, what would be most sensible is to allow park inhabitants to use shotguns and preferentially kill males. Try telling that to conservation biologists and park administrators in contrast to their ideas about "traditional" hunting practices and there idea all of that is "naturally conservationist". Under past conditions of fewer people (especially outsiders) in the region, Indians could move to new areas when they start to exhaust the resources. That is no longer an option for them with encroachment on all their territories, and over-exploitation is the consequence here, and in many parts of the world. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
correcting auto-correct

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I hear what you're saying about well intentioned government biologists!  Up here, a few years ago, the 1,000 animal herd of Wood Buffalo, in a park the size of Rhode Island, got brucellosis from ranchers' cattle.  Gov't solution?  Wipe them all out, start over with 'pure animals'.  Really, guys?  And if you miss just one...?  'Oh, we won't.'

It also sounds as if 'taboo' is the anthropological equivalent of the archaeologists 'ritual object' - 'We have no freaking idea what this does/is fo, so we'll call it religious, 'cause religion is mysterious!'  I assume from your comments that you DO speak at least one local language, which I would have assumed was more or less a requirement for serious field work.  I taught for 2 years, with our version of the Peace Corps, in Nigeria.  In English, one of the 4 official languages there, but could just barely feed myself and get gas for my bike once off the beaten track.  Can't imagine discussing anything of substance without some command of the local bhat.  In fact, our local missionaries, had 30 years in country and their greatest asset was a colloquial knowledge of Hausa, the local lingua franca.    

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