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Medieval Archer

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Archer - Definition and Description
Definition and description of a Medieval Archer: A Medieval archer can be described as a bowman, one skilled in the use of the bow and arrow. However there were also other types of archers during the period - the longbow man and the crossbowman. A maker of the Medieval Bow and Arrow and other archery goods was called an Artillator. Special places were assigned for the archery training called The Butts.

The Medieval Archer - The Bowman
The training required by a bowman to use the Bow and Arrow was extremely time consuming - it was necessary for the Medieval archer to become an expert marksmen. The first arrows were broadhead arrows but the the large arrow head, after which the broadhead was named, would distribute the impact over a large area and just bounce off or break against armor. The Bodkin point arrow was invented to address this issue and the long bodkins were used for piercing mail and the short bodkins were used by the Medieval archer for piercing armor plate. The range of the new bodkin arrow reached 275 yards. The Bow and Arrow was eventually supplanted at first by the crossbow and then by the longbow. The skills of the Medieval Archer changed accordingly.

The Medieval Archer - The Crossbowman
The Crossbow was easy to use, requiring minimal training and required little strength to operate. But it shot too few bolts! The crossbow range was 350 400 yards but could only be shot at a rate of 2 bolts per minute. Medieval Archer who used the crossbow were little more than peasants. They wore ordinary clothes which were reinforced with leather patches, strips of metal or quilted cloth. An untrained soldier could operate a Medieval Crossbow which could be carried ready loaded with a bolt (unlike a Short or Longbow archer). A crossbowman could kill a Knight in full armour. The Pavise were used as 'Wall Shields on battlefields by this type of Medieval archer. The Pavise shield was long enough to stand upright on the ground and provide cover for the Medieval archers, especially the crossbow men. The Pavise was therefore the name given to the shields used by the Crossbow men.

The Medieval Archer - The Longbow man
The Longbow launched arrows faster than the Bow and Arrow but required even more skill and training. A skilled longbow man could release between 10 - 12 arrows per minute - but required considerable training. The Longbow was a powerful wooden bow, that had a strong tension, was drawn by hand and usually 6-7 feet long. The weapon was particularly effective against opponents wearing plate armor and this type of Medieval archer could pierce the armor of a knight at ranges of more than 250 yards.

The Medieval Archer - Archery Training
The Medieval Archer was extremely important to the war lords of the Middle Ages. Archery was not just a sport. Lower Class men were required to practise archery by law! The first Medieval Archery Law was passed in 1252 when all Englishmen between the age of 15 to 60 years old were ordered, by Law, to equip themselves with a bow and arrows. The areas designated for training the Medieval archer were called the Butts. The power of the longbow was so great that at the Battle of Crecy, in 1346, the French army was decimated. It is estimated that nearly 2000 French knights and soldiers were killed by the longbow archers. The English lost just 50 men. This explains why Archery Laws were passed and why training at the Butts was so important to the Medieval archer.

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