Arctic Bowyery – The Use of Compression Wood in Bows in the Subarctic and Arctic Regions of Eurasia and America

Marcus Lepola


This paper is a study of the traditional use of a special kind of wood in bow construction in Eurasia and North America. This special kind of wood, called compression wood and coming from coniferous trees, has unique qualities that makes it suitable for bow construction. Bows made using this special wood have been referred to as Finno-Ugric bows, Sámi bows, Two-Wood bows and Eurasia laminated bows. These bows appear to have developed from archaic forms of compression wood self bows that were made from a single piece of wood. Recently features similar to the Eurasian compression wood bows have been discovered in bows originating from Alaska, and the use of compression wood for bow manufacture has been known to some Canadian Inuit groups. This paper addresses the origin and possible diffusion pattern of this innovation in bow technology in Eurasia and suggests a timeframe and a possible source for the transfer of this knowledge to North America. This paper also discusses the role of the Asiatic composite bow in the development of bows in Eurasia.


bowyery; self bow; compression wood; Finno-Ugric bow; Eskimo bow; primitive hunting

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ISSN (print) 1736-6518. ISSN (online) 2228-0987. JEF is a joint publication of the University of Tartu, the Estonian National Museum and the Estonian Literary Museum.