A typical self bow relies upon the elasticity and "springiness" of the wood from which it is made to store energy when drawn. The maximum energy that can be stored in the bow is dependent upon this and the distance that the archer can draw back the bow string. To increase this energy some very clever people experimented with fusing harder materials (such as animal bone and horn) around a central bow core of wood. This allowed a much larger draw weight in a typical sized bow, hence increased distance and penetration power. Where a longbow might achieve a range of 300 yards, good composite bows can launch an arrow 500 to 750 yards.

Composite bows were likely the possession of Assyrian and eastern Asian people ca. 500-1000 BC. Such bows have also been recovered in Egypt dating from this period, though it is most likely that they were introduced from the outside.

See also the more modern (1967) compound bow.

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