The Finno-Ugric Bow

Two Finno-Ugric bows, the one to the left still needs to be wrappen in birch-bark.
The bows used in Finland and parts of Scandinavia during historic times were of a composite design and with strong Asian influences. This bow type occupied a wast range of territory from the Northern rims of the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic coast of Scandinavia.

There are some variations in construction and design of this bow type and it can be divided in two subcategories, the Finno-Ugric composite bow and the Siberian composite bow. A common term for these two types could be North Eurasian composite bows.

Both subcategories are very similar in shape and size but they are constructed differently. The Finno-Ugric composite is a wood lamination constructed by joining two or up to four different pieces of wood. In Finland and among the Saami the back was made out of birch and the belly out of pine, cut out of a tree that had grown in a slant position and thus produced a special reaction wood that is much darker, harder and more saturated with sap than normal pine. This type of reaction wood pine endures a lot of compression but breaks easily. The birch slat that is glued on the back endures a lot of stretching and keeps the bow intact. The rigid siyahs are either added to the bow or are shaped of the prolongued ends of birch back slate.


As the perch skin glue that was used to hold the parts together is very sensitive to moisture the finished bow was wrapped in birch bark. The covering also aided in holding the bow intact even in cold dry weather when the wood became more brittle. The range of this model extends from Scandinavia eastward to the middle ground between the Ob and the Yenisei river. 

 Establishing the boarder area at the Ob river is based on the studies of the Finnish ethnographer U.T. Sirelius, and he also recognizes the Finno-Ugric bows as a distinct type. His studies only range as far as to the Khanty who live along the Ob and their bow is of the Fenno-Ugric subcategory.


The Siberian bow type was found in the eastern parts of Siberia all the way to Pacific Ocean with some interesting intermediary forms along the borders. This bow type also occurs in some unique variations among Siberian Eskimo.

The Siberian composite bow appears almost identical to the Finno-Ugric model, but there are differences in construction. The bow is usually made of one piece of wood with recurved ends. The bow is fitted with a sinew back covering. The sinew backing or the whole bow is sometimes covered with rawhide or thin strips of birch bark.

The composite design seems to have reached Scandinavia from the East in the iron age, a discovery of a part of the bow-belly from Finland was dated to 200-300 years B.C.

There are nine archaeological findings of Finno-Ugric bows from Sweden, Norway and Finland. For most parts the findings have been dated to iron-age and medieval times. 

Bows are constructed in various lengts, and some are actually quite long, one Khanty-bow in the museum of Zurich is 195cm. For most parts the bows where constructed to be as strong as possible as the arrows used were also heavy.

Comments

  1. Something about these bows just hits me right. If one was to play with this form. . . how about modifying it with a Nels Grumley-style bow. What if the siyahs are added to both back and belly - the pine, juniper, or spruce compression wood glued to the bottom of the siyah after it is glued to the birch back?
    USA

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mikset kirjoittaisi myös Suomeksi näitä tarinoitasi? Kaikki eivät osaa Enkkua riittävästi ymmärtääkseen. Aihekin on myös hyvin paljon Suomalaista mökinmummoakin koskettava.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Joo oikeassa olet Hansku, mutta toisaalta samma tietoa on aika paljonkin saatavilla suomeksi, esim. perinnejousi.fi sivuston keskustelu-palstoilla riittää juttua laidasta laitaan. Käy vaikkapa katsomassa. Anglo-saxiselle yleisölle monet Suomen kansanperinnettä koskevat jutut ovat aika hämärän peitossa, lisäksi minulla on jonkin verran amerikkalaisia/kanadalaisia tuttuja joita nämä asian kiinnostavat. Tämä blogi lähti oikeastaan siitä että näitä Suomeakin koskevia juttuja saisi englanninkielisten tietoon. Voin tosin kääntä jonkin näistä jutuista "ugriksi" jos sitä toivotaan.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mikael- the current Fenno-ugric design is pretty much adapted to the prevailing conditions of the Northern hemisphere. These bows where made rugged so that they could withstand the grind of everyday life. Sayin that a modern bowyer might well bring this design to another level if he/she would like to experiment a little.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hei taas Marcus. Kiitos vastauksestasi, itselläni kesti yli vuoden näköjään vastata. Olisin iloinen ja kiitollinen, jos vaikka tämän Suomalais-ugrilais-jousen tarinan ehtisit/jaksaisit/viitsisit ugrintaa/suomentaa. Olen kokeilumielessä alkanut tekemään Suomalais-ugrityylistä jousta, omanlaista Suomalaista kuitenkin enemmän, materiaalipulaan vedoten. Joskus aikomuksena saada tehdyksi Ostjakki tai Jurakkisamojedilainen jousi ja miksei juoksa-tyylinenkin.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rautahannu - sun kannattaisi katsastaa perinnejousi.fi sivuston keskustelupalsta. Sinne on suomalais-ugrilaisista jousista tullut aika lailla tietoa joista viimeisin lisäys on kuvakertomus siitä miten hantien mailla on jousia ennen muinoin tehty. Suomenkielistä matskua jousien teosta on runsaasti saatavilla, sitä vastoin anglosaksiselle yleisölle nämä jouset ovat yhä aika eksoottisia. Vinkkinä materiaalipulaaan niin siperian lehtikuusi on aika hyvä lylyn korvike.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this bow!

    How did you put the reflex into the bowstaff? I want to make one for my next bow.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reaction wood itself is reflexed due so you just have to find a suitable piece to work with.

      Delete
  8. hei! One question about the pine. Are you using the side of the that faces upwards or downwards the hill?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The side that faces downward, in which case finished bow will bend downwards and have a natural recurve.

      Delete
  9. This is a fabulous insight into ,not only arctic, into Finnish bows. Is the birch white or yellow? I will make this bow. Thanks for the information. It amazes me that you wrote your thesis about this type of bow. I am a north american Finn and could not understand why I had an affinity to the shape of this bow and now I know. Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome Kurt. It´s silver birch, but white birch will also work. Good luck!

      Delete
    2. Thanks again Marcus. Life has gotten in the way of my building this bow but recently I have found some time to get back into making this bow. So I will be off tomorrow to find a suitable birch treatment and maybe find the pine tree to supply the belly wood. Take care

      Delete
  10. Hello I'm about to build the bow and wonder how long you made your bow and how long you did "end pieces"? Then I wonder also how you wrapped the sash in birch bark?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Daniel- I have made several bows...and it is hard to say how long it takes other than it is a true journey and you get there when you get there. A simple bow can be made in a matter of hours...these bows take lots more time and effort. The end pieces take, maybe, 6hrs each to make, not counting the time to find, cut and cure suitable bent pieces of birch or bird cherry. Birchbark becomes flexible when put in hot water. The wrapping will hold on it´s own but I use fishglue to make sure the binding stays.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Btw, perinnejousi.fi osoitteesta löytyy nykyään alaa jotenkin kattava blogi, foorumi on soitteessa: http://perinnejousi.yuku.com/

    Näin asian itse huomanneena... ;)

    P.S. Pirun hyvä artikkeli ja hienot kuvat!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Most popular posts