Fletching on Mongol arrows

Discussion in 'Weapons' started by komuso, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. komuso

    komuso Valued Member

    Hi all,

    the recent conversations that have been happening here about archery have gotten me thinking. At their peak the Mongol hordes were huge, and, given that the bow was their primary weapon (combined with the horse, of course...) I was wondering what they used to fletch their arrows with.

    That many archers + that much fletching must have equalled some kind of early environmental catastrophe?


  2. marcokane23

    marcokane23 Banned Banned

    Crane feathers wasn't it?
  3. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    I doubt environmental catastrophe came in to the picture to be honest. As just about any type of feather can be used for fletching I doubt the Mongols would have held out for the tail feathers of an Eagle. There are hundreds of species of birds common to Mongolia... and my guess is that back then there may have been even more species common to the area.

    Additionally it's not like they were sourcing constantly from the same fields day in day. I'm pretty sure they would have continued the manufacture of arrows no matter where they were - so it'd have been whatever was at hand. So it could have been anything from goose feathers to pheasant feathers. Apparently both Eagle and Crane tail feathers were particularly sought after... but I highly doubt that the vast majority of arrow fletching were made of these. Perhaps only for either high ranking warriors or for ceremonial or honorific purposes. I've heard that vulture feathers were quite a common material used for fletching. Vulture populations no doubt grew when the Mongols came to town.

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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011
  4. slipthejab

    slipthejab Hark, a vagrant! Supporter

    If you read a bit you'll come across pretty much the same information... eg:

    - typically anything available (crane, goose, swan)

    - crane feathers were a favorite

    - tail feathers preferred over wings

    - Eagle feathers preferred... but obviously they weren't going to shoot down Eagles just to use tail feathers as fletching. Some Mongols and Turkic people in the region use Eagles to hunt with... so my guess is Eagle feathers were relatively rare as fletching. As well there would have been a religious/cultural issue as Eagles are highly regarded in the Mongol world (eg. the Eagle dance in traditional Mongolian wrestling etc.)


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    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011
  5. komuso

    komuso Valued Member

    Many thanks Slip,

    interesting stuff, and of course I should have realised that they would have foraged as they went rather than just lugging everything along with them. And yes, I am sure that they re-supplied the general avian population with vultures as they went along as well!

    Some great photos too. I will confess to being a little suprised that they used broad headed points for war, as I was ubder the impression that a bodkin type point was better for penetration, but that might be a reflection of fighting generally un armoured or lightly armoured opponents?

    thanks again!

  6. Polar Bear

    Polar Bear Moved on

    yeah metal armour was expensive so relatively rare. Plus they were expert horse archers so fired from very close range so they could fire into unarmoured areas.

    The Bear.
  7. LilBunnyRabbit

    LilBunnyRabbit Old One

    Bodkin type arrows are definitely better for penetration of armour (there'll be a huge debate about this shortly, I'm sure) but broadheads are vicious, nasty things which cause huge amounts of bleeding and tissue damager. They're used for hunting since even if the shot doesn't kill the target through shock, blood loss will get to it eventually.

    There are lots of strange arrowheads out there as well. I always liked the ones for hunting turkeys.
  8. beer_belly

    beer_belly Valued Member

    I really like the one with the old car? in the background...

    Lots of cultures used a range of points for war - even in my own collection (and arrow heads are not one of my particular interests only a dozen or so arrow heads in it) I have 3 different types of Roman ones - one type is essentially a nail or needle, another is a slightly bigger socketed spike bodkin and the third is a small socketed two edged broadhead - not sure what the different uses were, the one that is like a nail/needle would have had the virtue of not using much steel but I suspect would not have been as damaging as the full bodkin....

    Similarly with my Korean arrow heads there are both piercing and cutting heads. If memory serves the Guards Museum in London has a set of equipment from a 19th century dervish that has a range of different arrow heads in the quiver so very common to have a range of different heads for war.
  9. LilBunnyRabbit

    LilBunnyRabbit Old One

    Guessing from the descriptions, and assuming the same purposes as modern equivalents:

    Needle-point sounds like a target arrow, used for target shooting, and possibly hunting small game.

    Broadleaf is generally for hunting larger game, and I suppose could be used in warfare against unarmoured opponents.

    Bodkin's for penetration and armour-piercing, most likely used in battle.

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