The myth of arrow quivers on the back

Well, I´m glad that I´m not the only one concerned about quiver on the back. But I´m wondering that no one has concerns about bow at the back. It´s even bigger nonsense than quiver on the back. Second think is that, I hope they won´t make colts from bows. In terms your bow will be at your back, with string attached all time, and all you have to do, is take it from your back and start firing. Yes, if you´re expecting that you´ll use bow, you put string on it in forward, but usually you´ll carrying around unstringed and in some fabric cover. And when you shoot at the target, normaly you´ll left the bow at shooting post, or take it in your hand.

I agree, keep the bow unstringed at all times when not used for firing. Otherwise the bow will go weak and loose it’s power. I’ve seen different ways of carrying bows (depending on what kind of bow it is). This is one of them, most likely for a smaller bow (the perspective of this image is a bit off I think)


Agree on the pictures showing arrows either lying on the ground, or stuck into the ground (who has time to put your new arrows in a nice casket when you’re in the middle of a battle).

There’s a lot of armoured archers portraied in the paintings. Archers are much cheaper than knights and they have to be strong if they’re going to draw the biggest bows (talking 150 pounds +). England used this as their tactic, buying a lot of cheap scum as bowmen (many were prisoners).

Most of the soldiers carry cloth on top of their armour in the late 14, early 15th century, so only in a few paintings you can really see the breastplate

Armoured archers 1
armoured archers 2
Armoured archers 3
Armoured archers 4

As far as I’m aware us English certainly transported arrows in barrels, it makes sense because the arrows were made locally (for quality control as standards were very high) then packed for transport by ship to France. On arrival they were transported on carts to the destination.

Bearing in mind that archers had an insanely high rate of fire, even with multiple quivers slung on your back it is unlikely enough could be transported in this way. So I believe that it was common practice to transport sheaves of arrows (or bundles of sheaves maybe?) in barrels for re-supply.

As far as combat readiness goes, it has always been assumed that English (Welsh) archers stuck them in the ground for speed and probably purpose (barbed flesh arrows and bodkins for example).

As you say, wooded barrles were certainly used, but for transport of a large amout of arrows (on ships etc). A single archer usually had 24 arrows in their arsenal at the start of battles (atleast I think that is documented! Correct me if I am wrong.) and then got refills by squires during the battle. What I mean by baskets is a way for individual archers to transport large amout of arrows (not as many as in barrles though). Still looking for that picture!

Yea, restock of arrows was necessary to keep the archers able to fire during battle, as they can fire away all those 24 arrows very fast! The problem with bundeling arrows together is damaged feathers, and damaged feathers means bad accuracy. So they could hold arrows together but not tieing them togheter, atleast I do not think that was the most appreaciated way of packing them.

There’s a couple of pictures showing that, especially from the later 15th century! And I’ve tried it myself and it seems the best way to shoot and fire. The problem occurs when you have to reposition yourself, then you’ll have to pick up all the arrows!

From what I’ve read (of Agincourt era) arrows were produced in sheaves of 24, but the records say that each archer carried 60-75 into battle with them (I have to say that 72 would seem a better fit, meaning 2.5 to 3 sheaves but still). You’re spot-on with your previous postings, 2 sheaves in quiver and the rest stuck in his belt, it doesn’t mention the position of the quiver but I am sure it was as you said on the belt.

English archers were expected to loose between 12 and 20 arrows per minute and any unable to loose at least 10 were declared unfit for military service. Young boys (I suppose the non-knightly version of squires) were used to provide constant resupply. Absolutely necessary as any force of archers had 5 minutes supply maximum.

Yes you make a good point about the repositiong, all my learning has been regarding set-piece battles of that era where the defenders had been able to position stakes and other defensive measures, and basically there was not going to be any movement other than a rout had it gone badly. :smiley:

I have no idea how they got around keeping the arrows in good condition, we went to great measures to collect those goose feathers in the first place “6 from every goose” according to Henry V. I can’t find any information on how they were packed, you almost certainly know better than I do how individual sheaves were handled and that does seem to be the standard “unit” for a bunch of arrows, they were certainly packed carefully and waterproofed for transport purposes in some manner, probably wax.

I thought I’d have a look at an older period where I knew I’d find archers, namely the Bayeux tapestry. Oddly enough it portrays archers with both belt and back mounted quivers. So they aren’t a myth.

Tapestry fragment

That said it looks like the quiver on the back had gone out of fashion by the time we are interested in here.

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Very intreresting! Can you post some pics? (or links!)

Good layout about how many arrows that was supposed to be fired per minute and how many arrows there was!

My guesses of how they were packed is much based on my own trial and error. Bundeling them together (with rope for example) seems to risk the feathers a lot and therefor I doubt the regular use of it. It centainly did happen though.
A mixture of beesvax and linseed oil makes great waterproofing for linen!

As long as you do not move, having the arrows on the ground is great. Maybe, keeping the most of them in a linen quiver (or whatever quiver they had) and pick a couple at a time to place at the ground. Just speculations about that though :slight_smile:

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I popped a link picture (I don’t know how you put the actual pictures up).

You can just google Bayeaux tapestry and click images, there are loads.

I’m glad you found the logistics bit interesting, I did too so here’s a little more. It has been estimated that there could have been almost a million arrows loosed by the English at Agincourt. I know that sounds mad but it’s not unbelievable. Whilst the exact figures for combatants aren’t known, 4000 archers seems a fairly conservative estimate.

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agree - I tried it myself once - this is something for hollywood.
I think the bayeux tapestry image is a very seldom source (and the belt also seems like it would also fit for using it at the side - most archers are pictured with side quivers.

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Well, I really like the discussion. Thanks for that guys. :slight_smile:

But again we should be aware of the fact that archery wasn’t very common in Bohemia at the time so it’s not all that important imo. The Bohemian forces relied on heavy armoured knights like in the rest of Germany and France and most of their range fighters wer crossbowmen. Bohemian soldiers were no Englishmen after all… :wink:

The only situation in which bows were used on a greater scale was castle or city defense. But then I guess that they didn’t even use quivers but indeed barrels or whole packs of arrows in front of them or between them on the walls.

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I agree it’s not particularly relevant, I am not very clued up on anything other than western European medieval history and the crusades. I am very eager to learn about this as I suspect are most people who were never taught about history in other parts of Europe.

That’s a major part of why I’m signed up to this and I hope there are going to be some actual historical castles in game.

As far as I have exsperienced fast in paced volly/shots the comands have always gone, in a generalse sense, like this… “Arrow, knock, draw, loose.”

Even in the latter part of teh Medieval period when hand cannons and cannons where in use, the word ‘fire’ is not used, drawing from what I have seen from first hand exsperience, “Have a care” is what is called out befor anything is fired.

I once bought a quiver that’s bound to be carried on the back. 'twas a special offer… And using it that way was…meh, I did changed it to something improvised belt quiver after 5 minutes… - And I was kind of patient with it, however.
I used arrows with sth. like 30 inch long, so quite a measure, but way not the longest kind.
And now imagine a war bow, which needs strong and long arrows…:smiley:

WEll… to be fair… wearing the quiver on ones back is possible and one can get used to it, also without getting to fumble every once a while. I actually am a quite patient person, but not that patient… :smiley:

I say “Nay” for backing quivers… :wink:

I never knew about quivers were on the waist and not on the back another thing movies sends the wrong idea to us

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I don’t think many quivers survived the test of time, and the evidence presented based on a few medieval paintings is scarce. The fact that back quivers are not shown in a couple of medieval paintings does not mean they were not used at all. And for those who care so much about accuracy; please only post pictures made/set in medieval Bohemia :stuck_out_tongue:

Well as near eastern archaeologist i can say, in the age of the Achaemenid Empire (The First Persian Empire that reached from India to Greece, yes that from Sparta) are Archers always pictured with the quiver on the back. Also in other Ancient paintings and reliefs there can be found quivers on the back. But yes, in the middle ages they were worn at the belt or stuck in the ground. Beside that is the belt option NOT recommenden unless you can drop it quickly, because when you have to run, which can surely happen in a fight, the quiver is irritating and you can fall over it. As an a former reenactment player i tried that once, was not funny :smiley:

Brings back painful memories - not for me but for a friend that did kneel in front of a low shot arrow it ended up as a trip to hospital as the knock end of the arrow went in about 2cm into his thigh.

Waiting on the doctor:

Even today we still hang our quiver off the belt or in the indoor range we use an arrow stand on the floor beside us to hold them.

My son shooting at the indoor range, one shot from each archer and all the arrows are in the stand just to his right.

I actually thought that archers from the period used a waxed linen bag rather than a quiver as such. A conventional quiver would let arrows bounce out when legging across the field.

Bows were realy popular in Bohemia. King Karel IV supported archery a lot. They give archers their shooting range in Prague and there were many archery competitions in Bohemia that time.
Eventually it came so far, that archery must have been regulated as too many peoples shooting at their backyards and it became somehow dangerous. Archery were moved to islands in Prague which one is now known as Střelecký ostrov (I would translate as “Shooters Island”) and there are still archers nowadays (though using modern bows).

Crossbows became more popularin Bohemia, that’s for sure, but I think it happened during first decades of 15th century. The Wenzel Bible (the captured king in Kingdom Come: Deliverance) shoving lots archers with bow, but just one with crossbow.