An arrow is a pointed projectile that is shot with a bow. It predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.
In 2010, during an excavation, at the Sibudu Cave in South Africa, led by Professor Lyn Wadley, from the University of the Witwatersrand researchers discovered the earliest direct evidence of human made arrow heads: 64,000 year-old "stone points". These ancient arrow heads had remnants of blood and bone confirming their use.
An arrow usually consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end, with fletchings and a nock at the other.
Arrow sizes vary greatly across cultures, ranging from eighteen inches to five feet (45 cm to 150 cm). However, most modern arrows are two-and-a-half to three feet long (75 cm to 90 cm), similar to the length of English war arrows (which were made to be half the height of the man who shot them). Very short arrows have been used, shot through a guide attached either to the bow (an "overdraw") or to the archer's wrist (the Turkish "siper"). These may fly farther than heavier arrows, and an enemy without suitable equipment may find himself unable to return them.
The shaft is the primary structural element of the arrow, to which the other components are attached. Traditional arrow shafts are made from lightweight wood, bamboo or reeds, while modern shafts may be made from aluminium, carbon fibre reinforced plastic, or composite materials. Composite shafts are typically made from an aluminium core wrapped with a carbon fibre outer.
The stiffness of the shaft is known as its spine, referring to how little the shaft bends when compressed. Hence, an arrow which bends less is said to have more spine. In order to strike consistently, a group of arrows must be similarly-spined. "Center-shot" bows, in which the arrow passes through the central vertical axis of the bow riser, may obtain consistent results from arrows with a wide range of spines. However, most traditional bows are not center-shot and the arrow has to deflect around the handle in the archer's paradox; such bows tend to give most consistent results with a narrower range of arrow spine that allows the arrow to deflect correctly around the bow. Higher draw-weight bows will generally require stiffer arrows, with more spine (less flexibility) to give the correct amount of flex when shot.
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