Use of the bow and arrow, originally in hunting and warfare, now as a competitive sport. The world governing body is the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc (FITA) founded in 1931. In Olympic competition, archers shoot at targets 70 m/230 ft away in four events - men's and women's individual and team competitions. The target is 1.22 m/4 ft in diameter and marked with ten concentric rings, scoring ten points for the centre ring, or bullseye, down to one point for the outermost ring. Archers, or teams, compete in head-to-head elimination matches after being ranked in the qualifying round Archery was reintroduced to the Olympic Games in 1972.
Stone arrowheads have been found in Mesolithic archaeological deposits from about 15,000 BC, and bowmen are depicted in the ancient art of the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as later in the art of the early civilizations. Until the introduction of gunpowder in the 14th century, bands of archers were to be found in every European army. By the mid-17th century archery was no longer significant in warfare and interest waned until the 1780s.
Archery in Britain
The English archers distinguished themselves in the French wars of the later Middle Ages; to this day the Queen's bodyguard in Scotland is known as the Royal Company of Archers. Up to the time of Charles II the practice of archery was fostered and encouraged by English rulers. Henry VIII in particular loved the sport and rewarded the scholar Roger Ascham for his archery treatise Toxophilus. In the north of England shooting for the Scorton Arrow has been carried on, with few breaks, from 1673.
Organizations include the British Grand National Archery Society (1861); in the USA the National Archery Association (1879) and, for actual hunting with the bow, the National Field Archery Association (1940).
Types of international competitive archery
Outside of the Olympics, competition is divided into various disciplines, which are split further into Classic (or Recurve) and Compound divisions depending on the type of bow used. Outdoor target archery, of which the Olympic competition is a part, involves shooting at a variety of fixed distances on an open, flat field. Only the Classic Bow is allowed at the Olympic Games. Indoor target archery is shot indoors at targets 18 m/59 ft. Field archery is also shot outdoors, but along a marked course or path in the woods or fields. A third division, Bare Bow, is allowed in field archery. Clout archery is long distance shooting in which competitors shoot to a ‘clout’, a flat surface on the ground, at a distance of between 125 m/410 ft and 185 m/607 ft. Flight archery is an exercise in achieving the greatest distance for an arrow. Ski archery, also known as biathlon, combines archery and cross-country skiing. The shooting distance is 18 m/59 ft and the target has just one target zone: each miss results in either a time penalty or an extra penalty lap for the competitor.
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