R.I. Bravina and V.M. Dyakonov
Institute for Humanities Research and Indigenous Studies of the North, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petrovskogo 1, Yakutsk, 677027, Russia
We give the first description of an unusual composite bow of the Central Asian type, owned by the Toybokhoy Museum in the Suntarsky District of Yakutia, and provide information about its discovery. We focus on the details and structural peculiarities of the specimen, and note that this reflex composite bow differs in terms of construction and technology from those of the Northern type used by the Yakuts in the 17th to 19th centuries. It resembles bows of the Central Asian type. Its distinctive features are eight horn and bone frontal plates, four end-plates, and four long edging-plates made of bone. According to folkloric sources and 17th century archival documents, before the Russians migrated to the Lena Territory, the Yakuts had used bone combat bows of the Central Asian type. We cite an archaeological fact demonstrating the use of such bows in Yakutia—a central plate from a composite bow with widening paddle-shaped ends from the mid-15th to early 16th century burial at Sergelyakh. We publish the results of the radiocarbon analysis of the horn plate from the Toybokhoy bow, carried out at the Center for Isotope Research at the University of Groningen. They support the legendary version: the Toybokhoy bow belonged to the brother of the Yakut ruler Tygyn Darkhan, Ala Kyrsyn, who lived in the early 17th century and became the founder of one of the Vilyuy Yakut clans. We conclude that alongside the Northern type bows, the late medieval Yakuts used reflex bows of the Central Asian type.
Keywords: Yakuts, bows, Central Asian type, composite bows, bone, horn, bow plates, birch-bark, Toybokhoy