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Archery is the sport, practice or skill of using a bow to propel arrows. The word comes from the Latin arcus. Historically, archery has been used for hunting and combat. In modern times, it is mainly a competitive sport and recreational activity.

The bow seems to have been invented in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods. The oldest signs of its use in Europe come from the Stellmoor (de) in the Ahrensburg valley (de) north of Hamburg, Germany and dates from the late Paleolithic, about 10,000–9000 BC. The arrows were made of pine and consisted of a mainshaft and a 15–20 centimetres (5.9–7.9 inches) long fore shaft with a flint point. There are no definite earlier bows; previous pointed shafts are known, but may have been launched by spear-throwers rather than bows. The oldest bows known so far come from the Holmegård swamp in Denmark. Bows eventually replaced the spear-thrower as the predominant means for launching shafted projectiles, on every continent except Australasia, though spear-throwers persisted alongside the bow in parts of the Americas, notably Mexico and among the Inuit.

Classical civilizations, notably the Assyrians, Armenians, Persians, Parthians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese fielded large numbers of archers in their armies. The development of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare, albeit efforts were sometimes made to preserve archery practice. In Wales and England, for example, the government tried to enforce practice with the Longbow until the end of the 16th century. This was because it was recognised that the bow had been instrumental to military success during the Hundred Years' War. Despite the high social status, ongoing utility, and widespread pleasure of archery in Armenia, China, Egypt, England, America, India, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Wales and elsewhere, almost every culture that gained access to even early firearms used them widely, to the neglect of archery.

Early firearms were vastly inferior in rate-of-fire, and were very susceptible to wet weather. However, they had longer effective range and were tactically superior in the common situation of soldiers shooting at each other from behind obstructions. They also required significantly less training to use properly, in particular penetrating steel armour without any need to develop special musculature. Armies equipped with guns could thus provide superior firepower, and highly trained archers became obsolete on the battlefield. However, the bow and arrow is still an effective weapon, and archers have seen action in the 21st century. Traditional archery remains in use for sport, and for hunting in many areas.

In the United States, primitive archery was revived in the early 20th century. The last of the Yahi Indian tribe, a native known as Ishi, came out of hiding in California in 1911. His doctor, Saxton Pope, learned many of Ishi's traditional archery skills, and popularized them. The Pope and Young Club, founded in 1961 and named in honor of Pope and his friend, Arthur Young, became one of North America's leading bowhunting and conservation organizations. Founded as a nonprofit scientific organization, the Club was patterned after the prestigious Boone and Crockett Club and advocated responsible bowhunting by promoting quality, fair chase hunting, and sound conservation practices.

From the 1920s, professional engineers took an interest in archery, previously the exclusive field of traditional craft experts. They led the commercial development of new forms of bow including the modern recurve and compound bow. These modern forms are now dominant in modern Western archery; traditional bows are in a minority. In the 1980s, the skills of traditional archery were revived by American enthusiasts, and combined with the new scientific understanding. Much of this expertise is available in the Traditional Bowyer's Bibles (see Additional reading). Modern game archery owes much of its success to Fred Bear, an American bow hunter and bow manufacturer.