The skeletons of medieval English archers were deformed from years of archery. The high poundage of war bows, coupled with years of training in their use from a young age, led to skeletons having over-developed shoulder and arm bones to compensate for the growth of muscle around those areas.

English bowmen

Come rain or shine this weekend (and it’s looking like a mix of both) you can join in with our Indoor Archery event and take aim to see how many points you can score.

As it’s all about archery this weekend we asked Joe from our Visitor Services team to look back on one of the most famous types of soldier and weapons in English history – the longbowman and his bow:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about longbows and their users and just as many interesting bits of trivia that our visitors might not know! Here’s a few facts about longbowmen to whet your appetite in time for the weekend…

Longbow Power

English longbows were powerful. You may have already assumed that but it’s hard to emphasise just how powerful they were. If yo… Continue Reading (4 minute read)

15 thoughts on “The skeletons of medieval English archers were deformed from years of archery. The high poundage of war bows, coupled with years of training in their use from a young age, led to skeletons having over-developed shoulder and arm bones to compensate for the growth of muscle around those areas.”

  1. mainecruiser

    My anthro teacher also told us that they could tell sailors from their skeletons, their shin bones were a different shape than landlubbers’ due to the constant motion of the ship.

  2. FordicusMaximus

    “Over developed”… psh. You mean jacked.

  3. KingKongDuck

    200lbs of force in some of those bows and they expected to fire then rapidly.

  4. InIBaraJi

    When I was an anthro student I worked in a bone lab where in one project we measured the skeletons of an entire Medieval Bohemian village cemetary–men, women, and children. All the bones of persons aged 8 and over showed noticeable bilateral asymmetry, the right arm bones always being larger and more robust in all dimensions. This is of course because children were an essential part of the village workforce and were put to hard work of subsistence labor as soon as possible. If you are put to hard muscle labor during the bone growth years, your bones will adjust quickly to the stimulation.

    Heavy, asymmetrical labor during bone growth years (childhood and adolescence) will develop asymmetrical bones, not just muscle.

  5. riazrahman

    Their rotator cuffs were probably like bowling balls

  6. cat_respecter

    Is this deformity or adaptation?

  7. mannisbaratheon97

    Yeah it’s interesting because in movies or tv, archers are always depicted as small, skinny dudes. In reality, constantly drawing a bow must make your lats shredded and huge. Archers definitely had to have large upper bodies

  8. chrometroper2

    So that’s why skeleton archers are so OP…

  9. Fidelis29

    Wouldn’t want to fight one of those guys

  10. purpleheadedwarrior

    While living they also had to make do without their right nipple

  11. 249ba36000029bbe9749

    Pitchers end up with an over developed arm and a, relatively, gimpy arm.

    Same thing with sweep rowers (rowing only on one side of the boat) since they will generally stay the same side. They overdevelop on half their body.

  12. -_MilesPrower_-

    Fun fact – the people who made the bows for the archers in medieval times used to hold the strings in their teeth as they twisted them or whatever and slowly pulled them through as they made them.

    These people are identified by their skulls because their front teeth are completely worn to nubs from years of making bows this way

  13. gxfraser

    Some youtuber complained lengthily that women are often portrayed as archers in films/stories where men are armed with swords, presumably because bows look lighter and easier to use, when in fact bows take exceptional strength to use effectively.

    He made a convincing argument that a more appropriate weapon for a weaker person is actually a claymore – they’re about 40% heavier than swords, but using both hands increases your power over it by about 100%

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