What Were Bowstrings Made of in Ancient Times?

Bowstrings are an essential component of a bow and arrow, and they have been used for hunting, warfare, and sport for thousands of years. In ancient times, people used different materials to make bowstrings, depending on what was available to them and what properties they needed the string to have. Let’s take a closer look at what ancient bowstrings were made of.

Animal Fibers

One of the most common materials used for making bowstrings in ancient times was animal fibers. Animal sinew, which is the tough tissue that connects muscles to bones in animals, was often used by indigenous people in North America.

The sinew was soaked in water, scraped clean of any flesh or fat, and then dried in the sun. Once it was dry, it would be twisted together to form a strong cord that could withstand the tension of a bowstring.

Another animal fiber that was commonly used for making bowstrings was horsehair. Horsehair is naturally strong and elastic, which makes it well-suited for use as a bowstring material. The hair would be cleaned and sorted by length before being twisted or braided together into a cord.

Plant Fibers

In addition to animal fibers, ancient people also used plant fibers to make bowstrings. One such fiber is flax, which comes from the stem of the flax plant. Flax fibers are strong and flexible when they are dry but become even stronger when they are wet.

Another plant fiber that was commonly used for making bowstrings is hemp. Hemp fibers are similar to flax fibers in strength and flexibility but are coarser in texture.


Silk is another material that has been used for making bowstrings since ancient times. Silk is a natural protein fiber that is produced by silkworms when they spin their cocoons. The silk fibers are incredibly strong and elastic, which makes them well-suited for use as a bowstring material.


In conclusion, ancient people used a variety of materials to make bowstrings, including animal fibers like sinew and horsehair, plant fibers like flax and hemp, and silk. Each of these materials has unique properties that make it suitable for use as a bowstring material.

Today, many modern bowstrings are made from synthetic materials like Dacron or Kevlar, which offer even greater durability and strength than natural materials. However, the use of natural materials in making bowstrings is an interesting historical tradition that has been passed down through generations.