Author Topic: The origin of Mollegabet bows  (Read 4402 times)

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Offline DragonLord

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The origin of Mollegabet bows
« on: June 04, 2023, 04:48:29 am »
Hi all! My first post on here, and for a school project I researched the origin and discovery of the original Mollegabet bows, and am posting my findings here. I noticed that there is a lot of confusion between the Mollegabet and Holmegaard style bows, and a surprising lack of sources and detailed information on Mollegabet bows and their original design and discovery. From what I can tell, most people found out about the Mollegabet bow through one of The Bowyer's Bible volumes, where it mentions it alongside the Holmegaard bow, which may be the source of the confusion. I researched academic articles to find as much information as I could, and am summarising it here so that hopefully more people have access to the proper information, and I will of course be listing my sources. If anyone has more information, sources, or corrections feel free to add them.

The first Mollegabet style bow was found at the Mollegabet II archaeological dig site in Denmark. Mollegabet II is a submerged archaeological dig site of a late Mesolithic settlement, originally found in 1987. Among the specimens and pieces found was a 34.6cm fragment of what was assumed to be a bow made of elm wood. The fragment featured the wide flat working limb section, and the thinner levers that we now know as characteristic of this style of bow, as well as a generally oval-shaped cross-section. In addition to 20 other specimens of this style of bow, there were also several examples of Holmegaard bows at this site, which may contribute to the confusion between the Holmegaard bow and the Mollegabet bow designs.

In addition to the original specimens at Mollegabet II, several very well preserved Mollegabet style bows have since been found at Hjarno Sund, another Mesolithic dig site in Denmark, Southwest of Hjarno Island. These bows, all again made of elm wood, were carbon dated to ~5200-5000 cal BC, and ranged in length from 123 cm to 166 cm, with the levers on the larger specimens about 26 cm long, approximately a third of the limb length. It is theorized that the smaller bows were intended for children or small game hunting, while the larger were intended for adults. More examples have been found at other dig sites around Denmark, including Tybrind Vig Cove and Timmendorf-Nordmole I. Interestingly, across multiple of the dig sites, while some examples were full adult length, many of the Mollegabet style bows were short enough to be considered childrens’ bows.

The purpose of the characteristic narrow and thick tips is to increase the speed and efficiency of the bow. By having inflexible sections at the end of the limbs, the force and power that comes from a small working limb is multiplied by the stiff ends, acting as a lever to increase the range of movement and the speed of the tips, accelerating the arrow to a faster speed. In this way, the tip design provides a similar effect on the bow as an atlatl has on a thrown spear, in that the powerful force of the small working limbs are amplified by an extended lever, similar to how the atlatl extends the lever of the throwing arm.

Based on the various sources and specimens, and approximating my own measurements (for dimensions not listed in the papers), I compiled an approximate set of dimensions for a historically accurate 166cm (largest full specimen) Mollegabet style bow:
Total length: 166cm
Handle length: 12cm
Handle width: 2.75cm
Working limb length(including the fades at each end): 51cm
Working limb width: 5.5cm
Lever length: 26cm
Lever width: 1.1cm
Lever thickness: 1.2cm
Fade-out length: 6cm

(Also I have diagrams/images to add if desired but I can't manage to insert them here, but some of them are in the articles linked below)


Hopefully this was helpful or offered some clarification on the original Mollegabet bows.

Sources:
Skriver, C., Astrup, P.M. and Borup, P. (2018) ‘Hjarnø Sund – all year, all inclusive. A submerged Late Mesolithic coastal site with organic remains’ Taylor and Francis Online Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21662282.2018.1513975?scroll=top&needAccess=true&role=tab (Accessed 20/02/2023)

Skaarup, J. and Grøn, O. (2004) ‘Møllegabet II: A submerged Mesolithic settlement in southern Denmark’ Langelands Museum Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ole-Gron/publication/267639126_Mollegabet_II_A_submerged_Mesolithic_settlement_in_southern_Denmark_With_contributions_by_Sarah_Mason_Lisa_Hodgetts_Peter_Rowley-Conwy_and_Annica_Cardell/links/54cb50e70cf22f98631e72fc/Mollegabet-II-A-submerged-Mesolithic-settlement-in-southern-Denmark-With-contributions-by-Sarah-Mason-Lisa-Hodgetts-Peter-Rowley-Conwy-and-Annica-Cardell.pdf (Accessed 20/02/2023)

SpringerLink. 2023. Denmark: Mesolithic Coastal Landscapes Submerged | SpringerLink. [ONLINE] Available at: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-37367-2_3. [Accessed 22 February 2023].

S. Klooß (2014) They were fishing in the sea and coppicing the forest. Terminal Mesolithic and Early Neolithic wooden artefacts of coastal settlements on the south-western Baltic Sea | Stefanie Klooss - Academia.edu. 2023. S. Klooß (2014) They were fishing in the sea and coppicing the forest. Terminal Mesolithic and Early Neolithic wooden artefacts of coastal settlements on the south-western Baltic Sea | Stefanie Klooss - Academia.edu. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/11563227/S_Klooß_2014_They_were_fishing_in_the_sea_and_coppicing_the_forest_Terminal_Mesolithic_and_Early_Neolithic_wooden_artefacts_of_coastal_settlements_on_the_south_western_Baltic_Sea?email_work_card=view-paper. [Accessed 04 June 2023].

(PDF) Mesolithic Bows from Denmark and Northern Europe | Jan H Sachers - Academia.edu. 2023. (PDF) Mesolithic Bows from Denmark and Northern Europe | Jan H Sachers - Academia.edu. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.academia.edu/11765815/Mesolithic_Bows_from_Denmark_and_Northern_Europe?email_work_card=view-paper. [Accessed 04 June 2023].

Offline Aksel

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2023, 05:37:05 am »
Hello. I think the whole confusion stems from when the Holmegård 1 bow (a small sapling bow with ONE shoulder halfway out one limb) was faithfully replicated and it was found out that its outer limbs bent LESS than typical on American elliptically tillered flatbows. Tim Baker published an extreme version of the bow in TBB III which had STIFF needle tipped outer limbs. If he was aware of the Möllegabet bow or not, I do not know. This was confusing and people started to mix them up.

See my earlier post of a Holmegård replica I recently made.

Many examples of bows with narrowed outer limbs are found. Some have narrower and thicker (and stiffer) outer limbs, some have a more subtle narrowing without thickening. Some have flat bellies, some have a lenticular cross section. Some are long, some are short. ALL bows are made from small diameter elm. The narrowing or levers typically begin 1/2 to 3/5 way out on the limb.
Stoneagebows

Offline Bob Barnes

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2023, 08:16:24 am »
Excellent information...thank you.  I would like to see pictures/drawings of this style as well as any that you may have made using your research.  I have seen many of my friends turn to building this style of bow over the last several years...even at a shoot yesterday.  It's interesting.
Seems like common sense isn't very common any more...

Offline willie

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2023, 12:12:18 pm »
thanks for posting   pics would be nice!

some of the folks you mentioned posted more after the TBB were written @

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Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2023, 10:34:03 am »
A friend from Norway that is a member of TradGang and goes by Buemaker(Oddbjorn Fritzoe) went to the Moesgaard Museum in Denmark and took pics of these bows. I've tried to download them but not successful. I just sent him a PM to see if he will email the pics to me. If he does, I'll post them here. The measurement that Bue sent me were what I used to build "Elg Bue" the elm bow of this style. Bue had also sent me some moose(elg) sinew that I back this bow with.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline willie

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2023, 12:27:11 pm »
Hi Pat

I remember those dimensions Bue posted at the other forum, but could not find.

Would you be kind enough to post them here for future reference?

Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2023, 01:19:39 pm »
Here you go, Willie...
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline willie

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2023, 02:45:12 pm »
Thanks Pat


link removed, see the pics Pat posted below
« Last Edit: June 12, 2023, 11:22:01 am by willie »

Offline superdav95

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2023, 03:17:35 pm »
Cool stuff Pat thanks for posting
Sticks and stones and other poky stabby things.

superdav95@gmail.com

Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2023, 04:08:59 pm »
Yep, that's them. When I hear back from Bue I'll post the pics here.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline Stickhead

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2023, 04:46:07 pm »
Good stuff.  Thanks for sharing this!

Offline AndrewS

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2023, 12:44:07 pm »
Thanks for posting.

Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2023, 10:40:24 am »
Here are a few pics I got from Bue...




...and part of what he wrote to me...
Hello Pat. I did not log in to TG for a while so I did not see your message until late last night. I am sending two mails so we do not get things mixed up. The first is from the Holmegård bow as it was pictured and described for the first time after it was excavated back in 1944. It is taken from a Danish museum book from 1945. Here goes, bow made from Elm, lenght 154 cm long. Made from a thin tree, remains of pith/marrow can be seen on belly side of grip section. Back have the stave’s convex surface, belly is flat. At the widest part of the limbs the thickness is 2,3 cm and tapering towards the tips. It says nothing about any thickening of the ends. ( Looking at the original at the Danish museum I could not see any thickening either) Limbs largest width is 4,5 cm, grip 2,6 cm wide and 3,2 cm thick. Limbs are flat from the grip and slightly rounded further out towards ends. One tip is just pointed and the other have a nock on both sides. About midway between grip and tips there is a abrupt narrowing of the limbs width. From there and outwards the limb’s crosssection is almost a rectangle with convex sides. The picture also show a larger half bow found at the same site. Unfortunately it has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bow.

 I'll add more pics as I get them loaded.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2023, 10:47:15 am »
This is the piece that was found some years before they found the Hjarnø bow and was interpreted as the Møllegabet. At that time I thought it could have been just about anything, but after the Hjarnø was found it makes it more plausible.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline Pat B

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Re: The origin of Mollegabet bows
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2023, 11:28:12 am »
Here are 3 more pics. More to come...


Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC