Steel Hunting Bow (kaman)
Place of Origin: India
Date: Late 19th Century
Overall: 1105mm (43.5 inches)
On occasion, the field of arms and armour surprises even the most experienced experts, and this has been the case with this possibly unique late 19th century Indian steel bow, or kaman. Indian steel bows are not unheard of, most being from the late 18th and 19th centuries, and they are thought to have come about in order to streamline the intensive production process required to create a composite bow—which is one made from several layers of horn and sinew. This example follows the form of the more commonly encountered steel bows but, unlike the usually very late examples, it does not disassemble at the grip (which here is covered in black leather). Another difference, and what really sets this bow apart, is the inclusion of antelope-head tips. Pleasingly modelled from silvered copper, the tips have twisted horns and large ears and a depression just above the nose retains the loop of the original bowstring. The animal subject matter of the bow likely indicates that this weapon was made for the hunt.
The misconception that steel bows are a late invention is addressed by an Iranian bow in the Furusiyaa Collection1 that is said to be from the 15th–16th centuries. It is also thought to be unique.
1 Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight – The Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection, 2008, P.384, no.359.