One of the first objects at MAA we thought of when we starting work on the Archaeology of Childhood exhibition was a miniature bow from Isleham, Cambridgeshire.
The bow is made of antler and was discovered in 1994 by the Cambridge Archaeology Unit, whilst excavating a Bronze Age settlement. I have always been intrigued by the size of this object: at only 45 cm long, it is too small for an adult to use and yet it was carefully made. When strung, it could well have fired miniature arrows.
Kasia Gdaniec, one of the excavators, suggested the bow could demonstrate the symbolic importance of archery to Bronze Age people, and may therefore have been a ritual object. This may well have been the case, but I can’t help wondering whether it was made for a child, perhaps to help them practice the art of archery. We hope to shed more light on these types of miniature objects – were they functional? were they symbolic? – as we continue our research for the exhibition.
Jody Joy, Senior Curator (Archaeology)
Image: Isleham bow, MAA 1997.11