The form and function of Ovambo arrows: Exploring agro-pastoralist hunting technology

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1 Citation (Scopus)


In this paper we describe a single sample of nineteenth and twentieth century bows and arrows of the Ovambo, Namibia. Unlike some other southern African bow-hunting groups, there is a paucity of literature describing the traditional hunting weapons of the Ovambo. Two types of bows and two broad types of arrows were observed, the latter each with multiple variants. The varied arrow designs reflect different types of prey and hunting techniques. There is apparently greater design affiliation with several Angolan tribes, such as the Ovimbundu, than with the Hei//om hunter-gatherers, with whom the Ovambo also interacted. We argue that the basic Ovambo weapon designs and hunting techniques were well established prior to their entrance into Namibia and was not affected tangibly by contact with the Hei//om. There are several features of the arrows that seem unique to the Ovambo material and are probably of local invention. We postulate probable functions of some of the arrow designs, although others remain ambiguous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Agro-pastoralist hunting
  • Bow-and-arrow technology
  • Namibia
  • Ovambo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • History
  • Archeology


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