The bow and arrow seems to have been invented in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods. The oldest signs of its use in Europe come from the Stellmoor in the Ahrensburg valley north of Hamburg, Germany and dates about 10,000–9000 BC. Bows and arrows have been present in Egyptian & neighboring Nubian culture since its respective predynastic & Pre-Kerma origins. Classical civilizations, notably the Assyrians, Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Parthians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese fielded large numbers of archers in their armies.
Early recreational archery societies included the Finsbury Archers and the Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers. The latter's annual Papingo event was first recorded in 1483. The Royal Company of Archers was formed in 1676 and is one of the oldest sporting bodies in the world. Archery remained a small and scattered pastime, however, until the late 18th century when it experienced a fashionable revival among the aristocracy. Sir Ashton Lever, an antiquarian and collector, formed the Toxophilite Society in London in 1781, with the patronage of George, the Prince of Wales.
Archery societies were set up across the country, each with its own strict entry criteria and outlandish costumes. Recreational archery soon became extravagant social and ceremonial events for the nobility, complete with flags and music. As well as its emphasis on display and status, the sport was notable for its popularity with females. It was often consciously styled in the manner of a Medieval tournament with titles and laurel wreaths being presented as a reward to the victor. General meetings were held from 1789, in which local lodges convened together to standardise the rules and ceremonies. After the Napoleonic Wars, the sport became increasingly popular among all classes.
The 1840s saw the second attempts at turning the recreation into a modern sport. The first Grand National Archery Society meeting was held in York in 1844 and over the next decade the extravagant and festive practices of the past were gradually whittled away and the rules were standardized as the 'York Round' - a series of shoots at 60, 80, and 100 yards. Horace A. Ford helped to improve archery standards and pioneered new archery techniques. He published a highly influential guide to the sport in 1856.
The development of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare, although efforts were sometimes made to preserve archery practice. Towards the end of the 19th century, the sport experienced declining participation as alternative sports. By 1889, just 50 archery clubs were left in Britain, but it was still included as a sport at the 1900 Paris Olympics. From the 1920s, professional engineers took an interest in archery, previously the exclusive field of traditional craft experts. They led the commercial development of new forms of bow including the modern recurve and compound bow. These modern forms are now dominant in modern archery.