The use of the bow and arrow goes back into the paleolithic. There is evidence of bows and arrows in use Between 8,000 and 9,000 BC in Schleswig Holstein (nothern Germany)
Elm and yew seems to have been favoured woods for bowmaking, while arrows were made of hazel. The arrowheads were made of flint and were fastened to the arrow shaft with pine resin and sinews of nettle stems. The pine resin was heated with charcoal to produce a flexible glue of great strength.
Ötzi the Iceman found in the Alps carried an unfinished bow made of Yew when he died in the Neolithic period. His bowstring was of flax, but we believe sinew (from deer legs) was also used.
A major technological advance of the late neolithic was the use of sapwood on the bowface for increased flexibility. This allowed the bows to be pulled with far greater force without breaking. This in turn allowed hunters much greater range and accuracy.
The arrival of metal working meant not only metal arrowheads, but also metal blades, axes drawscapers and so on for making bows. This meant they could be made far more quickly and accurately than ever before.
In terms of shape, there are basically two types of bow. The straight and recurve. A recurve bow has tips that face away from the archer when the bow is strung. Therefore the bow string actually rests for a short length on the actual bow-wood. Recurve bows have been around almost as long as straight bows, and their distinctive curves can be seen in ancient wall painting from Egypt to China.
The bow and arrow didn’t reach their greatest heights until 13th Century Europe, when the British Longbow allowed common soldiers to stand against and defeat fully armoured noblemen. The famous battles of Crecy and Agincourt stand as testament to how the bow changed the face of warfare.
In England the common men were required by law to practice archery in the fifteenth century. In most cases it was law that unmarried young men attended archery practice following the (also mandatory) Sunday church attendance. The arrival of firearms in the 17th Century made the bow redundant in European warfare.