No swords in sub Saharan Africa?

May 2008
1,299
Bangkok
#1
If iron use for smelting and forging tools appeared in Sub-Saharan Africa around 1200 BC, and there were very likely opportunities for Arab merchants to expose the Kenyan/Tanzanian port cities to scimitars along the Indian Ocean trade routes from the 9th to 16th century, what prevented the development of swords in Africa until 17th/18th century? All evidence points to them having nothing more sophisticated than spears until guns & swords were introduced by whitey.

Thanks in advance,
T
 
#3
Aren't spears a more useful weapon than swords?
Depends. close quarter fighting favors swords.

The Greeks charged with the spear, striking with such force it usually broke, then raising their hands up and swiing down the remaining shortened spear with its second sharpened end on the rear end. This second downward strike usually resulted in groin injuries :( . THEN, once they were done with the twice-used spear and in really close contact, they would pull out their short sword and fight face to face.

If this style of arm's length warfare was not prevelant in sub-sahara, then there was no need for swords. They likely favored long-range weapons and scrimmages rather than the total warfare of the Greeks.
 

Nick

Historum Emeritas
Jul 2006
6,111
UK
#4
In Africa they used clubs like the knobkerrie for close-quarters fighting.

The Zulus had guns since the early 19th century but preferred to use their throwing spears and weight of numbers to defeat better-equipped enemies.
 

Toltec

Ad Honorem
Apr 2008
7,923
Hyperborea
#5
Depends. close quarter fighting favors swords.

The Greeks charged with the spear, striking with such force it usually broke, then raising their hands up and swiing down the remaining shortened spear with its second sharpened end on the rear end. This second downward strike usually resulted in groin injuries :( . THEN, once they were done with the twice-used spear and in really close contact, they would pull out their short sword and fight face to face.

If this style of arm's length warfare was not prevelant in sub-sahara, then there was no need for swords. They likely favored long-range weapons and scrimmages rather than the total warfare of the Greeks.

My point was more that swords are useless on the battlefield, they are a side arm. A spear is the most successful frontline battlefield weapon of all time.
 

PADDYBOY

Historum Emeritas
Jan 2007
6,426
Scotland
#6
Well, there's the Zulu Iklwa, a short shafted, large bladed, stabbing spear which was used pretty much as a sword. The name iklwa comes from the sound it made when being removed from the victims body.
 

Toltec

Ad Honorem
Apr 2008
7,923
Hyperborea
#8
Well, there's the Zulu Iklwa, a short shafted, large bladed, stabbing spear which was used pretty much as a sword. The name iklwa comes from the sound it made when being removed from the victims body.
Funny you should mention this. I always use the exact opposite analogy. The Romans the only nation ever to use the sword as a main battle weapon used it as a Iklwa, a short thrusting spear.
 

PADDYBOY

Historum Emeritas
Jan 2007
6,426
Scotland
#9
As far as I know, gladius is the latin word for sword, though I tend to think of the gladius as a large dagger rather than a short sword, even so, used in conjunction with a large shield and formation, it was one hell of an effective weapon.
I expect the iklwa was pretty effective also. :)
 

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