Refuting the Myth: "No African Swords" - The Diversity of Weapons in Africa

May 2018
84
On earth.
#11
Thank you.


My question is on the processes used to make them, and an evaluation of their quality. Did they harden their sword for example?
Sadly wouldn't be able to say much on the worksmanship that went into the majority of these swords, but I am aware of the fact that the Ethiopian Shotel had what can be called a "spine". I'll (again), rely on the description of Richard Francis Burton, who says the following in his race-charged (and honestly distasteful) description of the Shotel:
"The Shotel or Abyssinian Sword is a direct descendant from the Khopsh-falchion. (I can't verify whether or not this is true, but I instinctively wave this part off as "From Egypt" theory that Egyptians peddled onto a lot of things from Africa)
Nothing less handy than this gigantic sickle ; the edge is inside, the grip is too small, and the difficulty of drawing the blade from the scabbard is considerable (man, he didn't like this sword much... though, however much difficulty he has with this, the Ethiopians clearly did not have, as they have used it for centuries).
The handle, four inches long, is a rude lump of black wood, and the tang is carried to the pommel and there clinched. The coarse and ugly blade has a midrib running the whole length, forming a double slope to the edges; it is one inch broad at the base, and tapers to a point which can hardly be used. THe length along the arc is three feet thirty seven inches; the curve, measuring from arc to chord, is two inches; and the projection beyond the directing line is four inches". He then goes off onto some race-based trash typical of his time period, about how the Ethiopains "aren't a race of swordsmen", and I'm left with the impression that he just didn't like black people.

Anyway, trash aside, I hope that description may have helped you abit on the craftsman side of things.
 
Likes: trhowd

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,513
Benin City, Nigeria
#13
Which state are you citing here, because if you're referring to the Monomotapa, then I don't think I ever stated that the Shona peoples didn't use swords, infact, I linked one in my thread. The Monomotapa were Shona, I believe.
Yes, I am referring to Mutapa, a Shona state. It is stated plainly that they used swords, not simply daggers, so I don't think it is a "possibly, maybe, technically, since long daggers could perhaps be short swords" kind of situation. When the most important and prominent state that had existed in southern Africa was using swords then certainly it is not the case that "the "no swords" stereotype can be applied with some accuracy" to southern Africa. That is all that I wanted to point out.
 
May 2018
84
On earth.
#15
Yes, I am referring to Mutapa, a Shona state. It is stated plainly that they used swords, not simply daggers, so I don't think it is a "possibly, maybe, technically, since long daggers could perhaps be short swords" kind of situation. When the most important and prominent state that had existed in southern Africa was using swords then certainly it is not the case that "the "no swords" stereotype can be applied with some accuracy" to southern Africa. That is all that i wanted to point out.
No, I see your point for sure, but in Southern Africa, the Shona were more the exception than the rule when it came to swords, (unless you consider Madagascar and the Swahili coastal states Southern African; I tend to fence off Madagascar into her own category, and consider the Swahili states east africa).
That's why I said that it is closer to accurate to say that swords weren't used down there.

Also, explorers hundreds of years ago probably had a different boundary between Sword and Dagger than we do today (especially considering that these two weapons can become very similar in design), I never said "possibly maybe technically since their dagger could perhaps be considered short swords". I said that the Bakatwa is primarily a dagger, which it is, but that they are made long enough to be swords.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,513
Benin City, Nigeria
#16
There is no specific evidence that the swords mentioned in Barbosa's quote are bakwatas. Even if bakwatas actually were all or mostly daggers, it would hardly follow that they could not have had both: bakwata daggers in addition to swords kept in the decorated sheaths that he describes.

I don't think I can say more than I've already said, except to add that one should be careful about not creating new myths while attempting to dispel old ones. That happens sometimes and I've done that myself in the past.
 
Likes: trhowd
May 2018
84
On earth.
#17
There is no specific evidence that the swords mentioned in Barbosa's quote are bakwatas. Even if bakwatas actually were all or mostly daggers, it would hardly follow that they could not have had both: bakwata daggers in addition to swords kept in the decorated sheaths that he describes.

I don't think I can say more than I've already said, except to add that one should be careful about not creating new myths while attempting to dispel old ones. That happens sometimes and I've done that myself in the past.
I'm not really making a new myth, seeing as to how it is true that most of southern africa did not use the sword. My argument was never that they didn't use swords down there, simply that swords were not as common. In response, the one group of people you cited to debunk my point that they weren't as common were the same people who I said did use swords.
 

Ighayere

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,513
Benin City, Nigeria
#18
"Thus each clan has a laudatory phrase which is sometimes much longer than the Makaneta one. . .Their meaning is sometimes unknown as they often contain ancient and obsolete expressions. . .Khosa : Ba ripanga ro sheka ba ntsindja, - those of the keen edged sword which "cuts" disputes brought to the capital. . .Nhanlganu : Ba ku hlomula fumo, ba renga ndlela: - those who unsheath the sword in order to buy the road (the right of passing through a foreign country)." - Henri Alexandre Junod, The life of a South African tribe, Volume 1 (1912), pp. 334 - 335

"I may also mention the big knives (mikwa), a sort of sword : one sometimes meets brawny fellows, walking about the paths armed with these dangerous looking implements! However they are quite inoffensive." - Henri Alexandre Junod, The life of a South African tribe, Volume 1 (1912), p. 428

The Tsonga people and the Venda people used the mikwa.
 
Aug 2018
60
Anatolia
#19
Interesting, extremely curved. I wouldn't believe the first one to be a sword rather than a sickle hadn't I seen its sheet. Hard to figure out how it was used, why would they sacrifice so much reach just for more arch? Almost impossible to slash anyone having a spear with it. Seems like it wasn't a weapon for systematic, formation battle.
Bakatwa and Ida look so beautiful, straight swords. The grip and sheet being handmade woven look cool.
Akrefene: such broad ended swords were also common in Ottoman, Iran and Arab areas, plus in China (with rings attached). Oriental scimitar.
 
Likes: trhowd

Similar History Discussions