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Old 16th April 2011, 01:44 PM   #1
Iain
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Default Chamba short sword for comment

I was lucky enough to acquire this rather old Chamba short sword recently. Collected by an Austrian couple in the 1980s who traveled extensively in the Benue river area. The piece is iron, very well made and quite sturdy. My interest in it stems from ongoing research into takouba like forms and this piece exhibits an interesting pommel form quite similar to older takouba.

The construction of this piece is, besides the guard, one solid piece. While rather short, it is very comfortable to hold in hand and has a nice edge.

Overall length is 50cm or around 20 inches.

Remnants of cloth are stuck under the guard and at the base of the pommel - I assume from the original hilt wrapping.

I really like this piece, and despite the small size it is a formidable little sword which would be very effective in combination with a shield I think. I've seen a auction record from a similar piece which came out of the same collection that was about 8cm longer, sadly I was not aware of it last time it was up for sale and have not been able to find out who the current owner is to obtain more information and pictures. Unless it's someone here?

Anyways, photos of my piece attached below. All comments, thoughts, period photos of Chamba (are there any out there?) appreciated.
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Old 16th April 2011, 04:49 PM   #2
Tim Simmons
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I like the simple guard and handle/pommel too.
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Old 18th April 2011, 10:29 AM   #3
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Thanks Tim, I also appreciate the practical nature of this weapon. To perhaps stimulate a little more discussion, I'm attaching another photo illustrating better the size of the hilt. I have reasonably large hands but it is still a reasonable fit.

The shape of the pommel, due to the rounded and tapered base, works quite well in the palm. I've found this with takouba as well and it seems quite intentional.
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Old 18th April 2011, 04:44 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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Hi Iain,
Thank you for the photo of this fascinating sword in the hand, that indeed adds great perspective. So often seeing weapons illustrated without context gives distorted views of thier actual size.

The blade on this is most interesting with its median ridge, and that it is essentially a sabre type blade with a curious uptick at the point. While I cannot offer a great deal of direct suggestion as to possible associations at this point, I have seen a similar presence of this feature elsewhere. In studying the 'uptick' on the blade of espada anchas in Spanish colonial setting I was once told this was for thrust and upward cut. While certainly these espadas are outside the sphere with reference to this Chamba weapon, it is notable that the Spanish influences from Moroccan regions certainly were carried to Spains America's.

Looking into earlier history in North Africa, it has long been established that weapons and influences were deeply ingrained in long standing native traditions from these times. Looking at the downturned quillons on the crossguard one cannot discount recalling this feature on the Jineta or Hispano-Moresque swords of medieval times. Returning to the uptick on the blade, certainly not a feature from this context where broadswords were used, it seems I have seen it on examples of Moroccan/Algerian sa'if (often termed nim'cha).

Although these are essentially Moroccan influences I am citing, the well established trade routes moving southward into these regions would have easily been present in Chamba regions just as these networks were ever present throughout North Africa. As always, admittedly free association only without further corroborating evidence with other examples, we can always hope to find other clues supporting or disputing these suggestions.

These are my thoughts prompted by this definitely thought provoking anomaly, and I really look forward to hearing others!!!

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 19th April 2011, 10:20 PM   #5
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Hi Jim,

Few points I can add which may help explain the blade form. First, it's sharp on both sides. A bit odd for what is essentially a sabre. Second, the tip is also sharp, despite that fact that it's rounded.

The Chamba had cavalry (at least I've found reference to it) however like most Sahel armies the bulk would be foot soldiers. Shield and spear would have been the usual kit but I think a sword like this would fit perfectly for this style of warfare. In close, that little uptick would work rather well in a thrust from behind a shield. Alternatively due to the double edge the 'hook' could be quite effective in pulling a shield. Just a couple quick thoughts about how it may be there for a practical reason.

I've yet to see images of another Chamba sword (except for one other similar hilt but the overall view was not available). I was hoping someone else here would own one.

Best,

Iain
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Old 20th April 2011, 07:25 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
I like the simple guard and handle/pommel too.



Me too!
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Old 20th April 2011, 11:55 PM   #7
Martin Lubojacky
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Hello,

Enclosed please find photos of a similar sword which I bought i Maroua some time ago and I sow it also in Rhoumsiki on Cameroonian side of Nigeria - Cameroon borderland (Mandara). I already posted this sword before, now I am comming back as it has the same features. The blade is heavy, thick, 70 cm long and 5 cm wide. I like the crossguard

Regards,

Martin
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Old 21st April 2011, 12:00 AM   #8
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Old 21st April 2011, 09:49 AM   #9
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Cau Martin,

Thanks very much for posting this. I knew you had several pieces from the general area and this is pretty much an exact match for construction method, pommel and guard style. The thickness of these blades is rather surprising to me as the weight is significant. I imagine your sword must weigh over 1.5kg?

I would imagine your sword may also be from the Chamba - who split into several distinct groups, one of which moved into the Cameroon highlands and adopted many local customs. This is a rather good overview of the people and their influence on the area: http://www.bca-usa.org/bca/balinyonga.html

Does anyone know of attributed Chama shields or spears? I would like to get a sense of how the entire ensemble of a Chamba warrior would look like.

Best,

Iain
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Old 21st April 2011, 09:22 PM   #10
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Absolutely fantastic Martin!!!! Thank you so much for coming in on this, and especially for sharing this clearly important and corroborative example of sword. I had feared that anyone else with interest or knowledge on African swords had 'left the building'!!! Then you arrive like the cavalry Yay!!!

Though I cannot claim any expertise on African weapons, I enjoy learning and these examples posted by Iain and you are intriguing anomalies which really add dimension to what has been learned on takoubas and the other swords of the regions.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 22nd April 2011, 09:04 AM   #11
Martin Lubojacky
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Thank you Jim and Yain. One my colleagues bought simmilar blade recently but without crossguard. The blade is old, but they made new (conntemporary) scabbard and braid of handle in Tebbu style, which does not fit, Nevertheless, the blade is interesting - I will find it and snap it.
Regards
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Old 22nd April 2011, 12:24 PM   #12
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I would be very interested to see the sword from your colleague. I am also curious about how the original handles on these swords should look. Mine has small pieces of cloth still on the pommel and under the guard. I wonder if the style would have been cloth wrapping then leather braided - perhaps even in a Tebu style, which is also seen on some takouba from this area.

Best,

Iain
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Old 22nd April 2011, 03:27 PM   #13
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So - the sword is similar to Tim´s sword from the "round shields thread", but Tim´s sword is complete old original Tebbu (see perfectly elaborated braid on the handle). This sword has new handle (in Tebbu and surrounding tribes style, also commonly used in Mandara region) and new scabbard (nowadays I would say in "common Sahel style"). nevertheless what is really interesting is the blade. We cleaned it a little. The blade is old, very thick and heavy, (I am sure much heavier than Tim´s one and from this reason unsuitable as "arm" short sword). But it has no crossguard. Blade is 55 cms long, all sword has 71 cms.
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Old 22nd April 2011, 07:07 PM   #14
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That blade looks ridged and heavy. The blade I have is flexable like any other light sabre. I have a short sword of similar form I got from Luc who always has nice clean stuff. The blade form is clearly the same. Not as long or heavy as yours, blade 45cm long with no flex. Just love the bovine horn guard. What do you think?
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Old 22nd April 2011, 08:20 PM   #15
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While on the subject of Chamba I would like to clear something up. I have always known these two items were West African and now I can show clear link in form and function. Scroll down and click on "Mumye Iron Collar"-

http://www.coincoin.com/seXX2.htm#IRON

I have added the picture anyway.
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Old 22nd April 2011, 10:20 PM   #16
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Hello Tim,

I saw this swords with bovine horn guard in Maroua and Rhumsiki in the Extreme North Cameroon.
The similar torques I have are allegedly from Lake Chad region and they were used as ceremonial means of payment, when the groom wanted to "buy" daughter of chieftain: He gave cattle to the cheeftain´s marshal and received the necklaces. then he brought the necklaces to the cheeftain and received the bride (cheeftain´s daughter). Cheeftain returned the necklaces back to marshal..... Nobody confirmed me this, just the selling person said (maybe fairy tale...)
Regards,
Martin
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Old 23rd April 2011, 08:11 AM   #17
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Thanks Martin, I googled images for Maroua and Rhumsiki, fabulous so beautiful. My bag is packed just waiting for the money one day.
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Old 24th April 2011, 07:56 PM   #18
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Tim, I am happy destiny lead me to Rhumsiki. I am sending you one photo from the trip in 2008. I was invited to the hut in the village and the iron shield with throwing knife were under the roof above the fireplace (black from ash). The old man on the photo refused to sell them, but he allowed me to take a photo. Unfortunately, it is too much black (I am probably not good photographer)
regards,
Martin
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Old 25th April 2011, 06:36 PM   #19
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Been a busy few days, my apologies for not getting back to this thread sooner.

Martin,

Thank you so much for the photos of your colleague's sword as well as the fantastic image of the Mandarawa man with shield and throwing knife, it is like stepping back in time to look at that photo.

Regarding your colleague's sword, it seems to me that this probably never had a guard and is more in the Tebu style. Their seems to be two main forms, the rounded tip, thick blade and round pommel of your example and my smaller Chamba piece and this pointed, skull crusher pommel type that your colleague has - and just to confuse things a combination of both styles in Tim's sword.

Tim,

I had seen the bovine guards being labeled Kirdi before - actually I think in an older thread, perhaps IDed by Luc. But with so many groups tightly backed into this general area... This image I think illustrates it all rather well. From wikipedia, the ethnic groups of the extreme northern province.



I wonder if generally speaking the arm swords and lighter blades are the effect of Fulani influence? It certainly seems to be a slightly newer development and as Martin noted, these older heaver blades seem totally unsuitable for this method of carriage.

I too would very much like to travel to this region. I was also glad to read that tourism is being promoted in Rhumsiki including blacksmithing. I'd be interested to see any other photos of the area you might like to share Martin.

Best,

Iain
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Old 26th April 2011, 11:49 PM   #20
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Iain,

Except of this one I have the rest in Prague, so when I arrive I will post some (but this is just people and landscape)
Regards,
Martin
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Old 12th April 2020, 09:52 PM   #21
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For the archives, found this one that went through a sale auction in 2009.

Described as a Kirdi short sword, original description below :

"Dating: circa 1900
Provenence: Camerun
Lama dritta, con punta incurvata, a due fili, costolata al centro; elso in ferro a "V", pomo a fungo, impugnatura in legno rivestita di trecciola in cuoio. Fodero in legno rivestito in cuoio e pelle di rettile.
Illustrata in "Islamic and Native Weapons of Colonial Africa 1800-1960" di Anthony C. Tirri, pag. 431 ill. 6-11."
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Old 13th April 2020, 09:51 AM   #22
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Martin, the shield was in leather or iron ?
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Old 13th April 2020, 10:05 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luc LEFEBVRE
Martin, the shield was in leather or iron ?


Martin stated that it is from iron!

Regards,
Detlef
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