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Old 1st March 2021, 03:29 PM   #16
Jim McDougall
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Join Date: Dec 2004
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Originally Posted by ausjulius
no i doubt it was introduced from some place in asia, infact the two "cutlass" type swords tagged as madagascan from the french wiki article have the same blade and handle construction and same furrel but have a D guard attached. .. id say its an indiginious weapon... the locals have had iron and steel since they arrived from indonesia and ignoring the malayian and later bantu peoples who both worked iron.. additinally there is sizeable ethnic groups whos founders were somalian, as well as arab/indian/sumatran. the arabs having introduced writing., additionally europeans were present on the islands for a long time prior to when the french finally invaded in the 1890s.. the only reason it was not colonised previously was because of the very fact that there was a resonable population that possessed large amounts of european guns at an earily date.. and had some form of organised government that allowed the mobilisation of a some sort of army that was sufficient to see off plucky arab traders and later european entrepreneurs which makes me think were swords traded and if so why not copied? .
it seems from what i can read that guns became so popular there earily and in sizeable numbers. i do not know if they made any guns themselves but in the 19th century frances prime agent on the island produced gun powder, soap, fabric, houshold goods.. ect and supposidly guns in his factory untill his demise..

on any accout the scant descriptions you can find do mention their abundancy.. although that dosnt help with our question of swords. just because guns ARE mentioned dosnt dismiss the exsistance of swords.. and they seem to have a distinct native word for sword that is not of arab or indian in origins and seems to imply some sort of weapon (when i search it on search results for images it mostly shows criminals with crude "rambo"... "swords" with cast aluminium handles.. some recently made fantasy weapons for their nafarious acts)... the fact of the matter it seems is.. we are collectors.. and of both knowlage and phisical items.. and nobody here, myself included seems to accuratly know about madagacan weaponry, nor where to obtain some further detailed insight... for now.. i think we must continue digging.. maybe some francophones can glean more.. . .. or maybe some details of a private collection of the time

Very well said, and it is well established that 'absence of evidence does not constitute evidence'. I think that probably the reason there has not been some sort of published material on the 'swords of Madagascar' is because there does not appear to be an established tradition of the use of them in notable degree.
The fact that examples exist, such as the interesting ones you have shown, reveals that of course, natives would adopt European type hangers in limited degree as they became available. This is of course an example of the types of hanger/cutlass that were used on vessels in 17th-18th c.

Of course the natives had iron working abilities and resources, and most native cultures used these from ancient times to fashion tools and weapons. While these typically are items in the range of tools and implements, the type of metal weapons were axes and daggers, but not swords in the manner of blades of notable length.

In many regions such as Arabia, where blade making once existed, the metalwork now comprises dagger blades. The advent of trade, and availability of blades from those sources virtually supplanted the need to forge sword blades. Producing knife or dagger blades as with axes and tools, is far less demanding than that of sword blades.

If sword combat is not part of the native methods of warfare, then there is no need to establish production of, nor training in use of, the sword.
Typically the 'sword' in most native tribal cultures has become a useful implement (such as machetes) or a significant element of status, bearing and often ritual.

In North Africa, the presence of swords was well established from early times, especially with Islamic influence which became significant in those tribal cultures. While in Central Africa, the types of edged weaponry ranges from axes and daggers, to more curious forms such as 'throwing knives' and sickle type weapons. Aside from certain sword types such as the shotel and seme in Kenya, there is limited 'sword tradition' in most of central and south Africa.

While I am not actually a collector any longer, I do enjoy studying arms and armor from a historic perspective as I have for nearly 50 years. I very much enjoy these kinds of queries of notably esoteric texture.. and quite honestly once even pursued 'what kind of swords did eskimos use?'. I do not mean that flippantly, it was an honest question.
I found that obviously the 'eskimo' peoples (a rather misapplied term usually) per se' may not have had swords, but discovered that certain groups in Siberian areas to the islands as far as Japan did indeed have some presence of the sword. The Ainu people had a sword (usually Japanese blade), which was important to tribal ritual and status, but was never used for combat of any kind.

With that, I hope these analogies do not detract too much from the discussion, but wanted to add some perspective as to why those of us here may not have a particular awareness of the swords used in Madagascar, or for that matter, places where the sword was not a prominent weapon.

PS Fernando, we crossed posts, excellent perspective in your entry as well!!
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