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Old 23rd December 2020, 12:35 PM   #1
Jerseyman
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Default Short Sword For Identification

I'm working on the assumption that this is an African short sword. I've been through Spring and Tirri, Stone and every other reference I have, but haven't seen anything to quite match. Different elements seem to point to different areas; I waver between thinking it's from Cameroon, then further north, then further east.

The blade has lost its tip and been re-ground, but not recently, and perhaps within its working life.

The hilt is in the condition it came to me - over-cleaned. It's zoomorphic in design - perhaps a lion or a hippopotamus? It's been cast with the appearance of rattan bands around the grip. The tang is peened over, but inside it seems to have two brass sleeves, one riding over the other, and the outer one slides freely up and down - not sure if that's a design choice or flaw.

The scabbard has lost its tip (chape, if it had one) and has worn at the locket end, allowing us to see the construction clearly. The liner is thick card, red on one side, wrapped in a rough-weave blue linen (?). The colour of the fabric seems similar to that used by the Tuareg groups. Then a typical thin black leather covering, embossed with a fairly common line design. The cardboard reminds me of a Sudanese knife I have, of characteristic design, except that the sheath is made of a thick blue/grey card reminiscent of the card covers used for some British military manuals.

I would appreciate any insight the forum might have.

Measurements:

Sword length - 65cm
Blade length - 53.5cm
Blade width (base) - 2.3cm
Blade width (tip) - 1.4cm
Spine (base) - 0.3cm
Spine (tip) - 0.1cm
Hilt length - 11.5cm
Hilt (pommel) - 4.5cm x 3.5cm
Hilt (at blade) - 3.2cm x 2.2cm
Pommel opening - 2cm x 0.8cm
Scabbard length - 53cm
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Old 23rd December 2020, 12:38 PM   #2
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Default More Pictures

A few more pictures
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Old 23rd December 2020, 01:50 PM   #3
Ian
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Brass hilt, a full length tang peined over the end of the brass hilt, representation of plaited rattan on the brass hilt—sounds more SE Asian than African. Is rattan used in this manner in Africa? The pommel could be a representation of a dugong rather than a hippo.
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Last edited by Ian; 23rd December 2020 at 02:08 PM. Reason: Added pics of dugong
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Old 23rd December 2020, 03:57 PM   #4
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My first impression has been that this sword reminds me a flissa.
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Old 23rd December 2020, 09:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlos
My first impression has been that this sword reminds me a flissa.
Yes!

Maybe not exactly Flyssa but North African / Tuareg... my guess.

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Old 23rd December 2020, 09:33 PM   #6
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I don't know what it is
but I'm sure it's not North African
Mundang or Vere is my bet, Cameroon,
look at the brass hilt and the engravings on the blade...

Merry Christmas
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Old 24th December 2020, 12:25 AM   #7
ariel
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Scabbard decor is purely NW Africa. Brass points to the same areal.
Had it been bronze, Dahomey ( Benin) might have been considered: Benin bronze was and is famous.

But how do we distinguish bronze from brass? It is quite easy if we are dealing with Western manufacture: the compositions would be very different. But go and find any control of zinc and tin content and percentage in African village!That is why we find more and more “ copper alloys” of uncertain origin. They are metallurgical mutts: widely encountered, quite similar in appearance, pleasant to deal with, versatile ( clever in dog’s case), durable ( healthy). Go figure....

In this case I join with the NW African crowd.
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Old 24th December 2020, 05:30 PM   #8
Richard G
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Not only Benin, think of Akan gold weights and Bida brassware.
This is obviously lost wax casting, and Nigeria and around would be my guess.
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Old 31st December 2020, 12:54 PM   #9
colin henshaw
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An interesting sword, thanks for posting. I would place it as from the Cameroon Grasslands area. The rather crudely cast brass hilt likely represents a lion's head. The lion has long been a popular symbol of power and strength in many societies including Africa. Possibly the inspiration in this case came from European military sword hilts ??

Blades with squared off or rounded tips seem to have been popular in the Cameroon Grasslands area (Tikar, Bamum, Bamileke peoples).

For reference please see : "Panga na Visu" by Zirngible & Kubetz, numbers 108, 109 & 110 for similar hilts, but in ivory.
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Old 3rd January 2021, 05:20 PM   #10
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Thanks for the responses folks. I must admit Ian that the idea of woven rattan strips did make me think of SE Asia for a while, but the other elements just don't seem to fit.

I also see NW African influences in the scabbard, but keep coming back to the area around Cameroon when I look at the sword. Not sure we'll ever nail down an exact attribution.

I don't suppose Colin that there's any chance you could post the pictures from 'Panga Na Visu'? I don't have it in my library, and the only two copies available are pretty expensive! Thanks again everyone.
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Old 4th January 2021, 05:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerseyman
I don't suppose Colin that there's any chance you could post the pictures from 'Panga Na Visu'? I don't have it in my library, and the only two copies available are pretty expensive! Thanks again everyone.
I can help with that.
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Old 5th January 2021, 09:46 AM   #12
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An observation : the sword no. 109 in the "Panga na Visu" book, appears to have to the quillons more or less copied from German hunting swords (see attached image).

Cameroon (Kamerun) was of course a German colony until World War I
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