Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Martin Lubojacky 20th April 2011 11:51 PM

Nigerian round leather shields
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Both shields bought in Nigeria. The smaller one (37 cms in diameter) should be Guruntum tribe (already posted before, now just for comparision). The big one is the heaviest shield I have ever seen (or better kept in my hands). Diameter is 70 cms, the leather is thick, heavy, with residuum of some surface treatment. I bought it in Abuja, but they should bring it from Taraba state from the mountains near Gaschaka Gumpti National Park (near Gembu town). It is allegedly Jukun shield - could anybody from the colleagues confirm this tribe allocation ?
Thanks and Regards

Iain 21st April 2011 08:58 AM

Hi Martin,

I'm afraid I can't confirm exactly what tribe the large shield is from - but only point out that this basic design was used by most tribes in the area including the Jukun and as the construction methods are so similar across these pieces I'm not sure if it's possible to say exactly from which tribe - but I hope I'm wrong and someone with more knowledge can say something about it. I have some old photos showing shields from Bauchi state but that is not exactly the same area or so much help I think.

What type of leather is the shield? I had read these are often buffalo or elephant, but the elephant shields I have seen have a more bumpy surface pattern.



Martin Lubojacky 21st April 2011 01:06 PM

Hi Iain,

Please could you post those old photos showing Bauchi shields ?

As far as the leather this two Nigerian shields are made of - I am not expert, unfortunately I do not know how to detect the "animal of origin", I think I do not have enoughh experience in this field. Both kinds of leather are thick (the thickness is, I would say, the same), but the leather of the small shield is not half as dense (or close grained) as the leather of the big one (if the big shield is made of such leather, it would be much lighter). Both shields are very hard and stiff. My unproffesional estimate would be: smaller shield - hyppo, big one - elephant (?). In any case I would exclude cattle or antelope.

If somebody of forumites has old pictures of Bauchi, Mandara, Mambila, Jukun, Vere and surrounding tribes wariors "from those times", keeping their arms and armour, I would be happy, really very happy to see them.



Tim Simmons 21st April 2011 04:37 PM

6 Attachment(s)
The big one is very cool. Could these be used in the Cameroon? Would go so well with my Cameroon style Tabouka, even has the same type of black leather scabbard.

Iain 21st April 2011 10:37 PM


I need to scan the images for you. They are from a variety of tribes in Bauchi but aren't really good matches for your shields. Still they can be interesting. I will try to scan them tomorrow. I need to also look in through my image archive for some other shields in the area.


Cameroon doesn't really apply as a tribal and ethnic barrier, you find the same groups on both sides of the border. So yes, this style of shield should probably be more or less applicable, although as I'm not sure of the exact attribution of your sword it's hard to say if there is a more exact match. I'd suggest reading up on the Benue area kingdoms (there were several) and their relationships to the Hausa and Fulani states for a better understanding of the linked nature of many of these kingdoms and the resulting cross over in arms and armor. A lot of diffusion likely happened in the aftermath of the Fulani Jihad. I have seen Hausa and Wandala (Mandara) shields in almost precisely the same style.

Martin Lubojacky 22nd April 2011 08:12 AM

Thank you Tim and Iain,

Tim, your short sword is nice and interesting, I bought simmilar a few years ago throuhgh eBay (they stamped it as Chad, but this Maiduguri - Maroua - NŽDjamena area I think it is one cultural zoe in three states...). But my feeling is - to this kind of shield it would need something heavier

Iain 22nd April 2011 11:14 AM

6 Attachment(s)
Personally I think these heavy shields were paired with spears for the vast majority of fighters. Few men would be likely to carry swords and those that did were often mounted and did always carry shields (if they were heavy cavalry and in the model of Bornu etc).

I am attaching a number of photos.

First peoples from Bauchi state, all photos taken from African Knights by Cairns. My scanner wasn't working so I had to snap these with a camera, however the original image quality was not great in the book so you aren't loosing all that much.

[EDIT: for some reason the forum reversed my picture order - 1 is at the bottom etc.)

1. Irigwe horsemen on the left, Berom with greaves on the right.

2. Jawa (Jarawa) with shield.

3. On right sketch of Musgum reed shield, on left Kuru warrior, Berom tribe, shield made from strips of palm bark.

4. Borom (Kanam) shield of elephant ear.

5. Berom chief.

The rest are photos I had archived I'm not sure of the original source except that they were online.

6. Hausa shield.

Iain 22nd April 2011 11:16 AM

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7. Kirdi/Makatam shield.

8. Wandala/Mandara shield.

Martin Lubojacky 22nd April 2011 02:35 PM

Iain, thanks for photos !
I have been trying to find the Berom short sword (the one with brass discs on the scabbard) 3 years already - but still no result

Iain 25th April 2011 05:38 PM

Hi Martin,

To be honest I've never even seen a good photo of a whole Berom sword. If you know of one, or a good illustration I'd be interested to see how the hilt and blades look in more detail.



Martin Lubojacky 26th April 2011 09:41 AM

Hi Iain,
I have been seeking for this sword, but it seems to be very difficult to find it.

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