Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   iron cuirass (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=17764)

nKante 30th October 2013 06:35 PM

iron cuirass
 
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I have always been interested in this West African cuirass. I have seen a few illustrations of them, and photos of 3 different pieces. Conrad Cairns briefly mentions this kind of defense in his book 'The African Knights'. Most of what I have seen is either padded garments, chain mail, or the combination of them both. My question is, were they worn on the outside of the padded garment or underneath. Outside would have provided cushion from the heavy iron against the skin. But I think the big iron plate would heat up rather quick in the African sun. I have looking through a lot of early photos of Sudanic warriors. I came across 2 that might show metal plates.

Iain 31st October 2013 10:33 AM

Sadly, a few years ago when one of these was on the market I did not purchase it. I have been kicking myself ever since.

These are associated with Bornu, Denham illustrated one as I recall.

I'd be interested to see the couple of photos you mentioned. It's an intriguing question. I'll have a look through my files and see if I can turn anything up.

nKante 31st October 2013 05:53 PM

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Now remember I said 'might' be an iron plate. To my eye, the dark area around the one warrior's torso seems to be an armored belly band. It could be part of the pattern on the robe, but I think I see a shadow underneath. It could be wishful thinking, but the shape, shadow and edging make me think that it is a separate rigid object and not fabric like his partners.

Iain 31st October 2013 07:17 PM

Certainly possible, but as you say, hard to see in that particular image. At a guess, it's actually leather banded armour (kutufi). Although your image depicts Sudanese rather than Bornu or western Sahel troops I'm more familiar with.

My own personal opinion, and this only applies for the actual cuirass you posted, is that it was worn under the lifida, as was maille.

The lifida itself is not a single element. But can be made up of several garments. Usually these consist of at least the long out jacket (bantan lifidi) and a wide band around the waist (the kumakumi).

Underneath additional padding could be worn as well. The main purpose was defense against arrows, which were typically poisoned.

nKante 31st October 2013 10:28 PM

Ok! It would make sense to wear the cuirass over a padded under garment, and under a padded over garment. And after I looked again you are correct, they are Sudanese warriors. Know I have to reseach kutufi armor.

Thanks Ian

Iain 1st November 2013 10:07 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by nKante
Ok! It would make sense to wear the cuirass over a padded under garment, and under a padded over garment. And after I looked again you are correct, they are Sudanese warriors. Know I have to reseach kutufi armor.

Thanks Ian


No problem, just a note though on the terminology, what I listed above is Hausa, in a Sudanese context it will be something else.

Iain 8th November 2013 08:50 AM

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Just to add a little more photographic material here, I'm not necessarily right about maille under the lifida. It's not always easy to determine if maille wearers are also wearing full lifida.

But here's at least one case of maille over what looks like quite a lot of bulky cloth. Still, I don't see the full quilted garment here.

colin henshaw 8th November 2013 09:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Just to add a little more photographic material here, I'm not necessarily right about maille under the lifida. It's not always easy to determine if maille wearers are also wearing full lifida.

But here's at least one case of maille over what looks like quite a lot of bulky cloth. Still, I don't see the full quilted garment here.


Great image Iain. He won't run out of weapons in a hurry !

Iain 8th November 2013 09:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
Great image Iain. He won't run out of weapons in a hurry !


Thanks Colin, he's a chief from Foumban in Cameroon. With the number of knives he's packing, makes you wonder if these were thrown?

nKante 11th November 2013 07:57 PM

Wow! That is an awesome pic. I would think that many daggers would be used as missiles. I wonder how his sleeves behave if they are for throwing!? By the way it gathers at his neck it looks like the chain shirt has a hood. Plus I think I see rings going up the side of his face. Thanx!

Iain 11th November 2013 09:22 PM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by nKante
Wow! That is an awesome pic. I would think that many daggers would be used as missiles. I wonder how his sleeves behave if they are for throwing!? By the way it gathers at his neck it looks like the chain shirt has a hood. Plus I think I see rings going up the side of his face. Thanx!


Yes I would agree, that's a hood. I've attached an image showing a similar maille set.

nKante 14th November 2013 11:47 PM

His chain is definitely over some thick garment.

Iain 15th November 2013 07:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by nKante
His chain is definitely over some thick garment.


Yes the maille is certainly over thick cloth, the question is, is it actually lifida? Hard to tell really.

nKante 16th November 2013 12:09 AM

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This is my take on the piece. I still have to attach the shoulder straps and edge it with leather. I made it out of aluminum, not iron. I plan to put a nice dark patina on it when it is completed. I changed the design a little from the originals. I decided to leave both side open, so as not to compromise the aluminum by repeated opening and closing. I made it for an internet friend who practices traditional African martial arts at his studio in Texas. He is carving me two wooden swords from Benin.

colin henshaw 19th November 2013 09:32 AM

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Here is an image of a postcard issued by the excellent Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington, Kent that may interest...

nKante 22nd November 2013 07:51 PM

Awesome. Thank you!

nKante 5th May 2014 06:34 PM

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OK. Finally finished it. I took some liberties with it but I am very pleased with the overall product. I used street sign aluminum in place of iron plates. I replaced the iron rivets with brass screws peened over square nuts, which I think gives it visual weight. I made a set of rigid shoulder straps but they were very uncomfortable to move in. I tried a few things, including chains, but I settled on rawhide straps with attached plates. The worst part was sewing the edging on, which is made of strips I cut from a West African mud clothe I had. The pictures don't show but there are 2 set of 8 grommets on the top of the front plate. Since I was unable to physically measure the person that I made the armor for, I wanted some adjustability when attaching the shoulder straps. That is also the reason I decided to open both sides. I tucked a strip of the mud clothe into the bindings of the shoulder plate to give it some padding.

Iain 5th May 2014 07:02 PM

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I'm glad to see this thread coming back to life.

The finished product, if not exactly like the originals, is an interesting take on a little known subject and a visually pleasing result.

I am adding here a couple more originals. One that was on auction some years ago, another from the MET.

In the next post I will add some interesting text from Robinson's "Oriental Armour".

Iain 5th May 2014 07:06 PM

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The book excerpt. It deals in part with an earlier topic on this thread of mail over or under cloth components.

LJ 6th May 2014 06:50 PM

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I came across this reference last year:
MacLeod, O., 1912 Chiefs and Cities of Central Africa. Across Lake Chad by way of British, French, and German territories. Pp 14 + 322. Edinburgh & London: Blackwood & sons.

A ‘Native-made iron cuirass” is illustrated on p.269, in a section describing the visit to the town of Fika (northern Nigeria) during March 1911. The armour is not described, only figured. Apparently, this piece of armour, together with a hide cuirass from Musgum collected during the same voyage, is in the Pitt Rivers museum.

Iain 7th May 2014 08:07 AM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by LJ
I came across this reference last year:
MacLeod, O., 1912 Chiefs and Cities of Central Africa. Across Lake Chad by way of British, French, and German territories. Pp 14 + 322. Edinburgh & London: Blackwood & sons.

A ‘Native-made iron cuirass” is illustrated on p.269, in a section describing the visit to the town of Fika (northern Nigeria) during March 1911. The armour is not described, only figured. Apparently, this piece of armour, together with a hide cuirass from Musgum collected during the same voyage, is in the Pitt Rivers museum.


The image in the first post of this thread is the Pitt Rivers example. :)

I'm attaching some additional views of another museum example, can't recall off the top of my head which one! But it shows the full construction nicely.

nKante 7th May 2014 10:39 PM

WOW. Those art the best pictures I have ever seen of one. Some of those long, 'nail' looking rivets are just plain scary.

Iain 8th May 2014 08:44 AM

They are a serious piece of kit and quite effective I'd imagine combined with the quilted armour. Couple this with a lance and a hefty takouba and you've got a picture quite a bit different than what most people would expect to find south of the Sahara. :)

nKante 10th June 2014 07:57 PM

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Figured I post myself wearing it with the rest of my panoply.

KraVseR 11th June 2014 01:06 PM

nKante, what a warrior you have reconstructed?

estcrh 11th June 2014 07:20 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Just to add a little more photographic material here, I'm not necessarily right about maille under the lifida. It's not always easy to determine if maille wearers are also wearing full lifida.

But here's at least one case of maille over what looks like quite a lot of bulky cloth. Still, I don't see the full quilted garment here.



This is the image description. "Bamum chief, in Cameroon, Portrait of a Bamum chief of Foumban", Postcard of the Société des missions évangéliques de Paris (Paris evangelical missionary society). 1910/1920

nKante 3rd October 2014 06:52 PM

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I found what I believe to be an illustrated photo showing a warrior wearing an iron cuirass under his robes. The saddle horn, helmet and circle designs of the horses armor remind me of the set up in Colin's picture.

A Fulbe warrior wearing a much embellished iron helmet (the plates visible just above his right ear) and iron chest armor (plates visible just beneath his right forearm) beneath his robe; the horse wears quilted armor. The object topping his helmet might have been intended to hold feathers.

estcrh 3rd October 2014 07:45 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
I'm attaching some additional views of another museum example, can't recall off the top of my head which one! But it shows the full construction nicely.


The images are from The British Museum.
http://www.britishmuseum.org/resear...objectid=621141

Iain 10th February 2015 05:27 AM

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I just realized I have an incredibly clear image of one of these cuirass being worn from 1905 I never posted. It is from northern Cameroon.

nKante 17th February 2015 11:22 PM

NICE. I love the high collar on the quilted robe. This might be my new profile picture.

estcrh 17th February 2015 11:38 PM

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There is one of these cuirasses for sale at auction currently, since there is some sort of silly rule about posting pictures of items that are for sale on the forum, if anyone wants information on it send me a message.

Iain 18th February 2015 09:41 AM

I should also mention the image illustrates a cavalryman of the Moundang people. One of the groups within the Mandara region of north Cameroon.

Iain 15th September 2017 07:26 AM

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Well after quite a few years I am finally in possession of one of these. I need to do a proper photo session in the coming weeks and it needs a little clean on the inside of the cuirass but I thought some might enjoy a quick picture of it enjoying its new home with an old takouba.

colin henshaw 15th September 2017 09:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Well after quite a few years I am finally in possession of one of these. I need to do a proper photo session in the coming weeks and it needs a little clean on the inside of the cuirass but I thought some might enjoy a quick picture of it enjoying its new home with an old takouba.


A good piece Iain, well done. In fact it would look nice with my chainmail hauberk ;)

Looking forward to more pics...

Iain 15th September 2017 10:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by colin henshaw
A good piece Iain, well done. In fact it would look nice with my chainmail hauberk ;)

Looking forward to more pics...


Thanks Colin, a maille hauberk is another thing on my long term list. Not easy to find one of the good old riveted ones!

I'll hopefully have time and good enough light this weekend for an extended photo session.

Hard to date these things precisely but this example shows quite a lot of age to the iron, surprisingly large as well.

estcrh 17th September 2017 12:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Well after quite a few years I am finally in possession of one of these. I need to do a proper photo session in the coming weeks and it needs a little clean on the inside of the cuirass but I thought some might enjoy a quick picture of it enjoying its new home with an old takouba.
Iain, I am glad to see that I am not the only one here who invests in obscure armors!!

TVV 18th September 2017 12:49 AM

Very nice Iain, congratulations. When it comes to mail hauberks, my understanding is that they were imported to the Sahel from the Middle Eats and Europe, and it may be tricky to find a North African one unless there is some very solid provenance.

Teodor

Iain 18th September 2017 09:46 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by estcrh
Iain, I am glad to see that I am not the only one here who invests in obscure armors!!


Thanks Eric, this is my first venture into the armour side of things, I guess for many armour doesn't evoke the same reaction as a sword.

Iain 18th September 2017 09:50 AM

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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Very nice Iain, congratulations. When it comes to mail hauberks, my understanding is that they were imported to the Sahel from the Middle Eats and Europe, and it may be tricky to find a North African one unless there is some very solid provenance.

Teodor


Hi Teodor,

most maille in the Sahel was sourced from Egypt, other Ottoman territories, Persia or of course to some degree Europe. Bivar's Nigerian Panoply illustrates this variety nicely. So you are of course correct, by and large maille wasn't made locally and what was, at least in the case of Sudan they were making butted and not riveted maille as I recall.

Managed to take some more images, still not the best I'm afraid but the weather is playing up and not being conducive to photo sessions!

estcrh 18th September 2017 10:07 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Hi Teodor,

most maille in the Sahel was sourced from Egypt, other Ottoman territories, Persia or of course to some degree Europe. Bivar's Nigerian Panoply illustrates this variety nicely. So you are of course correct, by and large maille wasn't made locally and what was, at least in the case of Sudan they were making butted and not riveted maille as I recall.

Managed to take some more images, still not the best I'm afraid but the weather is playing up and not being conducive to photo sessions!

Thats correct from what I have read and seen. Sudanese mail was butted, Khedival Egypt imported split ring mail from England in the mid to late 1800s. I believe all riveted mail would have been imported.

Good photos anyway.


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