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CharlesS 11th September 2017 04:39 PM

Interesting Shona Short Sword
6 Attachment(s)
This is a not a typical Shona piece, and it clearly has been influenced by seeing European swords with the most obvious example being the iron handguard. Otherwise, it shows all the class is trademarks of a Shona piece. Note the carving style and the incredible brass wire work with the typical two toned iron blade(diamond sectioned). I love the old patina on this piece. I am assuming it is from the first half of the 20th century.


Overall length: 23.25in.
Blade length: 16in.
Blade width at the forte: .75in.

colin henshaw 12th September 2017 12:14 PM

Congratulations, a good piece ... I like it. The European style hilt seems to have been copied a lot in Africa.

It could be from other tribes as well as the Shona, however.

CharlesS 12th September 2017 04:20 PM

Colin, I agree about the other tribes...the Shona immediately came to mind for this carving style and wirework. What additional tribes were you thinking?

Thanks, btw, for your input.

colin henshaw 12th September 2017 04:47 PM

Originally Posted by CharlesS
Colin, I agree about the other tribes...the Shona immediately came to mind for this carving style and wirework. What additional tribes were you thinking?

Thanks, btw, for your input.

I am thinking about tribes further north Malawi (Nyasaland) way, such as the Yao & Manganja.

Have a look at the National Museums Scotland website and search under the collections database.

Note : this valuable information first provided by "collectingspears" in 2013.


Jim McDougall 13th September 2017 05:19 PM

Colin, I'm always intrigued by your input on these items, and the scope of your knowledge on these African pieces.
This is of course a fascinating weapon with its obvious European influence, the most notable feature the distinct knuckle guard.

It is interesting, as Charles has well noted ,the character of the weapon in its decorative styling reflecting probable Shona provenance. As also noted in the OP, this is not a 'typical' Shona item in its character of course with the melding of other influences, despite the trademark styling features of that tribal group.

As always, especially with ethnographic arms, the weapons have no geographic or for that matter, strict tribal or cultural boundaries. That is why rigid or precise classification is often in need of qualifying descriptions.

Though I know little of the particulars of styling character of these tribal crafts, I really appreciate you guys explaining them in examining the weapons. Its great to keep learning here.

One thing I do notice however, is that this blade appears to be of a socket type bayonet, probably a M1876 Martini-Henry. Looking into the possible Malawi provenance, I note that this region is to the NE of Zimbabwe, the key location of the Shona.
Apparently in the latter 19th century, the African Lakes Co. was situated there to ensure British interests, and perhaps the forces there, though small in number, might have been the source of this blade?

The European guard of course was probably seen on hangers or swords of these occupying forces as well. Interestingly, I have seen simple sheet steel knuckle guards used on various native edged weapons to the west as well.

CharlesS 13th September 2017 07:22 PM

Jim, thanks for your input. While at first glance this does have the look of a bayonet blade, it is definitely a diamond sectioned native made blade and well within the abilities of the tribes of that region. Note the very inconsistent(non-industrial) line of the central ridge. The two tone "black and white" blade is also a common characteristic of Shona blades, especially on daggers. I'm thinking you may be seeing the blackened portion of the blade as an optical illusion fuller.

Jim McDougall 13th September 2017 11:10 PM

Thanks Charles, at second glance, that ridge is pretty wavy!
Wonder if they used the bayonet blade as a prototype? I do recall that Massai blades from Kenya have pronounced central rib, but again, hard to say exactly how these influences transmitted.

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