Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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drac2k 26th October 2017 08:00 PM

African or Philippine ??
8 Attachment(s)
I just picked this up(it hasn't been shipped yet), and it was listed as African, but I'm thinking it could possibly be Philippine.The blade almost looks like a barong profile.
Any thoughts?

Battara 26th October 2017 08:24 PM

This is African. Besides if the carving were Philippine it would be Igorot, but they donít have blades like this, and if the blade were somehow Sulu, they donít have carvings like this.

African or somewhere else.

drac2k 26th October 2017 10:32 PM

Thanks for the information.

Sajen 27th October 2017 01:19 AM

I am not so convinced like Jose, the pommel carving is remindful of Bicol inaso pommels, somewhat unusual but similar. I would like to see better pictures, special from the cleaned blade and the top of the pommel, is the tang peened in up? At least I can understand why Drac2k ask the question. Please provide better pictures when you have received it.


drac2k 27th October 2017 02:00 AM

Will do and thanks for your imput.The total length was given to be 19".

Battara 27th October 2017 10:13 PM

Detlef, I considered the carving being Bicolano, but again the style and motif don't fit well at all in my opinion.

Ian 27th October 2017 11:10 PM

Hi drac2K:

I don't think this one is Filipino. Battara has given the same reasons that I would for thinking it came from elsewhere. Maybe African or from somewhere else.

Interesting knife.


Sajen 28th October 2017 12:07 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Originally Posted by Battara
Detlef, I considered the carving being Bicolano, but again the style and motif don't fit well at all in my opinion.

Hello Jose,

like said, I don't say that it is Bicolano but before I rule it out I would like to see better pictures. In the meanwhile I post a picture from a very interesting Bicol bolo which Rick sold recently for comparison. Let's wait until Drac2k will be able to show better pictures. I am special curious to see pictures from the cleaned blade since I think that the execution of forging can give us hints if the "bolo" in question could come from Africa or somewhere else. But agree with you and Ian that the pommel carving would be more as unusual for a Bicol carving. :shrug:

Best regards,

drac2k 28th October 2017 11:08 AM

Very interesting Detlef; is the blade similar?

Sajen 28th October 2017 02:11 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Originally Posted by drac2k
Very interesting Detlef; is the blade similar?

Hello Drac2k,

no, not. But I want to show why I don't want to rule out Bicol.


Jim McDougall 28th October 2017 03:13 PM

This is really interesting, and I know little on Philippines weapons other than just comparative references and I would be torn between African and those archipelagos in Philippine regions.
However, for the hilt I think Detlef has shown compelling comparison for Bicolano, and the similarity is enough that subtle deviation might be attributed to artisan styling.

As far as the blades, there is so much remounting of blades into local hilts and generational refurbishing I would think it would be hard to conclusively classify a weapon by focus on either component. The best we can estimate is possibly a proclivity to the hilt region as that is usually the determining factor as a local preference, while blades travelled considerably.

Looking forward to what you guys, whose knowledge of these weapons is fascinating, will determine.

drac2k 28th October 2017 04:08 PM

I think close-ups of the cleaned blade and the material that the handle is wrapped in will help in the determination of origin.

Sajen 28th October 2017 04:40 PM

Originally Posted by drac2k
I think close-ups of the cleaned blade and the material that the handle is wrapped in will help in the determination of origin.

Exactly my thoughts as well! ;)

colin henshaw 28th October 2017 05:04 PM

I don't know what this is, except to say I am fairly positive its not African.

Spunjer 28th October 2017 09:52 PM

what's the dimension?

drac2k 29th October 2017 12:30 AM

19" long(total length), and 3.75" at it's widest.

Rick 29th October 2017 02:25 AM

The handle looks like it's wrapped with the kind of wire one uses to hang pictures; or is it just a wire loop around the pommel?

Is there a ferrule or is it just (wire?) wrapping?

shayde78 29th October 2017 03:28 AM

Originally Posted by Rick
The handle looks like it's wrapped with the kind of wire one uses to hang pictures; or is it just a wire loop around the pommel?

Is there a ferrule or is it just (wire?) wrapping?

It looks like the grip may be wrapped with insulated electrical wire, and that the end at the blade junction has been stripped to reveal the copper core, appearing as a ferrule of sorts.

Sajen 29th October 2017 07:59 AM

Originally Posted by shayde78
It looks like the grip may be wrapped with insulated electrical wire, and that the end at the blade junction has been stripped to reveal the copper core, appearing as a ferrule of sorts.

To me it look like like some sort of blackened twine but just let's wait until Drac2k has it in it's hands, all other will be pure speculation! ;)

Ian 29th October 2017 04:03 PM

4 Attachment(s)

I think we have enough pictures here to make a reasonably confident identification of the animal whose head adorns the end of the hilt of the mystery knife. I believe it is a proboscis monkey (Nasalis navatus) which is an old world, tree dwelling monkey that coexists with the orangutan in Borneo. A wikipedia entry appears here.

The male of this species grows a particularly bulbous nose, unique among non-human primates, that is thought to attract a female mate. This gives the animal a human-like facial appearance, and indeed the Indonesians use the name monyet belanda ("Dutch monkey") or orang belanda ("Dutchman") to describe the similarity in appearance to the Dutch because each had such a large nose!

If we look at the two close-up views of the knife's pommel, (Figures 1 and 2) attached here, Figure 1 shows many of this monkey's features in detail--the carving is actually clearly done in representing this animal. In Figure 1 we see the bulbous nose (A) with a clear demarkation from the upper lip (B), a clear engraving of an ear pinna set well back on the skull(C), and a flat top to the cranium. The shape on the pinna is typical of humans and other primates.

Figure 2 shows the pommel from the front and emphasizes how separate the nose bulb is from upper lip, with a clearly carved groove (A), widely spaced eyes with a clear angle between the brow and the nose (B), and again the engraved outline of the ear pinna on the other side.

Compare these features with two pictures (attached) of proboscis monkeys. The similarities are quite striking, even down to the flat top of the cranium.

The animal depicted is clearly not a dog, although there is some superficial resemblance as Detlef noted.

Given the origin of this species of monkey, I would suggest that the knife originates from Borneo, somewhere within the distribution of the proboscis monkey.



drac2k 30th October 2017 12:10 PM

Certainly an interesting theory and well argued.

drac2k 5th November 2017 08:47 PM

12 Attachment(s)
I just got the blade in today and I am a little more convinced that the item comes from the Philippines.
First, the handle is of the socket design used by the Ifugao and the aboriginal Taiwanese in their knives; I know this because of the construction at the base of the blade and I placed a very strong magnet on the handle to show that it was steel.A wooden figure(effigy?), has been inserted into the handle, which is wrapped with an organic fiber.
My second reason why I believe this to possibly be Ifugao or some similar tribe is that I see the same type of forging on this blade as on their blades.
It is a fairly heavy weapon, very sharp on the belly as well as on the top, about 40% from the tip.It looks like a barong or maybe a short panabas.

Sajen 7th November 2017 09:44 PM

Hi Drac2k,

you may be disappointed that nobody respond to your new pictures. This knife is a puzzle IMHO, I don't think it's Bicol, it's not Borneo I think but I am also not very confident that it is from one of the Igorot groups. :shrug:
And I think that others are similar unsure from where exactly it coming, a reason that no further comment was given. The binding is very Moro but I don't have seen such a binding by Igorot weapons. The blade surface is a little bit to rough for Igorot (my feeling).
But it's very interesting and I would like to know from where it is exactly.


drac2k 8th November 2017 03:18 AM

Hello Detlef,
I was hoping that someone would have an "I know exactly what that is," moment and after a period of silence, I thought that maybe everyone agreed with my findings(just Kidding).I still feel that the one piece knife, steel socket handle is the clue and I have Bontoc axes with the same type of rough forging on the blades.
I got this piece at an auction, so as usual, there wasn't any concrete lineage on the item.

Tim Simmons 8th November 2017 09:23 AM

The way the blade has a forged socket for the handle is surely Philippine or Formosa style. You can see how long the socket is under the binding. It does look like some small Philippine knife related to those heavy blade things that are called Hingalung or something like that.

ausjulius 17th November 2017 05:27 AM

im pretty confident its not african.. and anyway you can know by the way its tempered..
it is with a socket like the ifugao knives.. and also like knives from taiwan..
if i was a guessing man id say its tribal people form luzon or some style of taiwan we had not see. but generally id not think taiwan..
either that or some other region of phillipines or indonesia of an isolated group we just havent observed their knives yet on this forum..

Ian 17th November 2017 11:28 AM

Hi drac:

I agree with Detlef--the additional pictures don't help much in identifying this unusual knife. For completeness, it would be nice to have the dimensions recorded here so that when another one comes along we will be better able to compare them.

Despite the method of blade construction, it looks neither Taiwanese nor Ifugao to me. Both of those cultures use strong rattan bands on their hilts, and I have never seen a cord wrap on such knives, nor a carved pommel like this one.

The forging of the blade is very crude, as if performed by a village blacksmith, and falls well short of the quality usually seen on knives from Taiwan or northern Luzon. It looks much like iron objects forged using a stone hammer and and a rock for an anvil. That said, the blade does taper in thickness from hilt to tip and the edge has been ground evenly in width, suggesting the smith had some skill and experience in making knives.

There are a number of small inhabited islands off northern Luzon and between the Philippines and Taiwan. I have no knowledge of the knives used by the small populations on some of these islands, but it is conceivable that this knife comes from one of those groups.

With regard to the shape of the blade, which might be called leaf-shaped, there is some passing resemblance to the Moro barung and to the Ifugao pinahig. However, both of these have a straighter spine to the blade than this example (see here for examples of the pinahig). There are other cultures that produce knives of similar shape, notably the so-called hudiedao of the "river pirates" of southern China and Vietnam (basically the South China Sea area). These have been discussed here under Chinese fighting knives. That similarity could possibly extend the search area for this knife.

Like many of the mystery knives that come up here, I think we will need to wait for further examples to emerge, perhaps with more details as to their origin.


drac2k 17th November 2017 01:18 PM

I love a good mystery, except one where I never find the ending.
The crude forging on the blade doesn't bother me so much as identifying it as Philippine; in a previous post on this site, I provided("Philippine Axes, Bontok,"), examples of blades with similar forging marks and to fashion a steel socket must take some degree of skill.A point that bothered me and you rightly brought out was the wrap of the handle, which kind of puts a Titanic-size iceberg in the path of my theory.
The auction also had Eastern and Western Indian artifacts, so if we wanted to get really absurd, I could ask could it be a Tlingit blade........but I would never do that.

Ian 17th November 2017 03:30 PM

Patience my friend. I have some mysteries that have not been solved for 15+ years--like this one.

drac2k 17th November 2017 07:49 PM

I see what you mean............interesting knife you got there!

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