Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Ian 30th January 2005 05:16 AM

Jim and Andrew:

Thank you for the kind words, but I think I have probably said enough on this topic for now. Look forward to hearing what others think. This type of discussion does not come along very often. Hal has thrown us a real challenge here, and I do want to thank him and Tom for bringing these bolos to our attention.

This thread has the potential to be another "Black Sea Yataghan" saga or, dare we say it, another "Shaver Cool." :eek:



tom hyle 30th January 2005 03:39 PM

I do want to try to make another point that may be too subtle for my linguistic ability at the moment: Let's try:
I don't consider the "angle" at the base of the known Mandaya blades to be part of the blade, entirely; it occurs at the joining of shaft (ricassoesque feature) and blade; thus it is essentially similar to say the forward lean of sabres, which occurs in the tang, leaving the blade per se (ie the cutting part) to be a simple curve, though the overall affect is of a re-curve. Such adjustments that are not in the blade as such seem to me to be more fluid, both within a given culture and between neighboring groups (see angle variations on sabres, or on talibon/garabs, or on kampilan). In other words, though certainly these blades do have a slight curvature, and the known Mandaya swords none, the actual blades per se are otherwise very similar, and it is a slight curve; thus to me it could be variations on a theme, with the biggest difference perhaps being the lack of an unsharp shaft/ricassoe. I don't think I sufficiently explained myself about this seeming relation earlier; hopefully I've clarified.

fearn 30th January 2005 05:02 PM

Great post, Ian.

Unless or until someone finds a good reference to the tribes of the Philippines, we're left guessing.

However, I'd be willing to bet money that, when we finally do figure out where these blades come from, it'll be a Philippine tribe, probably in the north, and that Therion's blade was brought home from a WWII soldier.

As an (apparent) aside, remember when the space shuttle Challenger blew up? The New York stock Exchange correctly figured out that components from Morton Thiokol had caused the explosion (Thiokol stock dropped far more steeply than did the stock of all other shuttle contractors). It took an expert commission months to figure out that it was the O-rings on the booster rockets built by Morton Thiokol.

Now, the stock market didn't have any inside information, but it did serve as a great way for agglomerating a bunch of disparate information into an accurate result. It was accurate, in part, because people had money riding on the outcome.

This is the whole basis for the Iowa Elections Market and other such predictive markets.

Getting back to this blade, I think we're seeing the same "market of ideas" here. None of us knows what it is, but (combined with the picture) a bunch of us are independently coming up with the same kinds of answers. My guess is that, as a forum, we're probably right, although I'm not sure each of us is individually. In

Going back to what Ian said, I'd like to see definitive evidence. However, I wouldn't discount the meanderings we've done so far.

Fun case!


Rick 30th January 2005 05:30 PM

I sent an email to the owner of the site on the Shuar along with a copy of the jpg. and a link to this thread .

Maybe he will respond . :)

I've got a couple of questions for Hal and Tom .
Does the blade appear to be hand forged ?

The sword we're discussing has a nice silvery 'sheen' on the blade up near the guard .
Would that indicate a factory made blade ?

Federico 30th January 2005 07:17 PM

One note I'll make. If we are still considering Northern PI as a candidate for this bolo, and we assume that the man in the picture is representative of the culture from which this bolo was found, then I believe we can limit ourselves only to the non-Christian tribes of Luzon (Christian groups at the turn of the century were Christian due to their subjugation to Spanish hegemony, as such they would A. not be in a loin-cloth B. not be considered headhunters). And if we limit ourselves to headhunters in Luzon, then we limit ourselves pretty much to the mountain tribes, called Igorot (depending who you talk to Illongots could be called Igorot, my mom is adamant that this is not the case, but Ive seen it pop up in period writing). That being the case, as noted already by Ian, while I cannot say I am any expert on the Igorot tribes (used to be a good network of websites on all the different Igorot tribes, but I believe it went down a couple years back) I dont believe Ive ever seen anything like this bolo associated with them.

Battara 30th January 2005 08:02 PM

Federico, "preach nah, don' play w'it!"

tom hyle 30th January 2005 09:45 PM

Definitely a forged, layered steel blade. It does seem to have had repeated polishings over the years, despite a lack of pitting, as the okar exhibits lines that are almost worn off, and others where there are none to reflect them, giving one to suspect those have worn entirely off. The surface exhibits a light grey patina, just about one shade darker than bare steel, over what looks like a nicely smooth old native polish.

Ian 30th January 2005 10:32 PM

Looking again at the picture
2 Attachment(s)
... above, playing with Photoshop to enhance the letters, and it seems to me the last word of the inscription ends in "...OR" and I think I make out a "T" as the first letter -- maybe "TIMOR" ???

Well, that sent me to look for a suitable town, tribe, river that might fit the next to last word -- no luck (yet). So I googled Timor history and came up with some descriptions of Timor tribal men.

This quote comes from a book on the early ethnology and mythology of Timor that were recorded during the period from 1878 to 1883 by Henry O. Forbes, in his book A Naturalist's Wanderings In The Eastern Archipelago, published in New York by Harper & Brothers, 1885.

"All the natives of the islands we saw were handsome-featured fellows, lithe, tall, erect, and with splendidly formed bodies. They dyed their hair of a rich golden colour by a preparation made of cocoa-nut ash and lime, varying, however, in shade with the time, from a dirty grey through a red or russet colour, till the second day, when the approved tint appeared. Several modes of arranging their hair were in vogue. It was either carefully combed out, transfixed with a long fork-like comb, and confined within a single girdle of palm-leaf, or a black, red and white patchwork band, was allowed to hang loose to the shoulders; or it was done up in a fizzed mop, different, however, from the unravellable matted wisp seen on the Papuans of Macluer Inlet in New Guinea or among the Aru Islanders.

Their coiffure seems to depend on the kind of hair, straight or frizzled, that Nature has given them; when frizzled it is arranged in a mop, and when straight it is combed out and crimped with an instrument to hang down the back in a "cataract."

The arranging of their hair is one of their most enjoyed occupations, and the vanity with which they bind it within various coloured bands - narrow above broad - laid one on another, before a mirror formed of water collected in the bottom of a prau, or on the calm sea-face itself, is most amusing to see. The men are very fond of having their hair cut quite short, as it no doubt relieved them for a time by reducing the population in that region of their bodies."

And here are a couple of pictures of men and their hair styles from the same source. Note the way the hair of the man in the photo is pulled back by the head band. I don't know if this helps or not, but it gives us another avenue to explore.

Incidentally, European involvement in Timor goes back several centuries, with the Dutch claiming the western portion of the island (now Indonesia), and the Portuguese the eastern portion (now independent East Timor). The sandalwood trade in Timor was very lucrative, hence the interest of European countries in the island.

Some of the confusion about the appearance of the man in the photo could reflect that he may be mestizo, with some European heritage (Chinese is possible too).

fearn 31st January 2005 05:21 PM

Hi Ian,

I'm glad to have another candidate other than PI. However, there is a sketch of a parang from Timor in Draeger's The Weapons and Fighting Arts of Indonesia (p. 198) and they don't look at all alike. Also, as you note, Timor's towards the papuan end of the Indonesian archipelago, and our tribesman doesn't look quite right, nor is he dressed the right way.

Another older reference to Timor is in Wallace's Malay Archipelago, but it doesn't contradict anything you've posted.


John 2nd February 2005 09:51 AM

Some similar features for narrowing down?
The markings at the back of the blade also could be seen at the back of some Borneon pakayun blade whilst the hand guards are similar in the sense that they are both circular. If I remember correctly, both Ian and Andrew have mentioned the markings at back of the blade could be seen at other SE Asian swords. I've asked a number of Muruts for it's meaning but got no answer to date.

The blade is parang-like and some indigenous in SE Asia do have Chinese ancestory as the guy's features show. A more likely SE Asian candidate perhaps and a hybrid?

I've copied Mmontoro's pakayun pictures from another thread for reference.

tom hyle 2nd February 2005 12:24 PM

Those marks sure are similar; without actually counting lines, awful close to identical (at least some of the single slanted lines in the spine of mine look like they were once part of an "X" than has worn partly away.). The disc guard as such is not uncommon; it's one of the two most basic kinds (disc or crossbar), and is seen in mainland SE Asia, Borneo, and the Visayan Sea (usually either in horn or wood or else, if metal. with added quillons, one of which turns down to form a sheath-grabber, the other usually coming up to form a knucklebow.), as well, of course, as Japan, China, and the Himalayas; I suspect I could go on if I thought hard. These ones are thinnish brass, and in the case of mine the hole for the tang is overly wide, and perhaps intended to be usable as a rattle, as we have heard tell of.
Gosh' they're already worth a lot of money, so I may as well say it; I don't think I ever get tired of looking at pakayuns.

RSWORD 2nd February 2005 09:41 PM

In looking strictly at the hilt in the two examples, they seem to me to closely resemble the Nias Gari hilt. If you look in Van Zonnevelds book on p. 47, take a close look at that hilt. It has the same shape with the only difference being that it has a long iron protrusion coming from between the open mouth of the pommel. I suspect this feature has broken or been shortened in the two examples posted. The top example seems to have its forked pommel wrapped in cloth and perhaps it once contained charms within which would be in keeping with Nias tradition. The guard and blade shape I believe are imitative of another culture, perhaps Chinese. The notches at the base of the blade are peculiar but perhaps done by the Nias for decorative or symbolic purposes. Certainly not the ace of spades but hopefully a worthwhile observation to add to the overall discussion.

Ian 6th February 2005 08:14 PM

The experts come up empty ...
3 Attachment(s)
Hal. Nobody seems to know exactly where these bolos come from, nor the man in the photo. I suspect we will resurrect this thread down the road when we hit upon the answer.

As promised, I am attaching pictures of two knives of the Ilongot, a noted headhunting tribe in northern Luzon. The bolo used by the Ilongot has a fairly distinctive form and the scabbard is unusual in its decoration, featuring MOP inserts and dangles.


Ian 12th February 2005 08:07 PM

One last try to decipher the inscription on the photograph
Having thought the last word on the inscription of the man's photograph may be "TIMOR" I have been thinking over the next to last word and I believe it is "CANAKA," which may be a corruption of "KANAKA." The word kanaka is Polynesian and means human. It was adopted by Europeans to mean anyone from Polynesia or Melanesia.

Kanakas were routinely abducted in the 19th C. from the Torres Strait Islands and Timor to work as slave labor in the sugar cane fields of northern Australia, notably in the State of Queensland. There are still descendants of these people living in northern Australia today.

I think this man is a kanaka from Timor. On further reading of Henry O. Forbes' A Naturalists Wanderings in the Eastern Archipelago, I was struck by the following passage:

"What the pedigree of the Timorese is I have not sufficient evidence for forming any decided opinion; but that they are a race in which many elements comingle seems certain. I saw no one with what I can with perfect truth designate as "black skin" such as seen among the Aru islanders. Tall, well-proportioned men, with frizzly hair, and of a rich and yellowish brown or of a choclate colour, I saw in abundance, as well as short, stumpy men with straight hair and no lack of beard or moustaches."

Forbes further decribes a prominent presence of "Mongols" (Chinese) as local merchants, and even a tribal group of red-haired, fair-skinned natives who intermingled and bred freely with other local groups.

Quite an ethnic melting pot. In a previous post on this thread I rather boldly said the man in the photograph was unlike any Asian/SE Asian native that I had seen in thirty years of traveling in the region. I've never been to Timor. But it sounds as though Timor has some very unusual ethnic blends, involving Malay, Chinese, European, and Pacific Island groups. The man in the photograph may well have emerged from such a comingling.

Until someone comes up with something more conclusive, I'm going for a Timor kanaka in the picture, and his bolo as being a variation of either a local golok/parang or a European machete.

fearn 12th February 2005 10:40 PM

Hi Ian,

It's possible that the man is from Timor, but there's a bit of evidence against him.

As I pointed out above, the Timorese look Papuan, which means dark skin and frizzy hair. Similarly their blades apparently don't look like this specimen.

A sample handle (admittedly on a replica klewang) from the archives is shown here

So far as I can tell, this handle is the same as Draeger shows in a sketch of a timorese parang.

I like the idea of "cana" being short for Kanaka--but I don't think we're in the right part of SE Asia yet.


Ian 13th February 2005 03:52 AM


Reading Forbes the last couple of days has given me quite a different picture of the Timorese. They have a wide mix of ancestry that goes far beyond Polynesian/Melanesian roots. Indeed their collective culture appears to have been one of interbreeding among all groups that settled the island.

The man's appearance is not typical of a Malay, Chinese, Polynesian, Melanesian, or any other racial group I have encountered in the region. So he probably is mestizo, which makes it very difficult to place where he might be from. The fact that mixed racial breeding appears to have been quite common on Timor enhances my view of an origin there, but it is far from firm evidence.

Fearn is correct that the bolo in question bears no resemblance to the traditional weapons described as coming from Timor. I think it may be an "unconventional" weapon from that island. Just as the man may be of mixed heritage, I also think the bolo he holds is of mixed origins. That may explain why nobody seems to have a clear idea of where it comes from or what it resembles. The blade looks looks like a machete. I don't know what the hilt resembles.

Conogre 14th February 2005 07:45 PM

Hi THIS is where you all went!
Tom, glad to see that someone else came up with another one so that we're finally heading towards a type, where as up until now it was the only one I'd dever seen.
And yes, by the way, I still have it....the blade is definitely hand forged and completely unlike a machete in any fashion except for the fact that it's much thinner than anything I've seen from either the Philippines or the Indonesian area.
As to Timor, I have an opi that's almost twice as thick as the "mystery sword", while much thinner side profile.
Along the spine, near the guard, it's got 7 rows of three bars, very much like some of the tourist dhas from Thailand from the Vietnam era, opening the possibilty that it could well be from one of the older hill tribes that just aren't that well researched, maybe?

Conogre 18th February 2005 05:56 PM

Well the original swords that began this thread have now been unarguably identified as being from the Philippines, although which tribe is still open to question.
Engar's post of weapons from the museum in madrid has 2 exacly like ours and one with a slightly different hilt.
See "Museo Militar Madrid"-weapons-photo 2 and numbered 2, listed as "Machete Filappino" and "Museo Nacional Anthropologia Madrid", photograph #26 for two more, with no name or origin listed, other than included with the Philippine weapons.
Perhaps Engar could be persuaded to ask the museum officials if they have any additional information the next time he visits?

Ian 18th February 2005 07:40 PM


"Unarguably" is a little strong, I think. I'm not willing to accept a Philippines origin just yet. Museum staff are notoriously bad at assigning attributions for edged weapons, so I would like to see the historic documentary evidence on these bolos before agreeing completely with you.

If you look through the pictures of these displays, there are some minor and major anomalies. For example, a couple of khoumiya have strayed on to one board, and many of the displays show an eclectic mix of Moro, Visayan, Luzon, and frankly Spanish weapons.

Comparing the original subject of this thread with the similar examples shown in the Madrid Museum, I am not seeing the fancy cut out designs at forte on the museum examples, nor I do see the sloppy rattan work on the hilts of the Madrid specimens.

If you look through the variety of swords and other edged weapons shown in the Madrid displays, the Machete Filappino is a distinct oddity, with its fat-bellied blade, a hilt with square cross-section (as opposed to round, octagonal or hexagonal) and a bifid, full-tang hilt construction. There is nothing else that remotely resembles this combination of features. This suggests to me that this machete is not primarily of Philippine origin. I would suggest that it is at least based on a style imported from elsewhere by the Spaniards (perhaps Central or South America where the fat-bellied form of machete has been common, and may have developed originally).

A connection to Spanish America is something I have thought since I first saw these bolos. There was certainly extensive trade between the Philippines and Spanish America, especially Mexico. Indeed, several of the Governors of the Philippines during the Spanish period came from Mexico.

Whatever may have been the origin of what is labeled the Machete Filappino, it seems to have virtually disappeared from the Philippines today, perhaps replaced by what we recognize as modern machetes or by traditional bolos.

There remain some further loose ends for me with respect to the attribution of the original subject of this thread to the Philippines. There is the picture of a very un-Filipino looking man holding a similar bolo, and the cryptic, partly legible inscription. I'm not seeing anything there that would confirm the Philippines, and there is no legible reference to a place or tribal group that would confirm a Philippine origin.

Lastly, despite the substantial experience on this Forum with Philippine edged weapons, including several native Filipinos from various parts of that country, nobody has identified these definitely as Philippine in origin. Nobody is saying, "my grandfather had one hanging on the wall" or "the oldtimers used to cut bananas with these things." With the exception of Federico, there has been a resounding walang wala. Does this mean that none of them have ever seen or heard of anything resembling these bolos in the Philippines?

Those are the reasons I'm still skeptical Mike. Provide some documented answers to my questions and concerns, and I will happily agree with you that these are from the Philippines.


Definition of machete: "Machete" is a Spanish term, and I found three on line references to the defnition of machete.
"1. A large heavy knife with a broad blade, used as a weapon and an implement for cutting vegetation.
[Spanish: diminutive of macho, sledge hammer; alteration of mazo, club, probably from maza, mallet, from Vulgar Latin mattea, mace.]

2. A large heavy knife used in Central and South America as a weapon or for cutting vegetation.
Synonyms: matchet, panga

3. A machete (pronounced muh-shet-ee) is a cleaver-like tool that looks like a very large bread knife. The blade is about 1.5 2.0 feet (0.5 m 0.6 m) long. An English equivalent term is matchet. Since the 1950s, most modern factory made machetes are of very simple construction, consisting of a blade and full length tang punched from a single piece of flat steel plate of uniform thickness (and thus lack a primary grind), and a simple grip of two plates of wood or plastic bolted or rivetted together around the tang. Finally, one side is ground down to an edge - although some are made so cheaply that the purchaser is expected to finish the sharpening. These machetes are usually provided with a simple cord loop as a sort of lanyard, and a canvas scabbard - although in some regions where machetes are commonly used tools, the users may make decorative leather scabbards for them.

The machete is normally used to cut through thick vegetation such as sugar cane or jungle undergrowth (the lack of a primary grind makes the machete much less effective on woody vegetation), but it can also be used as an offensive weapon. Machetes were the primary weapon used by the Interahamwe militias in the Rwandan Genocide. The modern machete is very similar to some forms of the mediaeval falchion (a type of sword), differing mainly in the lack of a guard and a simpler hilt.

A panga (a Swahili word) is a variant used in East Africa, with a broader blade and a squared off tip. In the Philippines, a bolo is a very similar tool, but with the blade swelling just before the tip to make the knife even more tip-heavy for chopping.

Other similar tools include the parang and the golok (from Malaysia and Indonesia), however these tend to have shorter, thicker blades with a primary grind, and are more effective on woody vegetation."

engar 18th February 2005 07:57 PM

Perhaps Engar could be persuaded to ask the museum officials if they have any additional information the next time he visits?
The next week ;)

Its true that exist a very big difference between catalogation in Museo del Ejercito and Museo Antropologico. The Museo del Ejercito have a very bad catalogation, may be they dont have any person specialized on PI weaponry but not in Museo Antropologico. But Im not and expert but it looks like they have no idea about PI weaponry. Anyway they mix weapons from different countries in the same "shield" but always you find very clear the info on the poster (not always correct info, LOL).

A connection to Spanish America is something I have thought since I first saw these bolos. There was certainly extensive trade between the Philippines and Spanish America, especially Mexico. Indeed, several of the Governors of the Philippines during the Spanish period came from Mexico.
Philippines Government depends on Mejico Government during long time.

Excuse my interference on the thread.

Ian 18th February 2005 08:23 PM

Welcome Engar ...
You are not intruding at all. You have actually helped us a lot in our discussions here. I am most grateful for the pictures you have posted. These are very helpful. Please do add your thoughts and comments here also.


Conogre 18th February 2005 08:40 PM

Ouch, ouch ouch!**grin**
Points taken, Ian, although if you look closely at "the sword" on the right in this picture:
I think you'll see that appear to me to be tha same diamond shaped cut outs as are present in the sword I have.
I too saw the saw the khoumiyas and was hesitant to say anything because of that alone, although I do have to admit to being swayed and a little excited (who, me? **grin**) when I saw the 2nd two peaces.
I also see your points in regards to the obvious point that many things became confused with the Philippines being a stop off point between Spanish ships too and from S. America, thus may have been transported from either direction, although I honestly have to say that actually holding one of these, they have absolutely no "machete" feel to them, at least compared to any weapon or tool even vaguely in that category.
I can't speak for Tom's piece, but mine has a hilt that has a similarity in common with many pices from India that I've not seen mentioned (nor that I thought to mention, sorry) in that the hilt is too small for me to hold comfortably in any position, as in most tulwars, while I've not found this to be true with most weapons indigenous to the Philippine Islands....likewise, the hilt on mine is covered with pieces of brass that have been cut, shaped and interlocked to cover the wooden frame, much like a Moroccan flyssa, with one of the museum specimens appearing to be similarly brass covered, even with a projecting tang, as in mine.
Likewise, while the blade is deep and broad-bellied, the tang construction is so weak that, in all honesty, I would expect it to come apart if used as a machete or similar field tool, much like the tangs on the head taking axes would prohibit them form being used to fell trees.
Can I just say that thre's a much stronger POSSIBLITY that these may be of Philippine origin? **grin**
The single strongest indicator, I guess, is that three of them showed up in the same collection (and only two jambiyas **another grin**), with only two that we know of having been run accross in the past 5 years or so.

tom hyle 23rd April 2005 01:52 PM

talibon from Leyte
So I've got this talibon from Leyte. I don't know this by any mysterious nor scholarly powers; it say "Leyte" on the sheath (it says either "AbuyOg LEytE P.I." or "Abuy 09 LEytE P.I." The capitalization is just like that, except the "small" ys and g are written above the line, so they occupy the same space as the capitals (and the u, though it has a tail is giantified to match); thus it seems the way to tell whether that's " '09" or "...og" is to know if there's a district or town on Leyte called Abuy or Abuyog.). It has two features rather similar to this sword. First, the handle is of definitely rectangular cross-section. Second, the sheath is made similarly, with an extra long front piece that forms a long tail beyond the blade cavity, while the back only covers the cavity. The sheath tip also ends by the edges flaring out and being "cut off" by a straight end (though it is angled, rather than perpendicular, as this one seems to have been). It seems old, and the front of handle and sheath are covered in lime-filled carving.

tom hyle 23rd April 2005 03:18 PM

BTW, a bit about the definitions given of machete; they do not (as I suppose one might expect from lexicographers?...) show a good understanding of the proper use and the physics of machete (or perhaps of cutting), in perhaps typical fashion, getting things wrong when trying to go in depth. First, though I find the relation of the name to "mace" very interesting, especially in light of the traditional use of the flat of the machete as bludgeon by police and bosses, machete is not a heavy knife or sword; there are heavy varieties, but it is by and large marked by being a lightweight sword. The old forged ones had distal taper, for all the same reasons as any other sword. The reason it's not good for (heavy) woody vegitation is certainly not that it lacks a primary bevel (which, rather subtly and best seen at the butt of the tang, many old ones do have, anyway); if machete had a high and easily noticed primary bevel/wedge section at the thickness it's at it would have a very fine edge, rather than the heavy one it does have, and chopping wood would just snap its edge out, like a butcher knife (yes, I've seen it; it's sad). No, the reason machete isn't the best for cutting hard woody vegetation (though it will do it for a good long while before the tang finally breaks; seen that, too) is that it is too thin, especially at the base, but also in the cutting area. The increased width often seen toward the tip is not to add weight, as often said; that's incidental; the mass serves another purpose, which is to absorb some of the vibration that can be such a problem, especially with thin swords.
Why is machete thin? :D oh, fun times, explaining that! African influence?(check!) Cheapness (check!) The rise of spring-tempered blades (check!) Origins as a slave tool master didn't want to be too good for fighting (check!) It would really tire you out to use a heavy one all day (check!); lot of use I am there..... :rolleyes:

tom hyle 23rd April 2005 03:26 PM

Wow, I don't think I'll edit that one any more (unless it offends someone and I have to); check it out; I tried to roll my eyes at my own broad net-casting, but the placement worked out just right to roll 'em up at Master's oppressiveness.....I tell youse; it was a total accident, but I really enjoy it though; even the computer can make a joke, I guess.
One other little thing about the word machete; Spanish officials in the 19th and (at least) early 20th used to apply it very broadly and liberally; How 'bout it, Therion; that Spainish military "machete" I swapped you ain't no machete, eh? It's a heavy-ass backsword.....I'd hesitate to use the Spanish term as a designation for this type, though as it's all we have I guess it makes sense. I certainly wouldn't read any thing into it as to the traditional usage of the sword.

Rick 23rd April 2005 04:03 PM

Tom , maybe you're looking at the wrong language for the word root .
Try macerar , Spanish to macerate .

Ian 23rd April 2005 05:28 PM

Thanks Tom ... I think. My eyes are having trouble reading fast enough to keep up with your thoughts. Man, you pack a lot in one paragraph.

How does what you say here mesh with Carter Rila's essay on the machete posted elsewhere on this site?


Originally Posted by tom hyle
The reason it's not good for (heavy) woody vegitation is certainly not that it lacks a primary bevel (which, rather subtly and best seen at the butt of the tang, many old ones do, anyway); if machete had a high and easily noticed primary bevel/wedge section at the thickness it's at it would have a very fine edge, rather than the heavy one it does have, and chopping wood would just snap its edge out, like a butcher knife (yes, I've seen it; it's sad). No, the reason machete isn't the best for cutting hard woody vegetation (though it will do it for a good long while before the tang finally breaks; seen that, too) is that it is too thin, especially at the base, but also in the cutting area. The increased width often seen toward the tip is not to add weight, as often said; that's incidental; the mass serves another purpose, which is to absorb some of the vibration that can be such a problem, especially with thin swords.
Why is machete thin? :D oh, fun times, explaining that! African influence?(check!) Cheapness (check!) The rise of spring-tempered blades (check!) Origins as a slave tool master didn't want to be too good for fighting (check!) It would really tire you out to use a heavy one all day (check!); lot of use I am there..... :rolleyes:

tom hyle 23rd April 2005 07:32 PM

not sure; Carter & I usually agree about machete, but use very different language; he tends to talk about the action of the hand and wrist that produce the proper/true machete cut, while I tend to talk about its result; the way it moves the cutting tip through the.....workpiece? victim? Also, I don't remember if he said anything about the African connection that seems fairly clear to me. It's been a while; I'll re-read.....dang homework :D
Rick; doesn't mace come in under that same etymology somewhere? To chew up or to crush.....that's what I was thinking, anyway.

tom hyle 24th April 2005 02:10 AM

Meshes fairly well, I think. I had forgotten Carters' creditting of American Indian stick use for machete origins. A very good spice to add to the mix :) He does also mention the more usually heard lineage through the "sailors' cutlass" and other european hangers, including dual use types like langenmesser (commonly called grossmesser; props to Therion for diseminating the more correct form, or at least he says so, and he's probably right, but I don't know how the argument goes.....cutlace, cuttoe, there was a Spanish version, too; a dual-use soldiers' and peasants' landclearing sword with a curved blade and wide tip, but I forget the name; I think Museum Rep.s once had a copy for sale). It is worth noting that machetes are said to be commonly called "cutlass" in the Caribean region.
The resemblance to butchering knives is A/intentional, as there has always been a somewhat legalistic claim that machete (as with many large European peasant knives) is a knife, rather than a sword; ie nonviolent ( so strong and persistent is this custom that N American men still regularly tell me "That's not a sword; that's a machete!" Yeah, and that's not a mammal, it's a dog.....the women [of course?] more usually know that they don't know..... ), and B/ only pertains to the overall view of the sword, and the handle design, but certainly the cross-section is different in that machete, even when it does have a slight full height bevel, has a thick, heavy, relatively obtusely angled edge for strength against battering, compared to a butchering knife's thin, fine, acute edge for slashing/slicing.
Carter also mentions the way the term seems to be much more broadly applied and to heavier implements in Spain than in at least N America.
I don't think he's right about machete costeno of the Acapulco region being a post wwII phenomenon. This is the "yelman" machete; also known, I am told, as "cuchilla del costa" or (West) coast knife. We've all seen the engraved ones, I guess, with the saddle scabbards and the eagle pommels, that are so very similar to US machetes of the early 20th, and though production of the horn handled distal tapered, full height bevel machete seems to have gone on longer in Mexico than US, many of them seem quite old. I've an old farmery one, with a different (zoomorphic?) type pommel. The two native ones (I've another with a possibly reshaped Robert Mole blade) that I have both have typical hotstruck Spanish colonial maker's marks; name (personal? family? town?) or initials, as seen on Luzon bolos as well, while the engraving is a later cold process, and this seems typical of Mexican and Spanish colonial work in general? I had a nice little "bowie" though, where there was only engraving "Vivan los Herdez" Herdez is a family name; not sure maker or owner......otherwise it's more often sometimes the other way; hotstruck mark but no engraving, or else both.
We're pretty well on the same page it seems as to the role played by the rise of cheap modern spring tempered carbon steel in the rise of this thin, light sword, which lacks stiffness when softer, though one does encounter softer ones, as well.

tom hyle 24th April 2005 06:52 AM

Leyte has an official website with a map. Abuyog is on the East coast. There is a town called Kananga in the interior, for whatever that might mean.

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