EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
I think that in looking at these two 'cutlasses' which are distinctly with the curved 'hook' type tip blades with Dahomean character, and notably incongruent 'Mende' style hilts, we consider the dramatic diffusion knwn in these regions.
The Mende (of Sierra Leone) as well as the well known slave coast 'capital' of Ouidah (in Dahomey, now Benin) were among the littoral of West Africa which comprised this thousand miles of 'slave coast'. This region was still quite active in the mid 1900s, so movement of influences seem reasonable.
It is interesting that the 'sandwich' type element of the blades is a well known element often seen on the blades of West African takouba in Saharan regions, and it has been noted that the Mende hilt style has been known to be mounted with kaskara type blades.
This reflects diffusion of even more dramatic distances, which are well established in trade route networking over considerable periods. Then factor in tribal diffusion, warfare, and even religious influences transmitting these characteristics and feasibility is seen.
These curious blade shapes are indeed representative of Fon type blades of Dahomey, and these are often known as gubasa, but in nearby Ghana similar swords are 'ada', and the Fon were in other contiguous regions as well.
What is most interesting is that these blades are solid, and seemingly of functional character rather than the ceremonially decorated examples of these swords usually well embellished with pierced cutouts and extraneous features atop the blade back etc.