EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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.