EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Great example! and I completely agree...I'm often fascinated to the point of obsession in studying markings and symbolism, and admit that often my imagination runs away a bit. However, sometimes marks are done crudely by individuals who are not artisans and unskilled with tools or items used as tools. No matter how crude, something added deliberately most likely had a meaning or purpose for the individual applying it.
In looking at the marks on this piece, I can see certain similarity, though obviously interpretive, of some European blade markings. In one case, the semicircle and dots, as we have discussed, look like the smith was recalling these marks from some trade or European blade he had seen. With heavy trade, colonial and slaving activity in these regions, it would not be surprising, but added in motif this way, what might the meaning be?
It seems to me that in Africa, symbolism and totems applied to tribal groups as a whole rather than to specific individuals, unless of course a tribal leader or ranking individual and obviously royalty. I realize that there are likely various exceptions to this of which I am unaware at this point, and I always look forward to hearing more from those with more detailed information.
I am inclined to think that even free styled motif, in the African tribal culture, would likely carry inherent symbolism or meaning, otherwise why would it be applied. Every day weapons were intended for practical use, and the ceremonial or symbolic weapons were obviously for that purpose and decorated accordingly. Perhaps, in his own simplistic way, even the most rank and file warrior must have wanted to imbue his own weapon with the power and meanings of those of his leaders, and did so crudely by his own hand.
With very best regards,