Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
These are well thought out and well stated observations and most interesting looking back at the discussions linked. In looking back at some of the notes made by Burton in his 1884 "Book of the Sword", he described the shotel or Abyssinian sword as a pretty much useless 'gigantic sickle'. Well known as profoundly Anglocentric and a skilled swordsman, he noted "....such a weapon never belonged to a race of swordsmen" (p.163).
Turning to Christopher Spring, "African Arms & Armor" (1993) , the author describes the ',..western obsession with explaining form by function in the study of African weapons". Here he notes many forms of course and some of the notions and consternation created by writers centered on stories of native savagery and the variety of blades as exotic means of inflicting injury (p.84).
There is attention to the 'sickle' type swords such as the mambele of the Azande of northwest Zaire where J.Vansina ("Paths in the Rain Forests", 1990) describes them as being used to '...hook aside the shields of opponents to make way for fatal spear thrusts".
It seems that the 'shotel' (described by that term by Pearce, 1831) being noted in Spring (p.98) is also claimed to be for hooking over the shield, but having a deeply parabolic double edged blade.
While Spring notes that there is some sort of data available in certain cases of explaining the forms of some African weapons, he notes that the problem with the hooked shield idea is that the warrior would have to drop his own shield to make the spear thrust while also using the sword. I am not sure if the handles in the shield would allow the forearm to hold the shield as well as spear etc.
Still, many of the other analysis of other forms, become almost fanciful in some cases. The most likely explanation for many of the weapons look to the potential as parade weapons and prestige oriented.
It seems that each form must evaluated individually to come to reliable theories, and there will be variations in accord with different tribes who share similar forms.