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Old 15th October 2009, 10:15 AM   #1
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Default [Time] Kenyan Tribes Wage a War With Bows and Arrows

Original Time magazine photo essay is here. The captions of the pics below are:
Maasai warriors clash with members of the Kalenjin tribe on a hill overlooking the Olmelil Valley. The battles have been taking place daily and follow codified, age-old traditions.

A Kikuyu girl stands between two warriors armed with bows and arrows. Though political rivals Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga have established an uneasy truce, the violence inspired by the allegedly rigged election between them continues in the form of long festering land disputes.

The fights, which begin around dawn each day, are rarely interrupted by police.

Over 20 people have died in the fighting. This man, a Maasai shot in the face on the hill overlooking Olmelil Valley, survived.

The Maasai man is treated at a clinic in the town of Kilgoris.

A Maasai craftsmen holds freshly made arrows. The tips are made from re-fashioned 4-inch nails.

A Maasai man gives his fellow tribesmen instructions before they face members of the Kalenjin. The daily battles last several hours and are waged from a distance, with very few warriors engaging in close combat.

During the post-election violence, the tribes discovered that the bow and arrow was a more deadly alternative than the machete. "Before this conflict, arrows were mainly used for activities such as hunting," says a policeman interviewed by Agence France Presse. "This is obviously something very wrong and very new."

Says one Kalenjin, "Here, we believe in fighting on a battlefield. We don't go at night to attack. It's no good."

In addition to the bow and arrow, some of the warriors have adopted the slingshot.

A Maasai warrior returns to his village after fighting. "Nobody can remain at home doing nothing," says one warrior. "You have to go. One day, instead of going to church, everybody went fighting."
Looks to me that this a good scheme to wage an armed conflict ...
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Last edited by migueldiaz : 15th October 2009 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 15th October 2009, 10:28 AM   #2
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More pics from this website.

A forum where the topic was discussed has this comment:
We discussed this in an anthropology class I took in college. It is a real fight for land, but it's also very formal and traditional affair. A time and place is agreed upon by both sides beforehand. Only traditional weapons like bows and arrows, spears, and slings (one can be seen here can be used. In a way it is like a sport... where some of the players die).

As I understand, the skirmishes ends when the head of one of the tribes decides too many of his men have been injured or killed, sends out a call, and his tribe leave the field. The other side then celebrates over winning the fight, as opposed to chasing down the retreating tribe and slaughtering everyone. It's relatively civil as far as warfare goes.
If I recall correctly, isn't this the same scheme that the ancient Greek city-states used? That is, the warring factions will decide meet one afternoon in a field, engage in battle, and then at a certain point a winner is proclaimed or something like that?
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Old 15th October 2009, 03:59 PM   #3
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Rather scary.
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Old 15th October 2009, 04:51 PM   #4
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Looks to me like something that should be sorted out by chasing a rolling cheese downhill then getting pissed afterwards.
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Old 15th October 2009, 06:58 PM   #5
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Better than doing it with AK-47s or shotguns, is my vote.

On a straight-up ethnographic weapons note, did any of you notice that we have (apparently) a new type of bow here?

That first picture shows bows with short, stiff staves--perhaps one was originally a chair leg? The spring power comes from the springs (!) attached to the bowstring. Not all the bows have that, and I'll be that's why the arrow embedded in someone's cheek instead of going all the way through. Short bows like they've made probably aren't pulling more than 10-20 pounds, and a 50 pound pull is the legal minimum for hunting deer in the US.

Still, that re-purposing of springs (from a car?) to power a bow is a new one on me.

Very interesting, at least technically.


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Old 16th October 2009, 01:40 AM   #6
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War is war... beautiful and deadly...

I notice a lot of the stuff seems made from scrapped materials.. for example arrowheads made from nails... the Atayal tribe in Taiwan still makes arrowheads this way... but it's more for show, preserving old ways, and the occasional hunting and fishing trip.... and the practice of recycling truck springs for blades... etc.etc.

I wonder when they say that the bow was only used for hunting... and that it was found to be a more deadly than the machete... Does that mean that the traditional spear-based warfare shifted to machetes (when Imperialistic powers made those widely available) only become a bow-based fighting style?
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