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Old 24th March 2020, 07:02 PM   #1
CharlesS's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Greenville, NC
Posts: 1,730
Default A Fine and Fascinating SE African YAO Dagger

Fellow member and friend, Rsword, introduced me to the Yao dagger, and when I first saw one I would have sworn it was SE Asian until learning more about them.

When you look at it you could potentially imagine a dha/daab dagger, but the scabbard would not match a dha dagger, nor does the blade. The hilt's bolster looks like it would be comfortable on an Islamic kard dagger. The blade has the look of a Bhutanese or Nepalese profile, minus the central fuller. The hanger ring is silver and looks like it could be part of an Arabian jambiya. Indeed, only the tooled leather scabbard might make one consider its African origin.

So why such a confluence of multicultural features on a dagger of African origin???

The answer I think is pretty simple. The Yao originally lived on the southeastern corner of Lake Malawi. They were among the first sub-Saharan Africans on Africa's southeastern coast to trade directly with the Arab world when the Arab traders began to settle and work that coast. The Yao profited hugely form this trade, creating several large and wealthy kingdoms. Their key trading commodities were ivory, grains, and slaves. The power and wealth of the Arab trader's and their "mirror to the world" made quite an impression on the Yao kings and chieftains, and they rapidly converted to Islam, an act that was soon followed by most of the Yao, though their native traditions would never be completely snuffed out by Islam.

I believe this dagger is a fine example of the multiculturalism of that trade. While we will likely never be able to specifically point to how each element of the dagger was incorporated by the Yao, or if, perhaps, they were trade knives, but I think just one look at the dagger allows us to generalize about the dagger's multiculturalism where we lack facts.

Enjoy, and comments are welcomed.

Overall length: 15in.
Blade length: 7.5in.
Blade width: 1.25in.
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Last edited by CharlesS : 24th March 2020 at 08:02 PM.
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