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Old 24th November 2017, 01:09 PM   #1
RobertGuy
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Default Mambele Sickle Sword

Up for view and comments is what I believe to be a Mambeli Sickle Sword from the Northern Congo. I have also seen these described as Mambele, so not sure which is right or if the spellings are interchangeable.

Description:
Single-edged extremely curved sword with double-edged portion to the tip. Blade is sharpened on the inner surface of the curve. Wooden handle wrapped in copper strip. Some crude line detailing near the hilt and at the point where double-edged blade begins. Decorated hole at the rear of double-edged portion. Cresent shaped protrusion near hilt which is for a strap to be attached. (new strap in place)

Stats:
Weight: 1lb 2oz (0.51kg)
Length overall: 30'' (76cm) Blade: 26.5'' (67cm) Measured from tip across the arc of the blade. 8'' (20.5 cm) double edged portion.
POB: 10.5'' (27cm) from hilt
Profile taper 1.11'' (28.3.3mm) for most of the blade, 1.96'' (50mm)at the start of the double-edged portion.
Distal taper 0.2'' (5.2mm) for most of the blade. Unusual blade geometry means final 8'' is 0.16'' (4.2mm) at its thickest.

I have seen reports that these blades ( or some examples thereof) may be iron rather than steel. Is there any way of checking apart from bending the blade to see how easily it takes a set? I have mentioned the unusual blade profile and have tried to illustrate it by the diagram. This blade is anything but a nice lenticular cross section. Does any body know the purpose of the hole in the blade? Decoration?, for a hanging hook?, ceremonial?, steel termites?
As ever all comments and information welcomed.
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Old 24th November 2017, 02:23 PM   #2
Roland_M
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Hello,

looks like a Zande people sickle sword.
It was original developed from a throwing iron.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zande_people

It was used as a throwing weapon (?) and as a sword, which is able to attack the enemy behind his shield, as with a Shamshir or flail.


Roland
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Old 25th November 2017, 12:15 PM   #3
ariel
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I used to wonder, why ( with literally a couple of exceptions) do sub-Saharan African swords have such peculiar forms that render their fighting function almost non-existent?
They look more like some schizophrenic Kandinski’s drawings rather than weapons. In contrast, their hunting weapons were pretty conventional and, though often primitive, properly functional.

The only explanation I could invent was that their concept of war was on a plane different from the rest of the world. But how exactly, is still a mystery to me....

Anybody knows?
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Old 25th November 2017, 01:01 PM   #4
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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I read somewhere that a lot of African weapons originated in agricultural tools..

you can access the pdf at http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~tcrndfu/IWAA/Blench.pdf

Quote"Although the last few years have seen considerable advances in African archaeobotany and a broader picture
of the evolution of African agriculture from the point of view of crop remains is now available, our understanding of the techniques of that agriculture remains poor. Although Africa has a rich diversity of agricultural tools, these are known principally from synchronic descriptions rather than excavation. Material culture studies, at least from the point of view of classification and distribution are largely discouraged and it is no accident that the only monograph on this subject was written in German by Baumann in 1944 and
remains little-known. Despite this, the majority of African farmers still use traditional tools, and have them repaired by village blacksmiths. From this, it is possible to recover evidence for their names, construction
and use. This paper attempts a preliminary survey of the tools in use, their classification and the hypotheses that can be suggested concerning their evolution and development."Unquote.

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 25th November 2017 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 25th November 2017, 01:57 PM   #5
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I could not find even a hint of such assertion in this paper, but if you indeed read it somewhere, I (just like you) doubt its veracity. Weapons, no matter how simple, always come first: one needs to defend himself and his family against predators ( animal and human) as a prerequisite for planting turnips. And then he will need weapons to protect his turnips :-) Agriculture is a relatively late occupation of a settled society.

Nomads of Asia had splendid weapons without ever planting a single cabbage patch. Some Chinese martial arts weapons did indeed stem from agricultural implements ( “ fighting hoe”, “ fighting shovel” etc) but those are mostly used by Shaolin monks in the Friday night Kung Fu movie marathons:-)

African sword-like objects are so convoluted and so decorative, that their descent from their horrendously primitive and ( barely) functional agricultural tools and/or fully functional hunting implements seems to be impossible and presupposes some magical or artistic background.
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Old 25th November 2017, 03:24 PM   #6
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I tend to agree but as I was cutting the 15 feet tall grass in my garden the link sprang to mind... Agri-hand tools to weapons... It wasn't until I had fully read the blurb that I realized it was likely the other way around although it seemed linkable in the scythe tool I was using to some curved sword blades. I suppose the axe is possibly linked but it is just natural development of the blade from one use to another and nothing to write home about... Except for the horrible tall grass I still haven't fully cleared as small pockets of resistance remain.
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Old 25th November 2017, 04:32 PM   #7
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There is information on these swords deep in the archive. If I remember correctly there is historic information that the use of this particular form was in a more formalised type of fighting. A code base form of combat is common to many cultures where actual death may may not be the ultimate aim.
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Old 25th November 2017, 07:37 PM   #8
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Not all sub-Saharan African swords have have peculiar forms which render their fighting funcions. I think this is not matter of African Horn, East Africa, Sahel, South Africa. Such weapons come usually or mostly from the West and Central Africa (BTW - very often from the regions, wher they also used various ceremonial items like masks, statues). Why - I don´t know. (But - in any case through the whole continent they used diverse styles of very effective spears...)
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Old 25th November 2017, 07:46 PM   #9
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Following this with interest and the general idea that these might not have been terribly effective as weapons. I had a suggestion from another forum that swords such as these are primarily used as currency. Anyone heard of this?
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Old 25th November 2017, 08:22 PM   #10
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Yes - ceremonial blades were used as a currency (e.g abnormally big spear blades).

Besides this there were "status" swords, but I am not sure if this is the case this long Zande sickles.

This blades are long and not too much thick, made of a relatively soft iron at the same time (you can bend it down easily) - I am of the opinion, that it was not effective weapon (maybe Zande had some special fighting tactics or fioghting art ...?!?). I could not be too much effective even for stabbing from behind.
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Old 25th November 2017, 08:28 PM   #11
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Sorry for the keying mistakes --- not me, but it could not be effective for stabbing ...
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Old 25th November 2017, 10:00 PM   #12
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Many of the sickle swords had the function of going around the enormous shields of the various peoples of the region. Eventually, they became status symbols. Some of the heavier Ngombe/Ngbandi ones were even used as executioner's swords I believe.
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Old 26th November 2017, 01:41 AM   #13
Timo Nieminen
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I used to wonder, why ( with literally a couple of exceptions) do sub-Saharan African swords have such peculiar forms that render their fighting function almost non-existent?


I would have put it the other way around, that most sub-Saharan swords are effective fighting weapons, while a few are peculiar to the point of little function.

The non-functional ones are often regalia or currency.

The functional ones appear to me to be dominant in terms of numbers, at least among old weapons. While they might be distinctive in form, a thin sharp-edged blade of reasonable size and weight can be a very effective close-combat weapon on the battlefield where most soldiers wear little or no armour (and often little clothing, too).

As a broad categorisation of the functional swords, we have
  • Broad short swords. Won't be as effective as a Roman gladius against clothing, but will be very effective cutters (not that the gladius was a poor cutter), and will do major damage with thrusts due to the width of the blade. Some of these swords are approximately of the same size and weight as a Roman gladius, and others are shorter and lighter.
  • Hand-held spearheads. Swords with blades similar in form to spearheads. Effective thrusting weapons, and many will be effective cutters.
  • Sickle/hook-shaped swords. This will let the wielder reach around a shield, and will deliver a blow with the deadliness of a thrust with a cutting/chopping action (perhaps a compromise solution to the cut vs thrust debate?).

I think that the distinctive designs used by different groups/peoples might help identification on the battlefield - an item of military uniform as well as a weapon.
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Old 26th November 2017, 10:27 AM   #14
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Sorry, double post!
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Old 26th November 2017, 10:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesS
Many of the sickle swords had the function of going around the enormous shields of the various peoples of the region.


This is exactly what I read somewhere, this "swords" was used to pull down the enemys shields. But I don't know if this is correct.
In "panga na visu" it's written on page 132 that this knives are from the Ngombe, Doko, Poto, Budja and Ngbandi and called bero or mambeli.
Here is an interesting video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTgmxKjY--c

Regards,
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