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Old 2nd September 2006, 04:34 PM   #1
katana
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Default Female warriors of Africa

During a search for African tribal 'battle tactics' I found this article on female warriors, there are references to other continents ...but I found the article on African females very interesting......the Hausa, Dahomey, the Congo ...to name a few....all had warrior queens at some time or other.
Were edged weapons made specifically for woman.....ceremonial or functional.....or were swords etc. 'adapted' for their use?
I'm not being sexist...I am sure a female warrior could easily wield a 'man's' sword....I was thinking more ...that culturally there might be differences in their weapons.

Link below, scroll down to 'African woman warriors'.......oh by the way....if the picture (under this heading) is typical of a female warrior....armour certainly wasn't a priority .....I think distraction must have been a tactic (OK I suppose that IS sexist)

http://www.fscclub.com/gender/warrior-hist.shtml
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Old 2nd September 2006, 06:08 PM   #2
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Some visitors to Dahomey through out the 19th century mention a special weapon carried by the female warriors. The irrepressible Burton for one, who's observations of the places in Africa he traveled are most often scornful, ridiculing often salacious so really not to be relied upon.

They are said to have carried a weapon that resembled a giant folding cut throat razor. Other than that they were said to use the weapons general to both sexes. This weapon is mentioned by more than one visitor but that does not necessarily mean they actually saw them with thier own eyes. What I find curious is not having seen in any museum, publication or other search such a distinctive titillating weapon, accompanied with tales of emasculation of prisoners. One would imagine this weapon to be iconic of Dahomey female warriors.

A very good book on the subject is "Amazons of Black Sparta" Stanley B Alpern who happens to be an American.

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Old 2nd September 2006, 07:31 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
emasculation





Thanks Tim, it sounds as if this 'razor' type weapon seems almost 'Navaja' like....perhaps it was considered more 'lady-like' to have a concealed weapon.
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Old 2nd September 2006, 07:44 PM   #4
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E. Chaudoin in "Three months in captivity in Dahomey" describes them as follows in 1891:

"There they are, 4,000 warriors, the 4,000 black virgins of Dahomey, the monarch's bodyguard, motionless in their war garments, with gun and knife in hand, ready to leap forward at the master's signal.

Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to look at. They are as well built as the male warriors and their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, lined up as though against a rope".


According to A. Djivo, in "Guézo, the renovation of Dahomey", some of the women enrolled voluntarily whilst others who had difficult marriages and whose husbands had complained to the king were enrolled forcibly. Military service disciplined them and the strength of character they had shown in marriage could be expressed through military action.


They protected the king on the battlefield and took an active part in the fighting, giving up their life if necessary. Guézo said to them: "When you go to war and if you are taken prisoner you will be sacrificed and your bodies will become food for vultures and hyenas".

They, could neither marry nor have children as long as they were in the army. They were trained for war and, in principle, were dedicated to it for life.


"We are men not women. Those coming back from war without having conquered must die. If we beat a retreat our life is at the king's mercy. Whatever town is to be attacked we must overcome it or we bury ourselves in its ruins. Guézo is the king of kings. As long as he lives we have nothing to fear".

"Guézo has given birth to us again. We are his wives, his daughters, his soldiers. War is our pastime, it clothes and feeds us".

This seasoned army, often drunk with gin, accustomed to suffering and ready to kill without fear for their own lives always fought bravely at the battle-front and urged the troops forward.

In 1894, at the beginning of the war between the troops of General Dodds and the kingdom of Abomey, the army contained about 4,000 amazons divided into three brigades. "They are armed with double-bladed knives and Winchester rifles. These amazons perform wonders of bravery; they come to within 50 feet of our positions to be killed..." (Captain Jouvelet, 1894).

The amazon corps was disbanded by Agoli Agbo, Gbêhanzin's successor, after the defeat of the Abomey kingdom.
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Old 3rd September 2006, 08:24 PM   #5
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Extremely interesting topic, and of considerable interest in recent times as so much attention was caused in issues concerning women in the military and questions on thier effectiveness in combat. In my opinion, and seemingly well supported throughout historical material, women have always been involved in varying degree in many capacities either in or near combat during times of war or martial action and performed with valor. It would not be possible here to go into the countless instances, but with focus on ancient women warriors as well as the later neoclassic incarnations of the African Amazons in Dahomey, I found some interesting notes concerning thier weaponry.

Recalling the outstanding work of Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball Ph.D, who has been key in excavations of Sarmatian graves in Southern Russia, especially those of the women warriors believed to have been the 'Amazons' of the writings of Herodotus, her many articles have described findings in these graves. Interestingly it seems that many graves of the women contained weapons, while many male burials did not. Apparantly the Scythians termed these women 'Oirapata' (=killers of men) while the Greeks used the term 'Amazon (= actually meant loosely 'without husband') despite the other commonly noted etymology.
In "Warrior Women" (2002) Dr, Davis-Kimball notes on p.60, referencing one female Sarmatian grave at Pokravka, "...one in adjacent cemetery had a long iron sword that measured over three feet". It is also noted that in other Sarmatian graves found in the lower Don River region, the female graves often held a long dagger . Further, on p.54 it is noted that"...roughly twenty percent of the Sarmatian warrior graves excavated in the lower Volga region belonged to women, with bows and arrows being the most prevalent weapons".

Concerning the 'Amazons' of Dahomey, it must be conceded that Sir Richard Burton was clearly Anglocentric, and in the many years I have studied his material there are a degree of errors.However overall I think his work displayed reasonably sound observations, especially when discussing weapons. While I do rather doubt that the women warriors were universally supplied with what seems a rather cumbersome weapon such as that described by Burton (1864) in his visit to Dahomey (p.266, Vol.I, "A Mission to Gelele), "...they wielded eighteen inch long razors that folded into wooden handles and were released by a spring".
Professor Robert Edgerton ("The Amazons of Dahomey and the Nature of War",2000) notes on p.30, "...most women soldiers carried a musket, a short sword, a knife or a wooden club in a waistband".

It would seem that women warriors in these instances used weapons in use at the time without any particular alignment to thier gender, and according to prevailing order of combat. The Burton reference however does make note to the 'razors' saying that "...these latter weapons each weighing about twenty pounds were invented by one of King Gezos brothers for the Amazons use". Now that notation does sound suspect, so that instance of a weapon exclusively designed for these women is indeed questionable....especially the weight! If there was such a weapon, it sounds like the King was really putting one on to impress Burton.

Similar data was found in "Women Warriors:A History", by David E. Jones (1997).

Incidentally, the authors of the three books I have cited are all Americans

All the best,
Jim
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Old 4th September 2006, 03:03 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
During a search for African tribal 'battle tactics' I found this article on female warriors, there are references to other continents ...but I found the article on African females very interesting......the Hausa, Dahomey, the Congo ...to name a few....all had warrior queens at some time or other.
Were edged weapons made specifically for woman.....ceremonial or functional.....or were swords etc. 'adapted' for their use?
I'm not being sexist...I am sure a female warrior could easily wield a 'man's' sword....I was thinking more ...that culturally there might be differences in their weapons.

Link below, scroll down to 'African woman warriors'.......oh by the way....if the picture (under this heading) is typical of a female warrior....armour certainly wasn't a priority .....I think distraction must have been a tactic (OK I suppose that IS sexist)

http://www.fscclub.com/gender/warrior-hist.shtml


I do not know whether this is just sexist or a representation of the classical Freudian term " vagina dentata" ( toothed vagina): this is supposed to symbolize male castration anxiety. Don't blame me for this rubbish: old Sigmund had rather peculiar patients in Vienna......
From time to time one hears a plaintive thought that if only women were in charge of the world, we would have been living in a peaceful paradise. Somehow, these dreamers forget that some of the most aggressive and vicious rulers were women: Catherine the Great, Queen Jezebel, Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar( Mrs. Thatcher? ).
In the Strong's book on African weapons, he reproduces a British cartoon of female Dahomey warriors: ugly, ape-like hags. In fact, they were most likely quite ordinary looking and many were rather lovely. Men just could not deal with the idea that a "killing" woman might be sexually attractive at the same time. Only recently, comics and movies introduced an idea of a gorgeous "warrior princess". Took us several centuries to begin dealing with the "kinder, kirchen, kuchen" idea where women belong and with Freudian mumbo-jumbo.
Way to go, girls!
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Old 7th September 2006, 01:28 PM   #7
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Default Images from Spring's African Arms and Armor

page 62



page 63
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Old 8th September 2006, 01:13 AM   #8
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Yup, that's the one
The one above is frightening: lovely girl with a dreamy expression , carrying severed head with such nonchalance.....
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Old 8th September 2006, 12:45 PM   #9
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Found some more images ...both dated circa 19 c........the bladed weapon at her waist (first image) ...has anyone any pictures of this type of weapon? Or can it be ID, thankyou.

Ah, Ariel..... the decapitating of prisoners was very common.....almost a right of conquest / status. I get the impression that Chanel handbags were fairly scarce ....so to 'accessorise' ......heads were the next best thing

(Sorry.....another sexist remark....but I am only joking.....I truely have the upmost respect for any warrior....male or female)
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Old 8th September 2006, 05:58 PM   #10
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Some high level diplomacy no doubt.

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