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Old 24th November 2021, 06:55 PM   #1
drac2k
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Default A Most Unusual Axe;Prestige, Dance or Souvenir Piece?iece

I recently got this with a group of other axes and this one has me a little mystified. The blade and the furnishments are aluminum with some small brass embellishments. It is clearly not a tool or a weapon so that only leaves the choices of a prestige piece, a dance item, or a souvenir.
It is very nicely made and if it hadn't come with a group of African items, I might have thought that it could possibly have other origins.
Any insight would be appreciated.
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Old 25th November 2021, 05:12 PM   #2
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Measurements?
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Old 25th November 2021, 06:42 PM   #3
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16" tall & the blade is 5" wide,6" long, & very thin.
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Old 25th November 2021, 08:13 PM   #4
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I think its a fairly recent African dance axe, probably from West Africa somewhere. I'll see if I can find out more.
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Old 25th November 2021, 08:25 PM   #5
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Something similar here from a previous auction, described as African style axes... the same one ??
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Old 25th November 2021, 11:25 PM   #6
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I think Colin is correct that the axe in the OP is the same as in the auction picture. Attached is a composite graphic of the two. Taking into account differences in the backgrounds, angle at which the item has been photographed, etc., these two look very similar even though the auction picture is blurry at this magnification. Note particularly the similarity in rub markings at the end of the handle, caused by a missing thong. It appears that the OP came from a lot of similar African-like examples made with woodworking equipment that was used to turn the handles, rather than them being hand carved.

It's possible that the axes shown in the auction picture were made within the traditional cultures using modern tools and methods. However, those axes appear to be based on several different tribal examples, which makes them more likely to come from a single, non-traditional source.

I think the OP and the other axes in the auction picture are likely purely decorative pieces and made for sale outside the traditional cultures. The thinness of the OP blade is evidence that these were non-functional and purely for decorative purposes.


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Old 26th November 2021, 06:31 AM   #7
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You guys are spot on the money; it is the same axe from that lot.
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Old 27th November 2021, 03:08 AM   #8
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I might add that the 2nd example on the bottom left is a pretty good older example of what I believe to be a Songye axe & while I agree that the 2 figural axes are probable tourist grade, you can find similar examples from, Christie's etc. claiming them to be Luba Status Axes.
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Old 27th November 2021, 03:34 AM   #9
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It is a Recade, ceremonial axe of the Fon people from Benin. King's messengers carried them across the country and proclaimed king's orders. Recade was their mark of authority: their word was king's word.
A very similar arrangement was a golden Paiza, a square medallion given to the messengers of Chinghiz Khan. Everybody was obligated to assist them in any way, shape or form, they had a priority on fresh horses, ahead of everybody else, including military commanders and princes and disobedience to them carried death punishment.
Their closest contemporary analogue is the credentialising paper presented by a new ambassador to the local Foreign Minister. However, fresh horses are not included in the ceremony,

Aluminum implies 20 century, however Dahomey ( former and current Benin) is still a monarchy and who knows whether local kings rely on Recades more than on cell phones.

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Old 27th November 2021, 10:03 AM   #10
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I think Ariel is right: at the "Petit Musée de la Recade" in Cotonou there is an object very similar to yours on display (https://www.lespharaons.com/2020/01/...re-28-sceptres -royaux-du-dahomey-remis-au-benin-ce-vendredi /)
These are very particular objects, a thread on them would be interesting, even if they are not exactly "weapons" in the strict sense.
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Old 27th November 2021, 01:04 PM   #11
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WOW, Gentlemen; the "power," of the "Forum," strikes again!Thanks for the info.
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Old 27th November 2021, 05:17 PM   #12
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I have now noticed a curious detail that can be seen in the blade of the ax (recade) and which is almost always present in a very particular weapon (it is called "beidana") that was distinctive of the Waldensians of the Piedmontese valleys: the hole in a heart shape. Obviously there can be no link between the two blades!
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Old 28th November 2021, 02:37 AM   #13
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I'm not so certain that isn't within the realm of possibilities, given the extensive reach of the powerful navies of Genoa & Venice in the Middle Ages; a trade blade so valued that it was copied does not seem improbable. Even though mine is of the 20th century, I'm sure that when planes rained from the skies in WW2, aluminum was probably a more sought-after commodity than copper or brass.
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Old 28th November 2021, 06:28 AM   #14
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Napoleon III gave sets of aluminum dinnerware to his most important guests.

Less than 100 years later aluminum forks and spoons were a cheap component of pre-packaged field chow for the front line soldiers.
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Old 29th November 2021, 11:03 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
I'm not so certain that isn't within the realm of possibilities, given the extensive reach of the powerful navies of Genoa & Venice in the Middle Ages; a trade blade so valued that it was copied does not seem improbable.
Well, I don't think so ... first of all, the beidana was a weapon (like almost all "poor" weapons) derived from a work tool, a billhook, simply by forging the much longer blade, but always of scarce blades quality it was, and then the valleys in which the Waldensian Protestants had taken refuge to avoid the persecutions of the Counter-Reformation were hardly accessible places, certainly not open to trade over long distances.
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Old 29th November 2021, 03:44 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
I'm not so certain that isn't within the realm of possibilities, given the extensive reach of the powerful navies of Genoa & Venice in the Middle Ages; a trade blade so valued that it was copied does not seem improbable. Even though mine is of the 20th century, I'm sure that when planes rained from the skies in WW2, aluminum was probably a more sought-after commodity than copper or brass.
AFAIK, neither Waldensians nor Genoese/Venetian traders ever reached Dahomey. IMHO, we are faced with a classical case of parallel development.
Central European Kords ( Bauernwehrs) and Afghani Khybers carry identical blades. Sardinian Leppas and Bedouin Saifs have identical handles. Simple decorative elements such as circles are seen on Balkan and Afghani weapons. And so forth.

Last edited by ariel; 29th November 2021 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 29th November 2021, 06:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drac2k View Post
Even though mine is of the 20th century, I'm sure that when planes rained from the skies in WW2, aluminum was probably a more sought-after commodity than copper or brass.
Downed planes were an important source of aluminum for SE Asia natives.
To the best of my knowledge Dahomey was never bombed during WW2.
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Old 29th November 2021, 06:47 PM   #18
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Sorry for not being more clear; I meant Africa in general and not specifically Dahomey. If not a plane, then maybe a canteen or a mess tin from an Axis or Allied soldier. If copper and brass can be traded as currency, then why not aluminum? I was just speculating.
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