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Old 30th June 2010, 05:27 PM   #1
Devadatta
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Default Is that a Hadendoa

Hello gentlemen,

Look at this photo, it was taken in Somalia as the source states, however I found this man and his dagger very similar to Sudanese Fuzzy-Wuzzy, what do you think?

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Old 30th June 2010, 07:08 PM   #2
stephen wood
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...yes, it looks like a Beja Dagger. The stick in his hair is a Beja custon I think.
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Old 1st July 2010, 05:42 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Interesting photo, and the individual does appear to be Beja, which could be one of a number of tribal groups, including Hadendoa. The Beja (pronounced bay'za) are often nomadic and while normally in Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea, surely entered Somalia also.

The hair (=tiffa in thier language), especially the Hadendoa (hada=lion; diwa=clan) is the source for the nickname 'fuzzy wuzzy' immortalized in the Kipling poem, in which the British soldier notably respects these fierce warriors, "..a first class fightin' man". The butter matted, frizzed hair seems to have been also worn in degree among the other Beja tribes as well.

The dagger, which only the hilt can be seen, would be hard to specify whether Hadendoa or other Beja, as the blade form seems to have been varying. I was once told by a Beja man that the curious hooked blade often on these similarly hilted daggers were actually Afar. The 'X' shaped type hilt in highly stylized anthromorphic form was typical on these Beja daggers of varying blade type.
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Old 1st July 2010, 07:17 PM   #4
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Jim,

Do you think the use of "Hadendoa" to describe this form of dagger is etymologically incorrect? I'll be the first to admit I've always identified this stylized anthropomorphic hilt as a "Hadendoa" dagger without consideration to the larger sphere of tribal identity with whom this type of knife was/is associated.

Was it the historical role of the Hadendoa (in support of the Madhi I presume) that resulted in this association? I read somewhere the Hadendoa would sever the tendons of British horses using these daggers...

Anyway, here's a couple photos of my own example. Aside from the blade form, I think I found a distinction in the treatment of the top of the hilt with the double-notches that repeat on either side:
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Old 2nd July 2010, 04:22 PM   #5
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Default Hadendoa Daggers, used by Nara people too!!!

Nice Pictures! I have a few of these daggers myself, but I can't post the pics because I am traveling at the moment. I have also one example with the same double notches as the pic posted above.

Here is a link to a youtube video I found depicting 'ceremonial' use of a variation of these sorts of daggers. It is attributed to the Nara people of Eritrea who look alot like Beja to me. A fascinating video, with spears, shields, swords, and daggers and interaction between males and females. The dagger is shown between 3:00 and 4:00... Please post your observations and opinions on this video and these really cool daggers.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 05:12 PM   #6
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This style of knife is probably carried by a few different tribes in that region much like the jambiya in Yemen and parts of Saudi Arabia. Here are a few more versions of this dagger.
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Last edited by Lew; 2nd July 2010 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 07:59 PM   #7
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Excellent examples guys!!!
Actually it is hard to say what is technically correct in classifying these obviously very familiar 'X' handled daggers, which are apparantly worn as an accoutrement in the manner of khanjars or jambiyya in Oman or Yemen, as noted by Spring.
The ethnographic term Beja is of course broadly applied to a number of tribal groups, with the Hadendoa being one of them. As explained to me by the individual I spoke with some years ago, the Hadendoa, though mostly associated with Sudan, were well emplaced in Eritrea as well. He noted that he was also Beja, but I have forgotten what tribal denomination.

The Hadendoa became the most widely known tribal entity through the Mahdist revolts and British campaigns, particularly through the writings of Kipling and the now immortalized term 'fuzzy wuzzies', which referred primarily to them. It was thier association to these type daggers, among thier other weapons, which popularized the term Hadendoa in describing them.
Naturally, in most cases, popularized descriptions typically do not get down to 'hair splitting' detail (no pun intended) in tribal definition as far as the actual weapon classification, so Hadendoa is probably OK as collective description. As previously noted, these 'X' hilts seem used widely by Beja tribal groups in many regions, and it seems it would be difficult to make specific classification, though the variations in blade shape offer obvious temptation.

What I described with regard to the blade shape would be classified at this point as purely anecdotal, in which the Beja man from Eritrea told me that the 'hooked' shape blades were actually Afar (in the Danakil regions) and were not Hadendoa. It would be interesting to pursue that statement further, but I have not done so.

I have always considered these 'X' shapes as 'anthromorphic' from the Indian chilanum types of this form, which seem to have a distant connection to the ancient Celtic hilt forms described as such in Oakeshott and others. There were of course ancient trade connections between these cultures.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 08:15 PM   #8
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Unfortunatelly I have no beja-dagger in my collection, still I'm planning to purchase a few.

But I have a theory that this kind of shape came from arabs, since this region always had relations with Southern Arabia and in fact the blade of the curved one and the manner of wearing looks pretty similar to jambiya. And handle could become X-shaped already in Africa, because also being wide from both ends it reminds me of arabic jambiyas
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Old 2nd July 2010, 08:55 PM   #9
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And by the way I found such an interesting piece in Oriental arms "sold" list: a beja-dagger with yemeni-style scabbard

http://oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=2791
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Old 2nd July 2010, 09:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Devadatta
Unfortunatelly I have no beja-dagger in my collection, still I'm planning to purchase a few.

But I have a theory that this kind of shape came from arabs, since this region always had relations with Southern Arabia and in fact the blade of the curved one and the manner of wearing looks pretty similar to jambiya. And handle could become X-shaped already in Africa, because also being wide from both ends it reminds me of arabic jambiyas

Well placed observation, the Arabs were a profound influence as thier trade from India's coasts and to Africas east coasts from Zanzibar into the Red Sea were the link between the influences I mentioned. The Celtic influence via the Indo-European movements into the subcontinent had emplaced there, with the Arab trade carrying it westward.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 09:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stephen wood
...yes, it looks like a Beja Dagger. The stick in his hair is a Beja custon I think.
Actually the stick in the hair was there for a very practical reason, for scratching the scalp through the profuse mane of hair.

Just another addendum, in Fischer & Zirngible, the X hilt dagger is shown with the hooked point as Hadendoa (Beni Amer). The Beni Amer were of course one of the number of Hadendoa tribes. In retrospect, I am wondering if the Afar reference made by the gentleman I mentioned concerning these type blades might have meant 'seen in Afar regions', in which case those carrying them might have been Beni Amer.

Just wanted to add what I can to make this thread more useful for the readers

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 3rd July 2010 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 8th July 2010, 10:54 PM   #12
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...those are amulets on his arm - I once saw a kaskara with them attached to the scabbard.
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Old 13th February 2012, 09:59 PM   #13
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Default Info from an old boy.

I know this is a dormant/dead thread, but didn't know where else relevant to post it. I recently came into possession of a Sudanese arm dagger, no scabbard alas, that needed a bit of repair, and so scoured the forums here for info.
While surfing through all the posts on these, I remembered a conversation I had 36 years ago with a very old boy called Max, who had been an assistant district commissioner in the Sudan in the 1920's. Among other things he said that the extreme curve on one style of knife was to facilitate its use to cut forage for camels. The knife would be tied to a shaft of some sort and used to cut/hook foliage from trees. He had many stories of his time out there and was happy to share them. Long gone now alas, and his anecdotes with him.
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Old 14th February 2012, 04:22 PM   #14
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David, thank you so much for adding this valuable information! That is outstanding to know on these curious hooked blades and perfectly explains why these unusual features often are seen on some of these weapons. I think often there is a inherent tendancy to always try to imagine the combat uses of ethnographic weapons, but we forget the also very important utility uses for them as well.
Well done! and thank you again. I always hope others reading will add these kinds of information to these threads as they are indeed resources for all of us and those who will follow.

All the very best,
Jim
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Old 14th February 2012, 04:48 PM   #15
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And I have just finished uploading the linked pictures in this thread to the database for posterity and continuity .
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