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Old 10th September 2006, 05:57 PM   #1
ausjulius
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Default steel and iron weaponry of the american natives.........

ok , this one has realy been bugging me for some time..

along time ago while flipping through a book on native americans i came across a chapter on native metal work....
anyway one section caught my eye.. it was about iron ,and particulary steel weaponry and armor of a group of indians along the west coast of canada,

anyway from the pictures they showed the weaponry was rather sophisticated,, short dagger like . swords, and daggers and long knives, aswell as some armor and helmets,,,
the swords had a blade like the eairly roman daggers with a wedge shape , and were with many fullers,, the pommels of the swords had a spike proturding about 5 cm or so,, , the helmets had some sort of visor,,
it even showed sketched of the techniques used by the indians when fighting,...

is said the mijority of these bades were made form hardened steel of an unknown origin , as the blades were encountered when the english traders arrived,, there was a presumption they may have receved the ability from russian traders or others coming from the russian far east......???

anyway they were no simple knives shown, some had very intercate fullers in the blades , and the handles were very decorated....
i recall in the text it stated the natives developed in the 19th centuary a strange cult.. someting by the name of potash.. or something quite like the spelling..
which involved the destroying of ones possessions ,around the trading of some copper plates, which were viewed , by the local to have great value,...

anyway,, ive realy not been able to find anything on this...... nothing atall,
did i imagine it all?? can any of you people enlighten me on this topic???
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Old 10th September 2006, 07:29 PM   #2
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just tryed invain again , the best i could find was a book:
Native North American Armor, Shields, and Fortifications,

no metion of metal weaponry,, .......
this is driving me nuts, i remember the book even had a good selection of fotos.. and stated that many exsamples were preserved in canadian museams today... along with severla of the copper plated traded by the natives.........????
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Old 10th September 2006, 09:01 PM   #3
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Hi Ausjulius,

Try searching under "Tlingit", you should be able to find some information. Also there is some information in Swords and Hilt Weapons by Barnes and Noble. Chapter 16 deals with pre-conquest America.
Hope this gets you started.

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Old 11th September 2006, 02:19 AM   #4
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I am unaware of any Native American steel or iron weapons predating the arrival of Europeans (16th century). By that time, the majority of Native American technology was stone-age, with the noteable exception of Tlingit copper-working in the Pacific Northwest.

A nice book is Colin F. Taylor's, Native American Weapons, Salamander Books, Ltd., United Kingdom (2001) ISBN 0-8061-3346-5.
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Old 11th September 2006, 05:22 AM   #5
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hi "Tlingit" might be it...... anyway i remember the swords were quitly complicated... at the base of the blade where the fullers began the formed a face or pattern , looking quite alot like the pacific islanders tattoos,,, looked like it was forged into the blade....... andway i recall that the writer specualted the origins of the native metal working were russian , or were brought from some parts of siberia or russias far east colonies... which makes sence as the natives in the east all had the ability to work steel,, and were many times froced to work for the russians in the americas
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Old 11th September 2006, 07:04 AM   #6
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http://www.alaskanativeartists.com/t...body_armor.htm

seems somebody is making reproductions of theTlingit body armor,.....

Potlatch was the term i remember now....... but none of the Tlingit look as the knives i saw pictures....
if i recall correctly the daggers were more as a kindjal,, and had a secound blade on the pommel, as on some african daggers and swords..
they also had multi fullered blades........

anyone seen anything like this????????? .....
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Old 11th September 2006, 01:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ausjulius
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anyone seen anything like this????????? .....

Yes. Tlingit.

If possible, check out the book I mentioned above.
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Old 11th September 2006, 02:29 PM   #8
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thanks i shall.. but there isnt mant book shops around here... ill keep an eye out.....
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Old 11th September 2006, 02:34 PM   #9
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yup , thats it , i recognise the knif eon the cover ........
n ow makes me wounder where they got the skills to make these with such complicated blades........
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Old 11th September 2006, 05:03 PM   #10
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Tlinglits were working copper on their own, as were some people around the Great Lakes area, around the Carribean, and in the Andes. I have heard that in northern N America (current USA and Canada) the mining was primarily or solely in the Great Lakes Region. Tlinglit (etc.; the technology is not unique, AFAIK, to one tribe of the region) daggers tend to be midribbed, and fairly sophisticated in their detailing and finishing, and I've certainly seen iron/steel ones, and had presumed them to be 18th/19th C. Of course, as time and research go on it grows increasingly hard to deny pre-Columbus (etc.) contacts between peoples previously considered as isolated/seperated. "Vikings" in N America are cetainly no longer considered a romantic fiction, and much earlier European incursions are probably well indicated, for instance.
The Tlinglit body armour is remarkably similar to a medieval European armour known as a coat of plates. I'm not suggesting a direct relation; Tlinglits (etc.) are quite far from Europe; near (as pointed out) to Siberia, and these are far from the only two armours to fit in this category of resemblance; form following function, perhaps. Just an interesting comparison, is all.
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Old 11th September 2006, 05:28 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew
I am unaware of any Native American steel or iron weapons predating the arrival of Europeans (16th century). By that time, the majority of Native American technology was stone-age, with the noteable exception of Tlingit copper-working in the Pacific Northwest.

A nice book is Colin F. Taylor's, Native American Weapons, Salamander Books, Ltd., United Kingdom (2001) ISBN 0-8061-3346-5.
I agree with Andrew. Most of what people think of Native American weapons, in particuliar the tomahawk where in fact trade items. Ditto for their knives. Most auctions that deal with Native American artifacts never mention steel weapons. A case inpoint that was in a thread here recently was a knife and sheath from ebay, the knife was not even mentioned. What was for sale was the beadwork decorated sheath. My main intrests are in ancient metallurgy, so it would be nice if the US had a history of it, but so far I have not found any.
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Old 11th September 2006, 06:25 PM   #12
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Many steel bladed NW Coast knives were made of the traded Russian steel or even made of work out files. Again, as mentioned earlier, these were of the 19th century period. You can also look at older Sotheby's and Butterfield's auctions for these examples.
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Old 11th September 2006, 07:09 PM   #13
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Perhaps this is more of what you are looking for. It is one of two daggers made of meteoric ore and is said to go back 10 generations. I believe it is currently in the hands of Harold Jacobs, a Tlingit cultural specialist whose family had been the caretakers of this piece for some time. It was recently returned to his tribe by a museum.The dagger, called Keet Gwalaa (Killer whale dagger) is 27" in length. The copper binding the hilt is on very tight. It appears to be made in two pieces joined at the hilt.
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Old 11th September 2006, 07:23 PM   #14
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Copper weapons were at one time in use in pre Colombian North America. In forms unlike Central and South Americas. Okay it is not iron or steel, but I think it is odd that this metallurgy and often exquisite metalwork is so over looked. I have mentioned this book before "Miskwabik, Metal of Ritual, Metallurgy in Precontact Eastern North America" Amelia M. Trevelyan, The University press Of Kentucky. A little academic but not too challenging for the general reader, though I shall not try and quote from it. There is mention of tools and weapons, axes and adzes being large and heavy. I will also avoid the debate as to where this metallurgy originates from. Personally I see no reason why it is not home grown. As metal work was well established I also cannot see why this practice would not easily adopt the new material iron. Here are some of the interesting pics from the book
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Old 11th September 2006, 07:33 PM   #15
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Here is another Tlingit dagger, this one made of copper. I am afraid i know less about the origins or dating of this one. It seems to many that you can find many Tlingit blades that are trade blades, but i believe the two examples i have posted were actually forged by the Tlingit.
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Old 11th September 2006, 08:31 PM   #16
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This interesting axe is in the Museum Of America, Madrid well worth a visit. Bronze from Peru, with what looks like silver, tin or lead inlay. Bronze implies considerable metallurgy rather than working in copper as bronze is an alloy. So smelting was not an unknown activity. I like the way it mimics a stone axe, I would imagine this was an exceedingly special object, as it is today.
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Old 11th September 2006, 08:55 PM   #17
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This is also from the Americas museum in Madrid. I think this is most interesting as it has the same method of attachment to a halft as the axe I post earlier from Wisconsin except this one is bronze. It is 11cm long and reminds me of axes from South Africa. If one is to work on that well trodden path of like forms means it came from somewhere else. Then Zulu sailors went the long way round, or round the cape of good hope and then cape horn and settled in the Andes . I prefer to think that some objects are universal and the design comes to a mature form that does not alter where ever one comes from.
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Old 11th September 2006, 11:21 PM   #18
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BTW, here's a link to a description of the potlatch. It doesn't involve the destuction of ones possessions, but the giving away of them. Hard to say when the tradition began, but it was banned by both the Canadian and U.S. governments in the late 19th century. That law held in Canada until 1951.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch
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Old 12th September 2006, 05:37 AM   #19
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Apparently the earliest travellers to the northern west coast found both copper and iron in use. Copper most likely was mined and Iron and steel was probably salvaged from ship wrecks and drifting debris. (Coe, Swords and Hilt Weapons Pg.218). I have accumulated a number of photo's over the years, unfortunately I can't remember all their origins. 1) copper blade, 2) Iron blade 3) Russian bayonet, 4) Sheffield trade blade, 5) double blade.

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Old 12th September 2006, 08:52 AM   #20
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The last one, double blade, is simply beautiful!!!!
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Old 13th September 2006, 07:28 AM   #21
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realy very attractive knives,
the blade shapes and handle decoration had a very natural look , i find these far mor eattractive than many other ethnic weaponry,, they have somehow a natural , but brutal look

very nice daggers,

its interesting that they developed their own style different form the blades they obtained,
would you thhink they had been making them for along time , otherwise theyed be much mor einfluenced by the trade blades,

it is also interesting that these seem made fistly for fighting not for hunting or general use,
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Old 13th September 2006, 05:52 PM   #22
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I am of the opinion that certain native nations in the Americas clearly had considerable knowledge and practice with metals. Some of the knives may have been influenced by more general flint and bone daggers. The arrival of iron and steel just adding to the material these artists had to explore. I recently saw a documentary about a type of flint blade found all over the Americas that was only supposed to be in Europe and people were getting pretty hot under the collar about it. Some interesting hypothesis were battled over but no one would consider universality of function and maturity of design.
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Old 14th September 2006, 04:57 AM   #23
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Hi All,

Actually, I think there's one interesting fact that's left out of here:

there were two groups of native Americans who did have iron, although they seldom used it for weapons, other than perhaps harpoon, spear, and arrow tips.

Both the Inuit and the Dorset people who preceeded them used iron that they broke off three large meteorites that were found at Cape York. They cold-hammered the iron pieces into useable shapes. In effect, there was an "Arctic iron age" using stone-age technology.

About a month ago, I finished reading McGhee's Ancient Peoples of the Arctic which is a fun book if you like archeology.

Figured I should throw that in there. A bigger puzzle is why no one in the Andes learned how to use iron, given that it's relatively common in the cordillera.

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Old 15th February 2007, 09:18 PM   #24
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Default Another Tlingit Dagger

Here's another dagger from Angoon. This was isn't as old as the Killer Whale Dagger. This one is called Xoots Gwalaa (Brown Bear Dagger). It has abalone inlay in the eyes. It was returned to the Bear Clan by a museum in 1999.
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Old 19th February 2007, 04:07 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yanyeidi
Here's another dagger from Angoon. This was isn't as old as the Killer Whale Dagger. This one is called Xoots Gwalaa (Brown Bear Dagger). It has abalone inlay in the eyes. It was returned to the Bear Clan by a museum in 1999.
Say, do you suppose if someone had their geneaology mapped out well enough to trace their ancestry back to medeival times, they could start knocking on the doors of some of the European museums with big arms collections and demanding the return of their cultural heritage? "Yeah, I want that billhook, targe, claymore and dirk, they were all looted from my people after Culloden...."
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Old 19th February 2007, 05:05 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FenrisWolf
Say, do you suppose if someone had their geneaology mapped out well enough to trace their ancestry back to medeival times, they could start knocking on the doors of some of the European museums with big arms collections and demanding the return of their cultural heritage? "Yeah, I want that billhook, targe, claymore and dirk, they were all looted from my people after Culloden...."
Well, i would image that would depend upon whether or not the weapon had any deep religious, spiritual, and/or cultural significance to the community (tribe, people, nation) from which it was stolen.
Not as likely with a claymore or a dirk...
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Old 19th February 2007, 05:23 PM   #27
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One might have to be a little more sensitive to these matters when it involves art works from communities that live in the same country/nation rather than trophies from foreign wars. I am not from the give back camp in latter case.
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Old 19th February 2007, 06:31 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FenrisWolf
Say, do you suppose if someone had their geneaology mapped out well enough to trace their ancestry back to medeival times, they could start knocking on the doors of some of the European museums with big arms collections and demanding the return of their cultural heritage? "Yeah, I want that billhook, targe, claymore and dirk, they were all looted from my people after Culloden...."
This is happening in the world of art ; many of WWII's looted paintings are being recovered by their original owners or their descendants.
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Old 19th February 2007, 07:42 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons
One might have to be a little more sensitive to these matters when it involves art works from communities that live in the same country/nation rather than trophies from foreign wars. I am not from the give back camp in latter case.
Tim, daggers like the Brown Bear dagger Yanyeidi shows and the Killer Whale dagger i posted early may very well have been considered "trophies of war" by the Europeans who originally collected them, however these daggers were never meant nor used as weapons of war. They are ritual daggers with deep spiritual significance to their people which i can only image were looted since these daggers would never have been sold or traded to the European invaders. It would indeed be interesting to find out just how they ended up in these museums to begin with. I would not be as quick to advocate giving back battlefield pick-ups to their nation of origin. These daggers fall into a completely different catagory, don't you think? I comment the museums for having the frame of mind to do the right thing in these cases.
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Old 19th February 2007, 07:59 PM   #30
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David I agree with you completely. One thing why these are possibly a little more specially sensitive is that the looters were equally Americans maybe more so than Europeans in this case. The looting of African palaces is not the same as battle field pick ups. I can justify a refusal to give back as I am in the UK and not African. Not terribly pleasant and a bit blunt. The Native American question is a little more difficult, I think?
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