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David Cooper




Location: UK
Joined: 27 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Fri 24 Nov, 2017 9:57 am    Post subject: Mambeli Sickle Sword         Reply with quote

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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The journey not the destination
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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PostPosted: Fri 24 Nov, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks like Boa or Zande.

Much more polished than many I see (my Congo swords, some of which you can see in http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32885 are pretty black).

The hole is common, but not universal. Some types of sickle swords can have multiple holes there. On a few examples, I've seen the holes filled with copper or brass. I haven't heard of any claims of functional use for the holes.

The blade geometry, especially the Z-section, helps keep the weight down while maintaining stiffness. Z-section is fairly common in African spearheads.

There are ways to try to test iron vs steel, but the easy methods are (a) uncertain, since they're tests of hardness and elastic limit (e.g., hardness-testing files, flex tests), and damaging or potentially damaging, or (b) destructive (e.g., colour of sparks from grinding). Less easy methods (e.g., x-ray diffraction, x-ray spectroscopy, neutron diffraction) need rather more secialised equipment.

I don't know the origin of the term "mambele". AFAIK, it's more often used for multi-bladed throwing knives than these sickle swords.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
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Posts: 2,256

PostPosted: Fri 24 Nov, 2017 7:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That would make for one heck of a challenge on 'Forged in Fire'! Big Grin .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Geoffroy Gautier





Joined: 18 Nov 2009

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Sat 25 Nov, 2017 4:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am in contact with someone from southern Congo, who brings back weapons from there once in a while (but he's asking a bit too much). He doesn't call it "weapons", but "currencies", and apparently they aren't thought of as weapons, but only as a trading/exchange medium (in the context of weddings, from what I could grasp). Even when I called it "weapons", he insisted to still call it "currencies", so it's really saying something. I believe it's iron too, which isn't at all of an issue if its use is as a currency, and oftentimes the blade are quite thin. I think it's mostly to make the largest, most impressive looking weapon with a given amount of material. The Z cross section makes it stiffer, probably cause no one wants something that feels flimsy.
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David Cooper




Location: UK
Joined: 27 Apr 2008
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PostPosted: Sat 25 Nov, 2017 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Geoffroy
You can hit me with a £5 note as often as you like. Hit me with one of these and it is going to HURT Big Grin

The journey not the destination
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 25 Nov, 2017 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congo/West African swords are multi-functional. They can be weapons, regalia, ritual objects, cult objects, magic items, demonstrations of wealth, and currency. These are not mutually exclusive.

The traditional use as currency was as bride-price, but in some places, they also became everyday currency. Other forms of iron currency are spearheads (often ornate and oversized, some up to 6 feet long), ornate hoes, and iron bars/plates. Other iron items, like non-ornate hoes, knives, etc. were traded, but were mostly used as tools, rather than for trade. I think that what makes the currency swords "currency" is standardised size and form, standardised value (often based on traditional use for bride-price), and swords not being used in fighting regularly (even if carried daily).

In times past, some of these swords were certainly carried as regalia and used as weapons on the battlefield.

If it's modern, and fancy, like African version of spiked and bat-winged fantasy wallhangers, it's probably currency. If it's old and fancy, it's probably regalia. If the blade is copper, then currency or regalia or ritual/cut/magic object. If oversize, then bling and/or currency. If of traditional form and old, it's either a weapon (and part-time currency) or regalia. If of traditional form and modern, currency.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Chris Friede




Location: Austin
Joined: 15 Mar 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Wed 29 Nov, 2017 2:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a martial artist in Austin-Da’mon Stith (spelling) who has a YouTube video on the sickle sword.
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David Cooper




Location: UK
Joined: 27 Apr 2008
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Posts: 110

PostPosted: Wed 29 Nov, 2017 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris, thanks for the YouTube heads up. That led me to a number of videos about these swords, a discussion of one by Skallagrim and various others showing people sparing with these types of sword. It seems many do regard them as functional weapons.
The journey not the destination
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Chris Friede




Location: Austin
Joined: 15 Mar 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Thu 30 Nov, 2017 12:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You're welcome. He's local to Austin, TX...teaches capoeira as well as edged weapon fighting. Fun stuff. Seems a lot of the saber/shamshir techniques that play off the false edge could work.
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