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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Micronesian Swords and Armour Reply to topic
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Jan Svejkovsky




Location: San Diego
Joined: 04 Oct 2007

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Sat 04 Apr, 2009 10:17 am    Post subject: Micronesian Swords and Armour         Reply with quote

Greetings!

My wife and I just got back from an adventure trip in Micronesia, equatorial Pacific. I am attaching some photos from a museum in Koror, Palau that I thought would be of interest. Most weapons in Micronesian islands historically consisted of wooden axes/clubs and spears. However, on the islands of Kiribati the warriors developed actual swords using shark teeth to make the double sided blades, and also body armour from very tightly woven fibre that could stop a spear. Curiously, they also made helmets from preserved blow-fish skins. I don't see much obvious benefit from the spiky helmets unless the warrior actually bashed his head into the opponent, but the rest of the gear appears very functional and must have been ominous to other tribes.

The black and white photos are from circa 1900, shortly after more frequent contact began between european expeditions and the islanders - so this garb was genuine. I find it very interesting how many functional similarities exist between early european and japanese arms and armour and the Micronesian inventions which were obviously conceived independently...



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Kiribati Warrior1.jpg


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Micronesian Swords.jpg


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Kiribati Warriors2.jpg

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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,427

PostPosted: Sat 04 Apr, 2009 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Estate of Robert Louis Stevenson had some armour from Kiribati that used to be on display. I'm not sure whether it still is.
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Danny Grigg





Joined: 17 Sep 2004

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Posts: 337

PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2009 3:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Take a look at the following from the Pitt Rivers Museum:

http://webprojects.prm.ox.ac.uk/arms-and-armo...1941.2.74/
http://webprojects.prm.ox.ac.uk/arms-and-armo...884.32.31/

Danny
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Carl Goff




Location: Florida
Joined: 27 Sep 2005
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 196

PostPosted: Mon 06 Apr, 2009 9:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, thanks!

I've always loved this style of sword.

Oh, East of sands and sunlit gulf, your blood is thin, your gods are few;
You could not break the Northern wolf and now the wolf has turned on you.
The fires that light the coasts of Spain fling shadows on the Eastern strand.
Master, your slave has come again with torch and axe in his right hand!
-Robert E. Howard
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Reading list: 3 books

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Posts: 1,435

PostPosted: Tue 07 Apr, 2009 8:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not much on the hat, but that polearm looks mighty vicious.

M.

This space for rent or lease.
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Tue 07 Apr, 2009 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Its probably just the angle of the shot but those swords look like the blade is 90 to the handle. The second sword really looks that way.
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Jan Svejkovsky




Location: San Diego
Joined: 04 Oct 2007

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Tue 07 Apr, 2009 4:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You are right, Joel, about the grip vs. "blade" orientation - they're at 90 degrees. I didn't really notice this in the museum. Apparently, the main goal of using the sword was to disembowel your opponent or cut a major artery near the elbow. So with that in mind the handle positioning kinda makes sense - for the shark teeth to do their job one needs to not only do a cut maneuver but also a slicing motion at the same time. Perhaps such slashing is easier with the grip at 90 degrees?

By the way, the middle sword's blade is the bill from a sawfish. I've seen some bills on my travels but have never seen an actual live (or dead) sawfish. The spikes on the bill are very hard and sharp.
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Carl Goff




Location: Florida
Joined: 27 Sep 2005
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 196

PostPosted: Wed 08 Apr, 2009 7:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jan Svejkovsky wrote:

By the way, the middle sword's blade is the bill from a sawfish. I've seen some bills on my travels but have never seen an actual live (or dead) sawfish. The spikes on the bill are very hard and sharp.


I should have spotted that myself.

Given that a sawfish uses its bill as a sort of natural sword to attack prey, it's not terribly surprising that someone had the idea to keep a bill and put a hilt on it. Very little effort.

Oh, East of sands and sunlit gulf, your blood is thin, your gods are few;
You could not break the Northern wolf and now the wolf has turned on you.
The fires that light the coasts of Spain fling shadows on the Eastern strand.
Master, your slave has come again with torch and axe in his right hand!
-Robert E. Howard
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