Guduf Sword

Guduf sword, similar to a takouba

Code AC13

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This sword is typical of the Guduf (Gudupe), a small tribe of the Fali people residing near to lake Chad along the border of northeastern Nigeria and Chad. Likely late 19th or early 20th century. The Guduf, Fali and a number of other groups are broadly and collectively referred to as “Kirdi”, meaning pagan. Some Fali groups have become muslim and wear traditional islamic dress. The Guduf are distinguished from other neighboring Kirdi tribes by their colorful clothing and beads. Many tribes objected to domination by the Bornu and Hausa emirates, and later the Fulani (Fulbe), the dominant ethnic group in North Central Africa. During conflict in the 1800’s many tribes including the Guduf fled to the Mandara Mountains, hills and valleys. It is a defensible terrain and so provides some protection from slavers. This is an isolated region with significan iron ore deposits. Mandara became a center of weapon and tool manufacture that further attracted other tribes and as a result of this intertribal contact it served as a locus for the spread of weapon designs.

Map highlighting regions near Lake Chad

The Guduf sword is related to the takouba, but it has unique features that make it very interesting to find in a region where the takouba is much more common. The blade is steel, flat on one side and undecorated. This side reveals the blade to be a simple welding of a central core billet with another steel of broader width. This is typically done to take advantage of properties such as flexibility or durability of different steels in different parts of the blade. The result is prominent mid-rib on the other side. The blade is strongly beveled with a half-chisel grind. The sharpened edges show cuts and other steel-on-steel damage. The blade shape is symmetrical on each edge. The spade-like spatulate tip is sharpened and the sharpening continues on both sides for slightly more than one half of the blade’s length. The area of the blade 2/3rds of the length from the hilt flares equally along both edges for 1/3, then narrowing to a smaller width than nearest the hilt. Twin fullers are found along each edge, crudely chiseled, are the only decoration. There are no stamps or other markings

The blade is firmly mounted with the hilt. Overall, the sword is quite stiff. There is very little if any flexibility.

The hilt is horn, a variegated darkish green. The cross guard is also of the same horn. The pommel is a deeply tarnished metal circular cap, bent over the horn and hammered tight. A bulge in the center of the pommel shows the end of the tang, hammer flat.

The scabbard is of more recent manufacture, leather over wood in a common utilitarian form.