Tuareg Dagger (Niger)

Code:  AN13

This is a knife from the Tuareg, a nomadic tribe of Niger.  I was lucky enough to obtain this item from a former Peace Corp volunteer who spent over a year with the Tuareg.  In addition to the very small population of Tuareg, they only trade with other tribes.  None of their artifacts are sold for money, and therefore very rarely does an authentic Tuareg item make it to Western commercial markets.

The blade on this knife is 7 3/4 inches, a total length of just under 13 inches including hilt and scabbard.  It is said that some of the early Tuareg knives and swords were made with blades from European swords that were captured during the Crusades.

The Tuareg weaponry is usually exceptionally detailed, and this knife is an excellent example.  The hilt and scabbard are decorated with multiple metals, including brass, copper, silver, as well as horn.  Each piece is beautifully embossed with intricate patterns.  In addition, the hilt itself is made of a fine dark leather, tooled with geometrical designs, and then with added metal ornamentation. Tuareg knives are treasured for their decorative craftsmanship and rarity.  Most, if not all, Tuarg men carry such a knife as par of their “formal” attire. Although functional, the knives are more important as personal adornment.

Tuareg weaponry was originally created to protect their caravans.  Because caravans could not carry very large amounts across the vast deserts of Niger, Libya, elsewhere they roamed, there was a limit to how much a caravan could safely hold.  Thus, the Tuareg specialize in luxury goods such as gold, silver, and in the past, slaves.  It was also through their trading that they gained access to the rich metals found in their jewelry, artwork, and weaponry.

Read more about the Tuareg tribe of Northern Africa.