2012/08/31

Exotic ancient weapons: (V) Shark tooth weapons

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Try to recall how you imagined "Friday" and the other savages when you read "Robinson Crusoe".
Half 100% naked as on the painting on the right, probably?

Well, warriors of the Pacific Ocean were a lot more awesome, that's for sure.


For starters, there's a simply awesome weapon, better than a horror movie author could imagine it: The shark tooth sword.

Iron, tin and copper, Obsidian and even flint stones were unavailable on the Pacific Islands, but one sharp,  hard object was available in abundance: Teeth. Shark teeth were best-suited for a slashing weapon, obviously.

Voilà, the shark tooth sword!
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No really, these things exist and were in use!

There were apparently kinda Nagamaki-like shark tooth 'lances' or rather polearms  ("Trunun"?), Macuahuitl-like shark tooth swords ("Tetoanfa"?), shark tooth short swords/clubs and finally shark tooth-armed gauntlets.

The longer weapons are most awesome in my opinion.

I may begin to sound a bit as the obnoxious "Future weapons!!!" guy, but I think this topic is really close to what by genetic design men are programmed to think is awesome.

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A vicious slashing weapon such as a shark tooth sword does of course provoke a countermeasure. We're seeing countermeasures everywhere in mankind's warfare, so there had to be one on those Pacific islands as well. Again, few materials were available - no iron, no tin and copper, no silk, no leather, few large bones, poor wood - one thing was available in abundance, though: Coconuts.
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Last year I bought one for Christmas time. That thing was really tough, I finally resorted to using an electric borer to create two holes in order to get the liquid out of it. The primary idea was to eat the white stuff, though. To open this tough (pseudo-)nut was tough. Finally, I left the house and decided to simply throw it at the wall (this worked). Obviously, I never cared to learn how others open these tough things in a more civilized manner.

The toughness of the shell stems in large part from the fibres embedded in the shell. They're quite durable and decompose very slowly. They were apparently fine enough for woven armour - armour unlike most if not all types of armour used elsewhere.

Sword, knife and vest source

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Oh, there was another thing available in abundance: Fish. Guess what, you can make a helmet out of some porcupine fish. Again, no kidding!

So there it is; a fully equipped warrior from the Gilbert Islands.

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Obviously, a couple images say more than a thousand words, so I did largely shut up this time. I gotta say that this kind of equipment is really interesting, though. Humans really, really go inventive and to great lengths in order to have an advantage over others when it comes to deadly violence (or to at least not be disadvantaged).

Btw, elsewhere I found the words "Tebutje" and "Pacho" as designations of a shark tooth sword and a shorter shark tooth sword. Both sound rather Spanish to me, so I guess it's not indigenous language.



The other "exotic weapons" posts can be found under the label Exotic (on the left side of the blog).



P.S.: I have absolutely no idea why everyone calls them "shark tooth" weapons instead of "shark teeth" weapons.
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1 comment:

  1. Dear Sven,

    textile armour and slashing weapons with sharp protruding objects are a global phenomena. A real military revolution would have been to create a stabbing tip for these shark weapons because the man with that weapon would have been vastly superior. Look at Aztek warfare for comparison how close these systems are with these swords being more in the range of zweihänder, flamberge, than sword and rotella/buckler.

    Kurt

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