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Ghana, Asante

Ceremonial sword

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Object Details

Culture

Ghana, Asante

Medium

Iron and wood

Dimensions

41 x 7 x 3 1/2 inches (104.1 x 17.8 x 8.9 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of William W. Brill

Object
Number

91.001.013

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONCeremonial swords such as this one were not used in combat, but were part of the ex(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONCeremonial swords such as this one were not used in combat, but were part of the extensive regalia of both chiefs (omanhene) and the king (asantehene) of the Asante.WHERE WAS IT MADE?This sword was made in Ghana, in West Africa.HOW WAS IT MADE?The blade of this sword was forged from iron by a blacksmith. He may also have carved the hilt from wood; blacksmiths in many African cultures have been responsible both for making wood working tools (such as knives, chisels, and adzes) and for making objects with these tools.The hilt of this sword split at some point. This may explain why the hilt lacks gold leaf. Asante ceremonial sword hilts typically receive a covering of gold. Until recently, goldsmiths attached the gold leaf with staples after skillfully hammering out a gram of gold into a sheet several inches square. Now, Asante craftsmen use industrially produced gold leaf and affix the gold with glue. HOW WAS IT USED?Despite the impressive size of the blade, swords of this type have long been strictly ceremonial in Ghana. Both chiefs (omanhene) and the king (asantehene) control through their offices a considerable amount of cast gold and gold-covered regalia. Boys or young men serve as sword bearers; they grasp the swords by the ornamental, but fairly dull, iron blades. Holding them thus allows the handle or hilt to be free of dirt, oils, and wear.

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