African, Central Africa
Overall: 69 x 11 x 3 cm (27 3/16 x 4 5/16 x 1 3/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Metal, wood, snakeskin
Not On View
Iron knives, swords, and other weapons are more than armaments; they are powerful symbols of prestige and authority. Many weapons are intricately adorned with abstract geometric patterns, figurative elements, western-made objects, and copper accents, all of which are intended to increase the status of the object’s owner. In addition to the functional and ceremonial aspects of African weaponry, iron blades were excellent trade items that could function as currency.
Because use of the throwing knife was so widespread, there exists a great deal of stylistic diversity among throwing weapons. This throwing knife has a heavy blade and wrapped metal handle, indicating that it may have been used for decoration or to intimidate the enemy. A blade of this size would not make an accurate throwing weapon.
Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)
Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart