Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/91

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
83
THE GENESIS OF THE SWORD.

slight forward curvature of the blade, a feature which is heightened in the Goorkha knife, the owner of which, it is said, can decapitate an ox with one blow of it (Fig. 32). Some of the Eastern swords, as those of the Chinese, the Bashi-Bazouk or Circassian dagger, with its blade resembling the Roman gladius, and the Mahratta sword, are straight, like the Western weapons.

The ornamentation of all these weapons is very frequently only the survival of the methods by which the blades were fixed to their hilts, which was generally by thongs or rivets. Thus the Malay creese (Fig. 33) and the tulwar (Fig. 34) are made clearly to indicate the way in which the blade was originally lashed with cords to the hilt.

The sword does not rank so highly with savage nations as the spear

PSM V21 D091 Asiatic curved swords and surviving methods of attachment.jpg
Asiatic Curved Swords. Survivals of Methods of Attachment.

or club, and belongs to a higher civilization than that which is satisfied with hand-to-hand weapons of stone. But the development of the club into the sword is easily traceable, though the ultimate resultant is far inferior to the metal blades of even the bronze age. Figs. 35 to 41 show the successive steps. The New Zealand club (Fig. 35); the Indian collaree-stick (Fig. 36), often used as a missile; the Iroquois club (Figs. 37, 38), rendered good for piercing or cutting as well by a deer-horn point at first, and by an iron blade later on; the Marquesas (Fig. 39) or Tahiti cutting instrument, armed with sharks' teeth; the. Esquimau or Australian sword (Fig. 40), in which strips of meteoric iron, obsidian, or glass are inserted in a cleft in the side of a stick; and fastened by cement; and, lastly, the Mexican maquahuilt (Fig. 41), or wooden sword, armed with sharp, razor-like flakes of obsidian, are the progressive steps of savage life toward the sword. The last-mentioned weapon was deadly enough to be ranked with its iron compeer, for it is said to have been capable of cutting off a limb. In this respect it is the highest type of a sword of other materials than metal.

Of all weapons, the sword has held throughout historic time the