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Mervyn Mitton


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Brett  -  you have found some nice pieces for your son's collection.   The spoon - used for Maas - may be a more modern

copy.  However, the shape looks fine.  (For those overseas Maas is a local yoghourt)

Coming to the weapons  -  the knobkerry has a waisted top  -  this is usually from the early part of the 20th. C.  The longer

stick is an Iqhabanga  -  or, Kraal stick of office for a chief.  Obviously could be used as a weapon, but really more status.

The running shape cut out around the body dates it to about 1906  -  they started to do this to their spear shafts.


The first Assegai or Umkhonto  is a hunting spear for large buck.  The binding is a cow's tail - peeled off and then slid over

the shaft.  This may be a replacement  -  but like medal ribbon, they were meant to be re-placed when worn.  Very good

blade with correct pincer marks and it has age.


The next is an Isiphapha or throwing spear.  There are only two 'Battle'  spears  -  the Iklwa and the Isiphapha. Both names

are onomatopaedic , or the sounds they make. Iklwa for when it is pulled from the body and Isiphapha for the noise it makes

when in the air.    This has the Ilala palm woven binding.  The shaft has had damage to the base at some time and has had

the end cut away  -  this is why it is a little shorter.   This is common damage and does not detract from the value.  The last

spear shows how tthe end would have looked.


Finally, the last spear.  This is an exceptional weapon.  I would judge the blade to be approx. 18" long (50cm) - which is quite

rare - and that doesn't include the neck of the head.  The shaft is a lovely local wood - well shaped and with the correct end.

The only reservation I have is that the binding is mine fuse wire.   However, we have to bear in mind that most Zulu men were

working in the mines - and when they returned weapons had to be repaired to start killing each other.  So, minewire is

acceptable, but not correct.   From the photo I think the spear is old and original in condition - apart from the binding .  This

could easily date to the 19th C.


Hope this helps.   Best wishes   Mervyn

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Thank you for a most helpful reply to my request for assistance.  My son will also be delighted and I will forward your reply to him this evening.


Our elderly Zulu char saw the artefacts a few days ago.  She was unhappy about the assegais, perhaps remembering the Inkatha/ANC troubles in the early 1990's, when she and her family lost their home at Molweni.  She was, however, delighted to see the maas spoon.  She remembers her father using a similar spoon to ladle maas into the family's putu pot.




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            This is the 1879 Martini Henry Rifle  -  single shot , lever action -   used at the Battle.

            It fired a lead bullet  -  a 450/577 size.


I am afraid that I have to disagree that this model Martini Henry was used either at Isandlwana or during the Zulu War.  This illustration is of the Mk.IV, otherwise known as the "Long Lever". These were produced in three versions from 1887, the first two being conversions of the .402 Enfield Martini. Although often found in South Africa the Mk.IVl has no Zulu War connection.  The Martini rifles of the Zulu War would have been the Mk.I, Mk.I upgrades and some Mk.IIs. 

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Hi -terrylee.  Thakyou for your reply.  You are obviously an expert in this field and I accept what you say.  I

wanted to show the 1879 model and specifically looked for this  -  the photo and explanation stated that it was

the model I was looking for.   I will not change it at this time  -  it will give readers the general style and shape  

of a Martini Henry.   However, should you have a correct picture you could send me, then I will substitute.

Many thanks.   Mervyn

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terrylee  has kindly sent me the correct picture for the 1879 Martini Henry.  I will change them over.   He has also

sent me the complete range of Martini Henry variations , with captions.   This I will post under our Firearms Forum,

lower down on the pages.   This won't happen immediately , but I will post here to let you know when it is completed.

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This Staff has often been associated for use in Kraals to show status.  This example belongs to British

friends and the wife has started to collect Zulu items.   She has been very fortunate with this piece,  as

the staff actually represents very high status  -  possibly a Member of the King's Council.


I will show below an example found in King Cetshwayo's hut and the write-up will explain how it was

found in 1879.

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We have recently had the official opening of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Parliament.   The King -

Goodwill Zwelethini was there , together with the Provincial Prime Minister - and of course guards ,

with buttonholes.





This is a close-up of his uniform.  All the medals have the same ribbons  -  they are past kings.

The  "KZG" is new  -  we think it stands for KwaZulu Government.  This is a wrong statement as

the word Natal is part of the title.

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Both the King and the President are Polygamous  -  I am not sure how many the King has  -  here are

the three  who attended the ceremony.










                                                That's a whole Leopard .....

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                               Just to show there are younger girls in traditional costume  &  cellphones.........

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SUNDAY  2nd.   August   2015

This post ran into some problems during the changeover.  Over the next week I will add some new material  -  please ignore the dates in the title.


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  • Blog Comments

    • Thanks for your reply Patrick, just in case some might not know what the Belgian WW1 Medal you were referencing looks like I have included one here. I understand that the small crown on the ribbon denoted the recipient was a volunteer.  
    • Brian, Thanks for initiating this discussion. For me, it’s a combination of the thrill of the chase, the history behind the item, and the aesthetics, although this latter factor may seem a bit strange to some. To illustrate this, the very first thing I collected as a kid in the 1950’s was a Belgian WW1 medal, for service in 1914-18, which is bell shaped, with a very striking profile of a very dignified soldier, wearing an Adrian helmet which bears a laurel wreath. It was the image that
    • Thank you for sharing your story, it was most interesting and greatly appreciated, it makes this blog well worth the time to post. Regards Brian  
    • Hello I started collecting when I found my first Mauser cartridges in a field next to my parents' house next to Armentières. I was eight years old.  Then shrapnel, schrapnell balls, darts... That's how I became a historian. When I was 18, we used to walk through the fields with a metal detector to find our happiness. It was my time in the army as a research-writer in a research centre that made me love the orders of chivalry. I've been collecting them for 24 years now. Christophe
    • Thank you for your most interesting comment. The thrill of the chase didn't interest me in the beginning but over time it started to overshadow the act of simply adding yet another medal or group to the collection. Regards Brian  
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