Turkana wrist-knife

Turkana wrist-knife

Traditional Turkana weapons, which were used as much to protect their herds as to raid neighbouring tribes for theirs, included an eight foot long spear, bow and arrow, a bludgeon made from wood, ivory or bone, iron wrist knives and finger knives, and a shield made from buffalo, giraffe, or hippo hide. The wrist-knife is the most infamous of the lot, at least in terms of its spine-chilling appearance, and is unique - in Kenya at least - to the Turkana (various related peoples in southern Sudan also carry them). The blade is sheathed with two bands of goat skin leather, one on the inside to protect the wrist on which it is worn like a bracelet, and one on the outside. The outer band has steel and copper ends. Formerly used in close combat and in fights among the Turkana (it was taboo to kill a fellow Turkana with a spear), the wrist-knife's usefulness is gradually being made redundant by automatic rifles such as the AK-47.

Credit: photo copyright © Jens Finke, 1998.

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