On Prehistoric Names of Weapons

By Hyde Clarke, M.A.I.

[Extracted from Journal of Anthropological Institute, vol. 6 (1877), pp. 142-9.]

The extraordinary way in which weapons are distributed among the ancient and modem races of the world caused me to suggest the desirability of an inquiry into the relations of the names and to publish a note on the connection of a name for arrow between India and Africa, to one has yet followed up the subject, for which the materials are scarce, and have to be collected from works not readily accessible. As an encouragement to research, the following examples are now offered of some names of cutting weapons. Those selected are arrow, or dart, knife, sword, axe, or hatchet, and spear, or lance. Hoe, it is interesting to observe, is allied to axe, just as a celt is employed for both purposes. All these are allied as a group.

Root, BK

ASIA, &c.

AFRICA

N. & S. AMERICA

Arrow—          
Graruug kipi Houssa kebia Itenes (S.) kivo
Knari Naga takaba Goali kawi Alaska (N.) kio
Mru, or Toung       Cabecar (C.) ukawo
     of Burmah qwai     Darien (C.) cheekwa
        Bribri (C.) kaput
Knife—          
    Houssa takobi Skwali (N.) khaw
    Fiilab kafahi Watlala ughkhan
    Wolof paka Chinook khawekhe
    Fulup gews Pujuni kiai
        Queensland (Austr.) kuburra
Sword—          
    Houssa takobi    
    Fulah kafahi    
    Nufi chukwo    
    Anan akowo    
    Gobani takobahe    
    Boko takawo    
    Gajaga kafa    
Spear—          
    Batta kubi S. Australia kyah
    Filham kabai Crow (N. Am.) kaabe
    Nki kebie    
           
A curious point is in the parallel forms.
Spear—          
India kipi Houssa kebia    
  takaba   takobi    
           
   

Root, BN

   
Arrow—          
Burmese pen Mandingo benyo Miami (N.) wepema
Malay pana Bambarra bien    
Javanese pana Ashantee chen    
Sanskrit banah Kanyop punon    
   

[p.143]

   
Knife—          
Khond penju Kiriman mbene    
Telugu banamu        
Sword—          
    Kra pano Polynesia (bow) panma
Spear—          
    Mandingo benyo    
    Curma gbaui    
           
   

Root, DM

   

Arrow

Spear

Arrow

Sontali jhampa Mandingo tambu Keracares tomete
Thaksya tume Bambarra tama.    
Tamil ambu

Axe

   
    Landoma tamuu    
   

Sword

   
    Houssa tamagas    
    Ekamtulufu ntame
ntome
   
           
   

Root, KN

   

Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Tharu khando Fanti egandua Australia kinnee
Madi kani Tene, &c. kuni       " koon
       

Axe

Chentsu kondu Ashantee egiane       " gana
   

Axe,

Arrow

Tamil lanei Bomu kaniri Cayuga (N.) kanoh
Chinese chien Fulup, &c. kuneb Tuscarora (N.) kanah
Tibet ehen Gbandi kimojkona Cherokee (N.) gahnee
   

Sword

   
Greek kontos Ekamtulufu nekono Carib (S.) kengye
          " okon

Axe

   

Bow

Dakota (N.) ahana
    Ashantee egan Miami (N.) lawkawkanah
   

Spear

Knife

    Mose kande Cayuga (N.) kainana
       

Axe.

    Wun kanyake Darien (C.) akana
           
   

Root, KM

   
   

Spear

Arrow

    Ashantee kami Australia kaama
        Carib (S.) chimarl
   

Axe

Axe

         " ekuma. Piskakoa (N.) mikbamun
   

Sword

Bow

    Boritsu giman Bribri (C.) shkumne
         
   

Root, KL

   
   

Bow

Boomerang

    Mandingo kallo Austr. (Victoria) kallum-kallum
   

Knife

   
    Muntu mukalo    
   

Spear

   
    Jclana kala    
   

[p.144]

   
   

Root, SK

   

Knife

Knife

Axe

Arab sakin Houssa aska. Blackfoot (N.) koksakin
   

Axe

Knife

    Ashanti sukare Tiribi (C.) sogro
       

Shield

        Bribri (C.) sogur
        Cabecar (C.) sogru
   

Root, KS

   

Arrow

Axe

Arrow

Basque guezi Mbarike gesum Brunka (C.) tunkasa
   

Sword

   
    Tene kese    
   

Spear

   
    Opanda kasa    
         
   

Root, SN

   

Arrow

Arrow

Knife

Naga san Sarar insan Dahcotah (N.) eesamg
Siam tsao Lubalo, &c. musongo    
   

Knife,

   
Chinese tsien Bomu dsena    
      dsana    
   

Sword

   
Gadaba sonai. Batta songai    
Naga lassang Kisama isango    

Knife

       
Circassian soonee Ham dsangara    
    Bulunda son    
   

Spear

   
    Basa esanu    
    Boko suna    
   

Axe

   
    Fika dsonto    
    Musentandu sengele    
    Nyamban ntsanga    
         
   

Root, SR

   

Arrow.

Arrow

Arrow

Koko sar. Bulum Bor Tiribi (C.) suti
   

Sword

Knife

Georgian eari Mose, &c. sore Shasti (N.) atsirai
   

Knife

   
Sanskrit sara Mose sora    
    Legba sera    
    Bambarra sirifey    
   

Spear

   
    Pajade sori    
         
   

Root, SM

   

Arrow

Axe

Axe

Arab sahm Wolof seminje Natcbes (N.) ohjamino
   

Sling.

Arrow,

Mongolian somon Ashantee same. Carib (S.) sumanu
   

Sword

   
Brahui sum Ife dsoma Moxos (S.) chimniya
   

Axe

   
    Songo odsimpu    
    Salum dsambere    
   

[p.145]

   
   

Root, BL

   

Arrow

Arrow

Arrow

Naga pela Nki bole. Carib (S.) pulewo
Garo bala Kisi belendor    
   

Knife

   
Siam pla Kabenda bole    
   

Sword

Throwing-stick

Kikabar bol Houssa yambol S. Australia njarimla
   

Spear,

   
Latin pilum Coptic gebel.    
German pfeil. Mampo bal N. S. W. bilarr.
         
   

Root, BR

   

Arrow,

Arrow

Arrow

India bara Basa purq Carib (S.) parau
   

Spear

Knife

Laos lempur Landoro raboro Cabecar (C.) taberi
        " gbara

Bow

    Mosu pere Moxos (S.) parami
    Pulo laboni Itenes (S.) pari
       

Club

    Legba agbare N. S. W. beira
   

Axe

   
    Fulah gembiri    
    Baga abera    
    Kisikisi berai    
   

Sword

   
    Ebo baruke    
   

Knife

   
    Gbandi mbura    
    Toma, &c. boro, bora    
           
   

Root, DR

   

Arrow

Arrow,

Bow

Dbitnal tir Ashantee adere Natchez (N.) teeragish
Gondi tir Anfue aturo Pawnee (N.)      "
   

Knife

Spear

    Maudingo terang Austral. darah
       

Axe

    Murundo direndi.    "   Vict. tharinga
   

Axe,

   " thurang
    Biafada dira Queensland durree.
    Yula doro    
   

Sword

   
    Soso deremai    
    Landoro danuna    
           
   

Root, KB

   

Boomerang

Sling

Boomerang

Kuli, Guzerat keturia Mandingo kutokato. Austr. Victoria katum-katum

Arrow.

Arrow.

Axe,

Tharu kbando Filham katan Honduras (C.) keedak
Chentsu kandu Fanti egandua    
Greek kontos

Sword

   
Latin sagitta Bini, &c. agada    
   

[p.146]

   
   

Root, SB

   

Arrow.

Knife

Knife

Nepaul sobi Ashantee sippo Catawba (N.) sipah

Sword.

   

Sword

Greek zipbos Coptic sebe Blackfoot (N.) sapapistaeis

Shield

Sword.

   
Greek aspis    " zibuno    
   

Knife

   
    Igu odsufo    
   

Sword

   
    Songo sibata    
   

Axe

   
    Toma sefa    
         
   

Root, KB

   

Arrow

Arrow

Throwing-stick

Dhimal khar Fulah kurral. Australia korree
       

Axe.

    Pulo, &c. kure       " korrie

Axe

Axe

Club

Basque haizcora Houssa kerada Bribri (C.) kini
   

Spear

Arrow

    Jelanas kar Carib (S.) werakure
    Krebo gheradr Moxos (S.) chere
    Tene gercsos    
    Egba, &c. ogokure    
   

Sword

   
    Wolof karre    
    Anfue kerante    
   

Knife.

   
    Ebo ogari.    
    Bisfada kerani.    
    Ekamtulufu ekore.    
           
   

Root, MB

   

Arrow

Arrow

   
Gondi murre Meto muro    
Kolami murre Bola omeri    
Burman mra Kandin amur    
    Legba njimere    
   

Knife

   
    Bambarra muri    
    Mandingo, &c. muru, muro, mere    
   

Spear,

Spear

    Coptic mereh, merh Australia, Queensland mura
   

Sword.

   
    Nala moreb    
         
   

Root, MN

   
   

Knife

Knife

    Bayon menye Yankton (N.) meena
    Okam imana Alaska (N.) mina
       

Spear

        Omaha (N.) niandebi
   

Sword

Knife

    Afomenya menyi Brunka (C.) munkru
   

[p.147]

   
   

Root, DL

   

Arrow

Axe

Axe,

Naga tel Vei tiele Victoria toola

Dart

   

Spear

Latin tel-um Houssa gatali N.S. Wales tulu

Further investigation will give us a mass of information, and enable us to throw more light on the comparative chronology of weapons. It becomes possible to ascertain what names are ancient by the study of their distribution. When we find allied names in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, we know this distribution must have taken place at a most remote and early epoch. Thus distribution in space becomes a measure of time, because ages are required to produce such results. There is some relationship in Africa between the tongue and darting weapons. The following words may belong to this class:—

Degen (Germ.) sword Tongue
Gladius Glotta, Glossa
Lancea Lingua

It might have been thought that spear, dart, and arrow may have taken their names from the snake, but it appears to be from the darting of the fish in the water. This similarity is found in Africa and India. Shield and shoulder, which have a likeness in English, have a prehistoric alliance. It will be observed that the facts apply to Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Americas, and they are supported by equivalent similarity in other aspects of culture, besides tools and weapons.

The following are examples of axe and stone in the same language in Africa:—

  Axe Stone
Boritsu giso giso
Pika ----- guso
Mimboma tadi tadi
Nyombe tadi ditadi
Gajaga yide gide
Bulanda fulahu fulagu
Kasm doro kandoro
Kiriman bero fero
Aleje deka oka
Mandingo, &c. tegeran kuru
Kono yende sine
Basa jue so
Kum jan ten
Tene wori-segesi wure-kobi

In Gbandi axe is kuno, and stone is koni in Gbese. In the Egba districts the word for stone is ekuta; this is divided for axe into ake and edu.

[p.148]

The word for knife, as might be expected, follows the same law as axe, and shows conformity with stone.

 

Knife

Stone

 
Boko fiure gbere B
Landoro, &c. mboru    
Timbuktu huri hairi T
Isoama uma nkuma I
  takuma    
Mbarike gesum giso Boritsu
Bagba, &c. menyi manyu Kabenda
Kanyika kel kele Mbamba

In the Mandingo dialects the word for stone being kuru, it is differenced for knife as muro.

What is understood as Grimm's Law does not necessarily imply vocal degeneracy, as is supposed, because the permutation of the sounds or letters was in prehistoric times used for differentiation (see Tylor, and my "Prehistoric Comparative Philology''). It is possible, and even probable, that as different meanings were differentiated, so the differential words were distributed among tribes, and have been propagated without any reference to Grimm's Law.

In Songo the word for stone is bitamba, and that for axe simpu, a differentiation, but the word for hoe is bitamba. The cause of this relationship between the naming of stone and of tools and weapons is not to be sought far. In  our times stone has rather a relation to building, but not so with people who lived in caves and trees. The flint and obsidian chiefly attracted their attention for knives, axes, hatchets, swords, spears, arrows, hoes, and other cutting purposes. Thus the name of stone for other uses was merely secondary, while the widespread use of stone weapons affected the early stage of language.

As a comment on the use of the word stone for weapons and tools, and as a contrast, the word for boat is obtained m Africa from calabash or from tree. In Africa a boat is got up from, two calabashes. The dug-out being less used, tree is a less common equivalent for boat. The Indian names, including the Sanskrit, conform to the African.

One point of interest in connection with this relationship is its bearing on the questions of a stone age, and on that age at an early epoch. The philological evidence obtained from the infancy of language is to the effect that the words relate to a period in which stone, wood, bone, and teeth, were used as tools and weapons, and in precedence of the discovery and application of metals. Another matter of archaeological bearing, as Col. Lane Fox has pointed out, is that it is an indicator of facts, where we have not got material evidence. Thus, as he says, African stone weapons are rare, while the linguistic testimony is [p.149] strong as to a stone age, and indeed, we cannot doubt that Africa must have passed through such an epoch. Arrow is also equal to bone—

India Arrow Bone
Yerukala yikke yamakha
Tamil, &c. ambu olumbu
Irular ambu zelambu
Pakhya kadba had
Khond puju pasu

Arrow = horn, which is the synonym of bone.

Africa Arrow Horn
Bambarra bien bian
Mandingo binni binni
Ashantee eben eben
Yarriba owo owo
Tamil (India) ambu kambu

In Telugu (India) arrow is banamu, in Sanskrit bana. Arrow = tooth, which is the synonym of bone.

Khjeng, Burmab arrow, thwi thwa, tooth, Burmese

Axe, in some cases, is equal to thunderbolt, as has been illustrated in various works, and on which some notes are here inserted. Japanese axe (stone), rai-funo-seki, signifies thunder-bolt (account of Blackmore Museum, p. 222, on the "Myth of the Thunderbolt"). So also (p. 223) in Java and Malay Peninsula. Among modem Greeks they are called [Greek], or star hatchets (p. 224). Also, says Major Godwin-Austen, in the Kossyah Hills, and in various parts of the Burman Peninsula. Mr. W. Blackmore stated that in Jamaica these objects are still called thunderbolts, and among the Pueblo Indians after a storm the natives go out to seek for celts. Among the Guaranis of Brazil the name for a stone axe is korisko, which signifies lightning. As this superstition is so widely distributed, it is not of independent origin, but distributed by migration in prehistoric times.