The Jack Daulton Collection
Antique & Ethnographic Art

executioner's sword

Ngombe/Ngala peoples,

Congo Basin



Ngulu Executioner's Sword


iron blade with a wood and leather hilt, mounted


length: approx. 76 cm


Bantu peoples (Ngombe, Ngala, et al.)

Congo Basin, Subsaharan Africa


19th-early 20th century


provenance:  collected in Togo by Jack Daulton

A power symbol, this type of sword, known as a Ngulu, is sometimes referred to as an "executioner's sword" or as a "sacrifice sword," as it was, in former times, used for beheadings.  In the 20th century, after beheadings had been prohibited by the colonial authorities, the sword took on a more ceremonial role, being used in ritual dances culminating in the decapitation of a goat.  For a discussion of this type of sword, see Werner Fischer and Manfred A. Zirngibl, Afrikanische Waffen [African Weapons] (Passau, Germany: Prinz-Verlag, 1978).