Spears, Style, and Time among Maa-Speaking Pastoralists
Samburu pastoralists change the style of their weapons at a rate too regular to be explained by factors of utilitarian use or random change. Samburu pastoralists stand out for their continued use of hand-foraged steel weapons even though enemies with firearms have surrounded them for many years. For convenience, the approximately 60,000 currently indigenous residents are termed Samburu "pastoralists". They are considered part of a larger Maa-speaking or Maasai society that extends from northern Kenya to central Tanzania. This chapter considers why formal traits appear and disappear in hand-forged iron spears carried by males who speak Maa in East Africa. It describes recent events that have set conditions for importing and selecting specific innovations in the form and technology of Samburu spears. The effect of wear or physical attrition on spears provides a key to the role of boys and elders in Samburu weapons technology.