Narrative of travels and discoveries in Northern and Central Africa, in the years 1822, 1823, and 1824 by Denham, Dixon (1828)
From Murmur to Kano
Jan 29 -..The cavalry were armed with shields, swords, and spears, and otherwise more sumptuously accoutred.
The spear is about six feet long, the wooden shaft slender, and the point of iron.
The swords are broad, straight, and long, but require no particular description, as, by a vicissitude somewhat singular, they are in fact the very blades formerly wielded by the knights of Malta.
These swords are sent from Malta to Bengazee [Benghazi], in the state of Tripoli, where they are exchanged for bullocks.
They are afterwards carried across the desert to Bornou, thence to Haussa, and at last remounted at Kano, for the use of the inhabitants of almost all central Africa.
The shields, covered with the hides of tame or wild animals, are generally plain and round.
There is, however, a remarkable variety, not uncommon, of an oval shape, somewhat broader below than above, with an edging of blue cloth, forming six little lappets, one above, one below, and two on each side.
In the centre of the shield there is a stripe of scarlet cloth fastened by the same studs that clinch the iron handle, and around it is scored a perfect Maltese cross.
This kind of shield is borne by horsemen only ; but it is found of the same shape and figure, equally among Tibboos, Tuaricks, Felatahs, and Bornouese.
A cross of the same form, moulded in a sort of low relief, is not an unfrequent ornament on the clay plaster of their huts.
Crosses of other forms also are sometimes cut in the doors of their houses.
- photo from People of All Nations (1920)