Page:Firemaking Apparatus in the U.S. National Museum.djvu/28

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554 REPORT OF NATIONAL MUSEUM, 1888. Mr. R. W. Fclkiii*, in a study of the Maidu or Moru negroes of Central Africa, 5o north latitude, 30^ 20' east longitude, describes the fire-making of that tribe. He says that one piece of wood about the size and shape of a large pencil is rotated in a hole in a flat piece of hard wood. One man holds the wood steady whilst two others take it in turn to rotate tlie stick. This article of Mr. Felkin's is commended to ethnologists as a model ethnologic study in method and research. That veteran and renowned explorer, Dr. Schweinfurth, gives the following: The method of obtaining fire, practiced alike by the natives of the Nile lands and of the adjacent country in the Welle system, consists simply in rubbing together two hard sticks at right-angles to one another till a spark is emitted. The hard twigs of theJvona senegalensis are usually selected for the purpose. Underneath them is placed either a stone or something upon which a little pile of embers has been laid; the friction of the upper piece of wood wears a hole in the lower, and soon a spark is caught by the ashes and is fanned into a flame with dry grass, which is swung to and fro to cause a draught, the whole proceeding being a marvel which might well-nigh eclipse the magic of my lucifer matches.! Kaffir fire-making is described in some detail in the following: The Kaffir blacksmith never need trouble himself about the means of obtaining a fire. Should he set up his forge in the vicinity of a Kraal, the simplest plan is to send his assistant for a fire-brand from one of the huts. But if he should prefer, as is often the case, to work .at some distance from the huts, he can procure firo with perfect certainty, though not without some labor. He first procures two sticks, one of them taken from a soft-wood tree and the other from an acacia or some other tree that furnishes a hard wood. Of course both sticks must be thoroughly dry, a condi- tion about which there is little difficulty in so hot a climate. His next care is to shape one end of the hard stick into a point and to bore a small hole in the middle of the soft stick. He now squats down * * * places the pointed tip of the hard stick in the hole of the soft stick, and, taking the former between his hands, twirls it backwards and forwards with extreme rapidity. As he goes on the hole becomes enlarged and a small quantitj' of very fine dust falls into it, being rubbed away by the friction. Presently the dust is seen to darken in color, then to become nearly black, and presently a very slight smoke is seen to rise. The Kaffir now redoubles his efforts; he aids the effect of the revolving stick by his breath, and in a few more seconds the dust bursts into a flame. The exertion required by this operation is very severe, and by the time the fire manifests itself the producer is bathed in perspiration. Usually two men at least take part in fire-making, and by dividing the labor very much shorten the process. It is evident that if the perpendicular stick be thus worked, the hands must gra<lually slide down until they reach the point. The soli- tary Kaffir would then be obliged to stop the stick, shift his hands to the top, and begin again, thus losing much valuable time. But when two Kaffirs unite in fire- making, one sits opposite the other, and as soon as he sees that his comrade's hands have nearly woiked themselves down to the bottom of the stick he places his own hands on the top, continues the movement, and relieves his friend. Thus the move- ment of the stick is never checked for a moment, and the operation is consequently hastened. Moreover, considerable assistance is given by the second Kaffir keeping the dust properly arranged round the point of the stick and by taking the part of the bellows, so as to allow his comrade to expend all his strength in twirling.t

  • Proc. Royal Sec. Edinburgh. Session of 1883-'84. p. 309.

t Schweinfurth.— The Heart of Africa. New York, 1874. i, 531, 532. I J. Q. Wood.— The Natural History of Man. i, p. 101.