vikingsword.com forums
  Ethnographic Edged Weapons
  Berber sword

Post New Topic  Post A Reply
profile | register | preferences | faq | search

UBBFriend: Email This Page to Someone! next newest topic | next oldest topic
Author Topic:   Berber sword
Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 09-30-2000 23:49     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Artzi,
On your website you have a very interesting Berber sword from Morocco listed, I hope you will post a photo of it. I have seen one identical to this and wonder if more is known about where and what period these are from. I also am curious about the purpose of the concave profiled tip and would like to hear thoughts on this, and the unusual vertical extension on the scabbard tip.
The blades on these seem to be early 19th c. hollow ground cavalry sabre blades, most likely Spanish as you note in your description, while the aesthetics of the scabbard with the upward extension remind me of Abyssinian (Ethiopian) examples seen with European bladed shotels.

IP: Logged

Oriental-Arms
Senior Member
posted 10-01-2000 02:34     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Jim
Thank you for bringing up this interesting subject. We discussed it on this forum about two years ago but now, with more participants may be we can learn more. Here is my Berber sword:



I believe that Dr. Lee Jones has a beautiful and complete example and Jimmy Manteris used to have one. I hope they can post few images as well.
As you correctly noted, the blades looks like a cut down and re-shaped military Spanish saber blade. The scabbard tip is similar to the scabbard of some Ethiopian shotels and this caused wrong identification in some cases.
I did not find references to this sword in the usual reference books. I have seen very few of them in collections and mostly without the scabbard. A friend told me that he has seen similar swords in a military museum in San Francisco identified as swords from the Philippines war (?). I do not have the museum name, but probably other members have seen it there and can shed some light on it.

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-01-2000 13:41     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Artzi,
The Philippine connection is really interesting when you consider the shape of the kampilan blade, which have the curious prong tip. I saw one of these, considerably rougher in appearance with a wood grip of basically the same form turn up in a collection of Spanish colonial swords from Mexico. It would seem the common thread here is the Spanish colonial denominator with colonies in all these locations; Morocco, Mexico, Philippines.
Thank you for your notes and photos on this..these are really interesting !!

IP: Logged

manteris1
Senior Member
posted 10-01-2000 18:47     Click Here to See the Profile for manteris1   Click Here to Email manteris1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually I have 2 of these curious 'Berber' swords, both times I encountered them I thought by their clip point that they were of or from the South Seas, I learned on this forum that they were Berber and they must be uncommon as I have only heard of them on this forum. Artzi has the only scabbard I know of. By the way Artzi, on another thread you mention that Kris are not your main focus, just what if you please is the main thrust of your very nice collection..........jimmy


[This message has been edited by manteris1 (edited 10-01-2000).]

[This message has been edited by manteris1 (edited 10-01-2000).]

[This message has been edited by manteris1 (edited 10-02-2000).]

IP: Logged

Oriental-Arms
Senior Member
posted 10-02-2000 05:10     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Jimmy
Your image does not come up. You have to add a > sign after the last jpg and this will bring the images. I have seen the swords as I went directly to the URL.
As for the core of my collection, really dificult to define. I think the best is "The Jambiya in the Islamic world - from Morocco to the Far East". Yet I will never reject a good Islamic sword or dagger from the Area. I have some side branches like the Keris family, Philippino weapons and Chinese and Tibetan blades.

IP: Logged

manteris1
Senior Member
posted 10-02-2000 21:26     Click Here to See the Profile for manteris1   Click Here to Email manteris1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the help Artzi, I seem to always have a problem getting my pictures up. These Berber swords are really unusual and I hope we can add to our knowledge of them which is in my case anyway pretty slim. Rif tribe, Spanish Morocco ???.........jimmy

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-09-2000 23:25     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Since the blades on these are believed to be Spanish sabre blades, the Spanish coastal colonies of northern Morocco of Ceuta and Melilla may be a source for the blades.
In looking at the hilts on these, they seem to be Moroccan versions of the hilt on the Kabyle flyssa? Much heavier and stylized , but similar.

IP: Logged

Oriental-Arms
Senior Member
posted 10-10-2000 06:22     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was thinking on the hilt similarity to that of the Moroccan Nimcha. The straight back with the extended tip, the one side pommel and the round recess for the little finger at the grip lower side are all very typical to a Nimcha grip without the guard.

IP: Logged

Marc
Senior Member
posted 10-10-2000 20:06     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc   Click Here to Email Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to say that I find it very appealing. Would I have what Oriental-arms is asking for it (more than reasonable, IMO) I would be considering very seriously to get it.

But I have to say too that its provenance really puzzles me. There are those letters, "JR", in the hilt that seem to be some initials (the owner? ), and even if I agree that its hilt has some similitudes with the traditional Nimcha hilt, its decoration and the the tip doesn't strike me as north african. Of course, I'm FAR from being an expert in North African artwork, but the letters (in latin characters), the shape and distribution of the silver inlays... I don't know. I really don't know. Specially because the toolwork in the leather scabbard DO strike me as North African. Funny, I can't seem to put my finger on what I find so odd..

In any event, and just as a wild guess... does anyone have examples of inlay silver decorations of the Argentinian "gaucho" knives? In the article that's linked in this site's main page there is just a couple of examples, but I remember handling some of diverse quality, loooong ago, with a kind of silverware decoration that somehow rings a bell.
As you can see, I'm just stirring the pot. I feel frustated for not being able to do something more constructive, but I'm one ocean away of all my references and I can't check anything.
I'll try to lure in someone who knows a lot about spanish military sabres, maybe he'll be able to shed some light on the origins of the blade...

Fascinating topic, anyway.

------------------
Living and trying to learn

Marc

IP: Logged

Oriental-Arms
Senior Member
posted 10-11-2000 06:27     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Marc
Thank you for your comments and your interesting suggestions (and market appraisal). With regard to the silver inlay, this style of decoration is quite common in many countries around the Mediterranean, especially of Arab origin. This technique is still employed today in many Turkish Arab and Moroccan souvenirs. Look on the many Nimcha like daggers sold in the bazaars of Moroccan cities. In most of them the wood hilts and scabbards are inlayed in a similar manner (unfortunately with white metal or Aluminum wires and plastic chips and not silver). BTW, I have seen only few of these ‘Berber’ swords. In all of them except the one I have, the hilt was only lightly engraved in a geometric design and not inlayed with silver. Also the use of Latin letters is not uncommon. You can find Latin letters on many Moroccan implements, coins for example.

[This message has been edited by Oriental-Arms (edited 10-11-2000).]

IP: Logged

Lee Jones
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-14-2000 14:05     Click Here to See the Profile for Lee Jones   Click Here to Email Lee Jones     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are photos of another example. The blade, again, appears to be a recycled saber blade of Western manufacture. It has no markings.

Interestingly, the embossed leather scabbard contains only a single inletted wooden insert, such that the blade rests directly against the leather on the back side, where the seam for the leather cover is located.

IP: Logged

Marc
Senior Member
posted 10-20-2000 19:55     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc   Click Here to Email Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just to add to the pot.
I pointed out this thread to a gentleman I have the pleasure to know who's very knowledgeable about the Spanish military swords, and asked him for his opinion about the supposed Spanish origin of the blade of this sabers. This is a transcription of what he told me. Please, bear in mind that I had to translate it, as we kept the conversation in Spanish. So, any misspelling, syntactical error or funky idiomatic trick it's my fault.
There we go:


"I've been observing the blade of the Berber saber you pointed me. I can be wrong, of course, but I don't feel that the blade is Spanish. There are some things that just don't fit. To start with, the curvature of the blade is very pronounced, taking into account too that the tip of the supposed original saber (together with all the section with the false edge) it's been heavily cut, which means that would the blade be complete it would give even a greater sensation of curvature. Besides, the blade presents a fuller that ends with a smoothly decreasing shape, and that is not present in the patterned models at least in the 19th cent. Equally, the fuller runs up to the hilt, which is too unusual, although the ricasso of this blade (would it be present) could be covered by this type of slab hilt.
There is two possibilities: either the blade is not from a reglamented pattern sword, made for a moody customer [ given the other contributions we've seen in the thread that feature the same kind of blade I don't think this is a possibility], or is a saber from the second half of the 18th century, where the regulation for, as an example, the dragoon sabers were not as strict on regard of the blade.
Without more data, and assuming there is no inscriptions in the back of the blade, I have the sensation of having a more northern origin: Prussian or polish, for example, and always from the end of the 18th cent or beginning of the 19th, at most. What's the basis for supposing an Spanish origin for the blade?"


Another message that arrived shortly after elaborated a bit more:


" Marc, I've been thinking a bit more on the subject and I believe that the origin of the blade could be in the saber for British Light Cavalry, pattern 1796. Take a look at this reproduction that Military Heritage sells, quite faithful to the original model, at least regarding the shape of the blade

The shape of the Berber blade and its fuller, that in addition insinuates a widening towards the tip, fits with this pattern. It's not surprising that some units of the 1796 saber would arrive to Morocco: this English saber was intensively used in Spanish units during the Independence war [Spanish war against Napoleon], as part of the English military help, and some authors maintain that it was in service in the Spanish cavalry up to the middle of the 19th century, together with the officially regulated patterns. I suppose that it could have trade with excedents of this saber (or with pieces retired from service and checked out from the inventory) with the tribes of North Africa. This would explain the "Spanish" origin of the blade."


Some food for thought. I think this adds, at least, another perspective to the subject. Opinions? Comments?


P.D. Just to keep the record straight: here is a URL for a resource on spanish military sabers. The author, J.J. Pérez, is who so kindly provided me with the information above.
It´s in spanish, but I know the author is working in an english version.
http://bermudas.ls.fi.upm.es/~pedro/espadas.htm

Thanks for your patience, gentlemen.

------------------
Living and trying to learn


Marc


[This message has been edited by Marc (edited 11-23-2000).]

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-21-2000 19:18     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Marc,
Thank you very much for your observations and those of your colleague, which are apparantly right on target. In examining an example of the M1796 British light cavalry sabre, the hollow ground fuller is nearly identical to those seen on the example I have seen of the Berber sword. What suggested Spanish origin was the partially obscured name, 'MANUE....' at the forte and apparantly extending under the hilt. The blade obviously shortened and profiled.
The presence of these British swords in Spain most definitely must have provided swords and blades to the Spanish, as the British were there on the Spanish side against the French. There are examples of Spanish colonially marked British M1796 sabres that support this.
Still would like to know more about the curious profile applied to these blades with the cusp at point and radius hatchet point under it. Kampilan?

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-21-2000 19:28     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Disregard the 'slashing' radius description, looking at the blade again that doesnt really apply. The cusp projection obviously is not to use in a thrust, while the former radiused hatchet point for slashing is gone, now a blunt terminus for the blade point.
Wonder how these swords were intended to be used.

IP: Logged

Therion
Senior Member
posted 10-23-2000 14:52     Click Here to See the Profile for Therion   Click Here to Email Therion     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here are two more examples, from my collection. Both of them have brass inlay on the handles but no silver and no writing, and both are of the "curved point" rather than the "spike point" variety.

My apologies for the size and quality of the pictures, and no, that hideous blue bedspread is not mine
Therion

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-24-2000 00:47     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Therion,
Thank you for the examples...what is your take on where they are from? It seems these are typically thought of as 'Berber' but have never been included in references on Berber weapons.The responses on this thread would suggest a reasonably consistant weapon form..surprisingly examples in collections seem to run in twos.
I have seen one of these (with what appears to be a wood grip of similar shape) included in a collection of Spanish colonial swords from Mexico.

IP: Logged

Therion
Senior Member
posted 10-24-2000 23:43     Click Here to See the Profile for Therion   Click Here to Email Therion     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Howdy, Jim. Actually, I'm still going on your and Artzi's identification of these as Berber that we came up with on this forum a couple of years ago. My pair of them were actually separate purchases a few years apart, one tentatively identified as "Ethiopian" and the other as "unknown sword". Once upon a time I ran into a dealer at a Texas gun show with a pair of them, but I'm reasonably sure that they never came in matched sets. What is interesting is that they seem to come in two different varieties - the spike point shown in Artzi's, Manteris', and Lee's examples above, and the ones with a more traditional rounded saber point cut off straight as in the two in my collection. The gunshow dealer had one of each style, I'm still kicking myself for not buying them.
I've also once seen one of these included in a collection of Spanish colonial swords - I'm pretty sure it was in a Fagan catalog a few years back. I called up and asked about the provenance, but received no answer. I'm inclined to believe that characterization as Spanish was in error, probably due to the cut-point variation looking somewhat similar to the tips on South American cutacha.

IP: Logged

manteris1
Senior Member
posted 10-25-2000 20:00     Click Here to See the Profile for manteris1   Click Here to Email manteris1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Therion you are right, it was a Fagan catalogue that you saw the sword in. Jim, I am pretty sure that these are slashing weapons for mounted men since the point does'nt appear to lend itself to stabbing. I had thought we had matched the blade on one of mine to a Spanish sword but I must be mistaken................jimmy

IP: Logged

Jim McDougall
EEWRS Staff
posted 10-26-2000 00:38     Click Here to See the Profile for Jim McDougall   Click Here to Email Jim McDougall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hello Therion and Jimmy,
Yup..it was a Fagan catalog OK that had one of these in a Spanish colonial grouping.
I agree these were slashing sabres, but the regular radius tip and the cusped profiled tip variations are puzzling. I keep thinking of the kampilan, and the fighting technique suggested by Robert Cato,in "Moro Swords", using distracting and harassing cuts with these against non vital areas, opening the opponent to fatal attack (p.56). It would seem that these Philippine swords as well as tales of their use may have reached the Spanish colonies in Morocco via trade routes. The apparant M1796 British cavalry blades may have come from surplus sabres from Spain after the British presence there in the Peninsular war.With this, possibly Berber artisans may have crafted these hybrids, and as Artzi notes, applied the nimcha form hilt. The silver inlay motif on many of these certainly appears Moroccan.
Sure would love to see an early photo of a Berber tribesman wearing one of these...time to start wading through the old "National Geographics"!

IP: Logged

Oriental-Arms
Senior Member
posted 11-02-2000 17:20     Click Here to See the Profile for Oriental-Arms   Click Here to Email Oriental-Arms     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a nice one for sale on the ebay now: 19th Century Arab Sword: Nimcha

IP: Logged

All times are ET (US)

next newest topic | next oldest topic

Administrative Options: Close Topic | Archive/Move | Delete Topic
Post New Topic  Post A Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | Ethnographic Edged Weapons Resource Site | Privacy Statement

Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of a nonexclusive license for display here.

Powered by Infopop www.infopop.com © 2000
Ultimate Bulletin Board 5.47d