Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Athanase 24th November 2020 09:24 PM

3 Sewars for comment
6 Attachment(s)
Hello, this year I acquired these 3 Sewars.

Is it possible, depending on one's style, to find a more precise origin than simply Sumatra?

kai 25th November 2020 11:12 PM

Hello SÚverin,

That's a good grouping! Please add dimensions.

While sewar tend to get associated with Sumatra, we have to keep in mind that they were also common along the western coast of the Malay Peninsula.

In this line, I'd refer to the middle example with rounded pommel as Straits type. While similar carving seems to have extended into the adjacent Batak territories/highlands (especially Karo and probably Simalungan, too), the full silver sleeve and its motifs suggest coastal Malay culture (whose people moved back and forth at a whim).

The 2 other examples with the numerous silver bands along the stem of the scabbard originate from the Sumatran West coast, most likely Aceh. While this coastal style most likely originated in the North West, it probably moved South under Aceh's hegemony; it also reached the neighbouring highlands, possibly as gifts to nobility or by trade, and even influencing Karo Batak status pieces.

Both engraved bolsters were originally covered with (most likely) silver foil. The last example with this silver-covered bolster still extant seems to have lost a silver cap at the pommel; any remnants of gold wash on the silver, especially on the decorated scabbard top? A close-up of the end of the crosspiece would be good to confirm.

The first example exhibits an intricately carved crosspiece - a type which also seems to be present much further South in the Padang highlands, the Minang heartland. Whether this style got distributed by Aceh's attempts to increase its sphere of power and influence or, alternatively, it moved northwards with Minang expat communities settling along the western coast may prove difficult to ascertain...


Athanase 26th November 2020 10:04 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Thank you very much for this very informative answer. :)

For the dimensions :
First Sewar, length of blade : 21cm
Second Sewar, length of blade : 16cm
Third Sewar, length of blade : 21,5cm

Yes a silver part is missing on the top of the handle.
For the yellow color, I don't know if it's the brass under a silver plating? or if it's the remains of an old gilding ? :shrug:

For the first Sewar, on the engraved part of the blade, there are few remains of gold.

Battara 27th November 2020 03:08 AM

It could also be oxidation. Some alloys of silver have copper that can give a yellow tinge when oxidized before it goes brown and then black.

kai 27th November 2020 08:11 AM

Hello SÚverin,

Have a thorough look under magnification to verify that the color sits on top of the material (rather than being the base metal if any silver layer is about to wear off); I don't think the latter possibility is likely here.

If it sits on top, a gentle touch up with a silver cloth will quickly remove yellow oxidation of silver alloys while remnants of gilding tend to be more stubborn. (More abrasive silver cleaning products can remove both!)


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