Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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TVV 12th July 2009 07:19 PM

Kattara for comments
 
5 Attachment(s)
I was lucky enough to win this kattara on eBay about a month ago and it has finally arrived, which enables me to share pictures.
Scabbard and hilt are in poor shape, but at least they retain most of the original fittings and leather. As you can see the fittings are quite simple - no silver, nothing fancy.
Same can be said for the blade - it looks like a 19th century trade blade.
There are plenty of markings, identical on both sides - at the base of the blade there are gurda markings, with something in the middle - does anyone know what it is or what it attempts to represent? At the end of the fullers there is also a small cross. All the markings seem to have been added to the blade locally.
Do you think I am correct about this being a trade blade imported fro, Europe, or would you say this is a local blade?

I am very happy to have added this to my other kattara with a curved blade (most likely an imported shashka blade), and I appreciate everyone's comments.

Regards,
Teodor

Jim McDougall 13th July 2009 08:23 PM

Great kattara Teodor! I've always found these so interesting, as a sword which seemed quintessently based on simplicity, they represent profound historical interest, especially concerning trade and the Arabs.

Naturally these are instantly recognized as the sword of Oman, who had the Sultanate on the island of Zanzibar, one of the most bustling trade centers of the 19th century. From there slaving caravans would advance into the depths of Africa, in the commerce of slaves, gold and ivory. It is my understanding that in regions beyond Kenya they likely interfaced with other traders and caravans coming in from regions in Ethiopia and westward on trans Saharan caravans.

I have always considered it intriguing that the well known sabres of the Manding in Mali have simple cylindrical hilts of similar form to the Omani kattara. One of the key points in trade routes from the Sahara was of course another familiar term in high adventure, Timbuktu, in Mali.

Also, note the spatulate rounded tip on the kattara, and compare with the blades almost unequivacably found on the takouba of the Tuareg, it is also rounded. Trade blades moved from ports of arrival in the east off the Red Sea as well as possibly via the Zanzibar trade, and to the east. Other points of entry are of course from the north, but it is interesting to note this feature's presence.

I would think this is likely a trade blade, which I believe often arrived blank from various centers, and the markings are of course native interpretations typically thought of as quality indicators, but in native parlance, suggested power in the blade. The 'gurda' marks are imitating the well known 'eyelash' or 'sickle' marks of Genoa and Styria, often on many German and of course Caucasian blades (from which the term gurda is derived).

Probably end of the 19th, into the 20th, and these were always a proud possession of Arab traders and merchants. Interesting detail in "Book of the Sword" under 'Zanzibar swords' and the swordplay of the Arabs, describing the leaps and slashes,

All the best,
Jim

TVV 13th July 2009 10:50 PM

Jim,

Thank you very much for another thorough and outstanding reply - I appreciate the effort you put in your posts.

I agree that the topic of Trans-Saharan trade is fascinating. According to Elgood, the straight trade blades entered the Arab market through Egypt, where some of them were of course also used on the Sudanese saifs, which we call kaskaras. Spring on the other hand shows evidence about blades enetring from the other side of Africa, and being distributed all over the Northern part of the continent from Kano, nowadays Nigeria. The Omanis were certainly not afraid to venture deep into Africa, as evidenced by Tippu Tib's trips to Eastern Congo.

This is a question I have always had on the Omani kattara hilt - did the shape travel from West Africa to Oman, or vice versa? And what about the other type of kattaras with hilts, more like the hilts of old Arab broadswords (and not dissimilar to Hispano-Moresque swords? I remember reading somewhere, I think it was Elgood's book that these hilts, which are generally considered to be of an older variety, originated in the Omani enclave in Baluchistan, rather than in Oman proper. Does anyone have a hypothesis on this topic?

Best regards,
Teodor

Jim McDougall 13th July 2009 11:50 PM

Hi Teodor,
Absolutely my pleasure as always. Good on noting the term sa'if used for the kaskara, which recalls the years I have spent trying to discover where in the world the term kaskara came from. Nobody in the Sudan, or Eritrea for that matter has ever heard the word, and I have had this researched all the way to the University of Khartoum!

What has always fascinated me is that the takouba and the kaskara, both North African broadsword cousins, have remained independant forms despite the constant traverse of caravans, nomadic tribal interaction and the entrance of trade blades from varying points of entry from varying directions.

The Tuareg swords have the rounded tip, the kaskaras typically have a spear point. The hilts remain simple yet quite different. The Hausas, from the farthest western regions in Nigeria and the prevalent trade center of Kano, were known for thier kaskara work.

The question of cross cultural diffusion and in which direction did influence move is a tough one and well placed. In the study of anthropology and archaeology these kinds of questions are resolved with dated and provenanced remains. With the movement of portable trade items such as weapons, it is hard unless soundly provenanced and dated examples are avialable. In general, one can follow the development of trade and colonial development by period in examining such examples.

The earlier Omani hilts may well have developed in Baluchistan as Elgood notes, and I of course subscribe heavily to his always well researched observations. These hilts are of the Muslim drooping quillon type hilt that seem to be evolved from these types of Hispano Moresque forms of the medieval period. It is also essentially a hilt with such features well emplaced in Central Asia (the paluaor from Afghanistan) to similar types in the Deccan (see Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual").

In my opinion, Africa, particularly North Africa is what I would call 'reflective' in most situations. That is the weapons seem to reflect styles from foreign cultures, rather than their styles influencing others. This does not hold true necessarily in the obvious influence of ancient Egyptian weapons which have clearly influenced weapons across many African tribal cultures, and perhaps into the Middle East in ancient times.

For the most part, I would say weapons coming into Africa have influenced the forms there, not vice versa. Kaskaras and takoubas evolved from the broadswords of early Islam, becoming prevalent as trade blades began to come into Africa. The so called 'Zanzibar' sword became the s'boula of Morocco probably from basilards from Italian trade in Tunis; the koummya probably derived its hilt from the Venetian cinqueda, again Italian traders; the 'nimcha' (Moroccan sa'if) from Arab sa'if in turn from Italian hilt configurations (storte etc.). The double blade 'haladie' of Sudan is from the madu madu of India and known also as the Syrian knife, entered via Red Sea trade. The flyssa, evolved from Ottoman yataghans and in degree via that from early Meditteranean swords.

These are the ones I can think of offhand, but I cannot think of an example of African weapon that has turned up elsewhere . Im sure somebody will think of one though :)

Ramblin on as usual, and just expressing thoughts.
These really are great swords, and seem to have only recently begun to turn up. When I first found one about 10 years ago I thought I'd found Excalibur!

All the best,
Jim

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 10th May 2011 06:35 PM

Omani Short Battle Sword; Origin.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Teodor,
Absolutely my pleasure as always. Good on noting the term sa'if used for the kaskara, which recalls the years I have spent trying to discover where in the world the term kaskara came from. Nobody in the Sudan, or Eritrea for that matter has ever heard the word, and I have had this researched all the way to the University of Khartoum!

What has always fascinated me is that the takouba and the kaskara, both North African broadsword cousins, have remained independant forms despite the constant traverse of caravans, nomadic tribal interaction and the entrance of trade blades from varying points of entry from varying directions.

The Tuareg swords have the rounded tip, the kaskaras typically have a spear point. The hilts remain simple yet quite different. The Hausas, from the farthest western regions in Nigeria and the prevalent trade center of Kano, were known for thier kaskara work.

The question of cross cultural diffusion and in which direction did influence move is a tough one and well placed. In the study of anthropology and archaeology these kinds of questions are resolved with dated and provenanced remains. With the movement of portable trade items such as weapons, it is hard unless soundly provenanced and dated examples are avialable. In general, one can follow the development of trade and colonial development by period in examining such examples.

The earlier Omani hilts may well have developed in Baluchistan as Elgood notes, and I of course subscribe heavily to his always well researched observations. These hilts are of the Muslim drooping quillon type hilt that seem to be evolved from these types of Hispano Moresque forms of the medieval period. It is also essentially a hilt with such features well emplaced in Central Asia (the paluaor from Afghanistan) to similar types in the Deccan (see Elgood, "Hindu Arms and Ritual").

In my opinion, Africa, particularly North Africa is what I would call 'reflective' in most situations. That is the weapons seem to reflect styles from foreign cultures, rather than their styles influencing others. This does not hold true necessarily in the obvious influence of ancient Egyptian weapons which have clearly influenced weapons across many African tribal cultures, and perhaps into the Middle East in ancient times.

For the most part, I would say weapons coming into Africa have influenced the forms there, not vice versa. Kaskaras and takoubas evolved from the broadswords of early Islam, becoming prevalent as trade blades began to come into Africa. The so called 'Zanzibar' sword became the s'boula of Morocco probably from basilards from Italian trade in Tunis; the koummya probably derived its hilt from the Venetian cinqueda, again Italian traders; the 'nimcha' (Moroccan sa'if) from Arab sa'if in turn from Italian hilt configurations (storte etc.). The double blade 'haladie' of Sudan is from the madu madu of India and known also as the Syrian knife, entered via Red Sea trade. The flyssa, evolved from Ottoman yataghans and in degree via that from early Meditteranean swords.

These are the ones I can think of offhand, but I cannot think of an example of African weapon that has turned up elsewhere . Im sure somebody will think of one though :)

Ramblin on as usual, and just expressing thoughts.
These really are great swords, and seem to have only recently begun to turn up. When I first found one about 10 years ago I thought I'd found Excalibur!

All the best,
Jim


Not being entirely sure where to post this missive on Omani Short Battle Swords I thought why not aim it at the top man !
Aim.
The aim of this letter is to place the time link and motive for the Omani Short Battle Sword previously considered to be 16th century and lately suggested as 10th century though with little data and proof to that claim.
I intend to show due cause for its adaptation and a time scale bracket in which this occurred.
The reader will no doubt be perplexed by the myriad of seemingly religious and political sliding doors opening and closing in the region in the last 1500 years (see notes at foot of letter) and it is easy to see how a weapon such as this has become shrouded in mystery. Reference has also been made to the Nasrid sword however what follows is I hope a compelling political and religion and therefore geo political based argument which far outweighs the unseeming adoption of a Spanish sword from thousands of miles distant across virtually impassable deserts seas and mountains at that time. The Nasrid sword that has very little in common with the design but more importantly no visible motive or connection to the Omani Short Battle Sword.
The Topkapi museum holds the key. The Abbasid 9th Century Sword in their collection is compared to the Omani Short as follows;
1. Both are two edged Islamic Arab battle swords.
2. Both blades have an integral tang with an added pommel or cap.
3. Both have three holes in the handle which is similarly constructed with rivets.
4. Both weapons have quillons.
5. Both blades are wing shaped in cross section.
6. Both blades culminate in a point.
7. Both blades (though not all examples of the Omani sword) have the golden dot or dots on the blade. The dot in Islamic geometry is an important centre of the universe construct.
8. Both hilts are topped with a cap in the case of the Abbasid and an Islamic arch pommel on the Omani.
9. Neither blade has risers nor fullers.
10. Both blades are stiff and generally non flexible.
11. Both handles are octagonal in cross section *

Shield .
Though no shield is studied to accompany the Omani Sword it can be imagined that if the sword originates from the Abbasid then it is there that a comparative shield design should be studied. I have not, however, seen a shield emanating from the timescale suggested.

Hilt.
In studying the hilt a conundrum appears in the form of the distinctive collar absent in the Abbasid but present in the Omani. It is suggested that this is a strengthener giving rigidity to the turned down quillons and the entire lower half of the hilt of which it is part. Certainly without the collar the hilt would be much weaker and I suggest that this was therefore part of the redesign along with the Islamic Pommel both key to identifying this sword as Omani Ibadi. Note that the simple /\/\/\/\/\/\/\ design around the collar appears on most Omani Short swords and is likely to be Omani original reflecting once again the austerity in allowable decoration but also a distinct design as the general issue trademark of the Omani Ibadi troops.
A similar hilt appears on a Saudi sword though seemingly stretched to form a long handle on a longer blade. That sword may well be related, though is for now, outside the scope of this letter.

Time scale.
As can be seen by the short history Oman converted to Islam in the mid 7th Century and adopted the sect style Ibadi (Ibathi) in the 8th Century. They were attacked subjugated and punished by the Abbasid dynasty in the 8th and 9th centuries which sent troops from Baghdad.
"Jabir ibn Zayd, had come originally to Iraq from Oman and he returned to Oman as their leader". A highly successful leader he would certainly have seen the weapons used in the Abbasid centre, Baghdad, and could have personally transmitted the technology to Oman in the early to mid 8th Century.
Therefor the Abbasids were in Oman suppressing the Ibadis and trying to hold the territory and using Abbasid weapons.
[U]It puts the sword in Oman in the 8th and 9th Centuries.[/U]
Why would the Omanis not have adopted such an excellent sword as the Abbasid? This was the perfect opportunity to adopt such a weapon either capturing or adopting the sword directly as a result of coming into contact with it on the battlefield or even earlier since Jabr Ibn Zayed had seen it in use in Baghdad armories. In taking over a country from an invader it was customary for the winner to take all. It is entirely feasible that Jabir Ibn Zayds men adopted the Abbasid sword in the 8th Century(or even before)
"Jabir ibn Zayd's presence in Oman strengthened the existing Ibadi communities; in less than a century, the sect took over the country from the Sunni garrison that ruled it in the caliph's name".
Sword Design.
Abbasid delight in decoration versus Omani Ibadi staunch acceptance of a more austere less ostentatious approach may well be the reason for a more severe looking weapon and perhaps the novel Islamic design to the hollow Pommel. I suggest that the Islamic arch pommel and turned down quillons and the collar are all practical and religious additions to the weapon. Blade length may be slightly less than the Baghdad original however this is down to user stature as simply The Omani fighters were smaller in stature. The Pommel is spiked and could be used in close combat and the turned down quillons are for twisting the opponents sword from the hand. In other words this is an Ibadi Omani Sword designed and modified around the Abbasid example.

Conclusion . " The Omani Short Battle Sword" is designed around the 8th/ 9th Century Abbasid Sword with a few additions / changes to Quillons and Pommel and Collar. It was introduced due to religious and political differences driven by the caliphs in Baghdad on behalf of the Abbasid Dynasty and adapted by the Ibadi Omanis, thereafter, it froze in design for centuries perhaps up to the 19th Century though perhaps by the late 17th Century a new long Kattara possibly an Omani / African design began to exert its influence.
Ibrahim Al Balooshi
therugspot@hotmail.com
www.fortantiques.net
Notes;
Short History Of Early Oman and the regions adjacent.
In the Islamic period, the prosperity of the gulf continued to be linked to markets in Mesopotamia. Accordingly, after 750 the gulf prospered because Baghdad became the seat of the caliph and the main center of Islamic civilization. Islam brought great prosperity to Iraq during this period, thus increasing the demand for foreign goods. As a result, gulf merchants roamed farther and farther afield. By the year 1000, they were traveling regularly to China and beyond, and their trading efforts were instrumental in spreading Islam, first to India and then to Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Islam they spread, however, was often sectarian. Eastern Arabia was a center for both Kharijites and Shia; in the Middle Ages, the Ismaili Shia faith constituted a particularly powerful force in the gulf. Ismailis originated in Iraq, but many moved to the gulf in the ninth century to escape the Sunni authorities. Whereas the imam was central to the Ismaili tradition, the group also recognized what they referred to as "missionaries" (dua; sing., dai), figures who spoke for the imam and played major political roles. One of these missionaries was Hamdan Qarmat, who sent a group from Iraq to Bahrain in the ninth century to establish an Ismaili community. From their base in Bahrain, Qarmat's followers, who became known as Qarmatians, sent emissaries throughout the Muslim world.
The Qarmatians are known for their attacks on their opponents, including raids on Baghdad and the sack of Mecca and Medina in 930. For much of the tenth century, the Ismailis of Bahrain were the most powerful force in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. They controlled the coast of Oman and collected tribute from the caliph in Baghdad as well as from a rival Ismaili imam in Cairo, whom they did not recognize.
By the eleventh century, Ismaili power had waned. The Qarmatians succumbed to the same forces that had earlier threatened centers on the gulf coast--the ambitions of strong leaders in Mesopotamia or Persia and the incursion of tribes from the interior. In 985 armies of the Buyids, a Persian dynasty, drove the Ismailis out of Iraq, and in 988 Arab tribes drove the Ismailis out of Al Ahsa, an oasis they controlled in eastern Arabia. Thereafter, Ismaili presence in the gulf faded, and in the twentieth century the sect virtually disappeared.
Ibadis figured less prominently than the Shia in the spread of Islam. A stable community, the Ibadi sect's large following in Oman has helped to distinguish Oman from its gulf neighbors. Ibadis originated in Iraq, but in the early eighth century, when the caliph's representative began to suppress the Ibadis, many left the area. Their leader at the time, Jabir ibn Zayd, had come to Iraq from Oman, so he returned there. Jabir ibn Zayd's presence in Oman strengthened the existing Ibadi communities; in less than a century, the sect took over the country from the Sunni garrison that ruled it in the caliph's name. Their leader, Al Julanda ibn Masud, became the Ibadi imam of Oman.
In the Ibadi tradition, imams are elected by a council of religious scholars, who select the leader that can best defend the community militarily and rule it according to religious principles. Whereas Sunnis and Shia traditionally have focused on a single leader, referred to as caliph or imam, Ibadis permit regions to have their own imams. For instance, there have been concurrent Ibadi imams in Iraq, Oman, and North Africa.
Because of the strong sense of community among Ibadis, which resembles tribal feelings of community, they have predominated in the interior of Oman and to a lesser degree along the coast. In 752, for example, a new line of Sunni caliphs in Baghdad conquered Oman and killed the Ibadi imam, Al Julanda. Other Ibadi imams arose and reestablished the tradition in the interior, but extending their rule to the coastal trading cities met opposition. The inland empires of Persia and Iraq depended on customs duties from East-West trade, much of which passed by Oman. Accordingly, the caliph and his successors could not allow the regional coastal cities out of their control.
As a result, Oman acquired a dual nature. Ibadi leaders usually controlled the mountainous interior while, for the most part, foreign powers controlled the coast. People in the coastal cities have often been foreigners or have had considerable contact with foreigners because of trade. Coastal Omanis have profited from their involvement with outsiders, whereas Omanis in the interior have tended to reject the foreign presence as an intrusion into the small, tightly knit Ibadi community. Ibadi Islam has thus preserved some of the hostility toward outsiders that was a hallmark of the early Kharijites.
While the imam concerned himself with the interior, the Omani coast remained under the control of Persian rulers. The Buyids in the late tenth century eventually extended their influence down the gulf as far as Oman. In the 1220s and 1230s, another group, the Zangids--based in Mosul, Iraq--sent troops to the Omani coast; around 1500 the Safavids, an Iranian dynasty, pushed into the gulf as well. The Safavids followed the Twelver Shia tradition and imposed Shia beliefs on those under their rule. Thus, Twelver communities were established in Bahrain and to a lesser extent in Kuwait.
Oman's geographic location gave it access not only to the Red Sea trade but also to ships skirting the coast of Africa. By the end of the fifteenth century, however, a Persian ruler, the shaykh of Hormuz, profited most from this trade. The shaykh controlled the Persian port that lay directly across the gulf from Oman, and he collected customs duties in the busy Omani ports of Qalhat and Muscat. Ibadi imams continued to rule in the interior, but until Europeans entered the region in the sixteenth century, Ibadi rulers were unable to reclaim the coastal cities from the Iranians.
Data of footnotes as of January 1993.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 16th May 2011 05:32 PM

Your Thread.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I was lucky enough to win this kattara on eBay about a month ago and it has finally arrived, which enables me to share pictures.
Scabbard and hilt are in poor shape, but at least they retain most of the original fittings and leather. As you can see the fittings are quite simple - no silver, nothing fancy.
Same can be said for the blade - it looks like a 19th century trade blade.
There are plenty of markings, identical on both sides - at the base of the blade there are gurda markings, with something in the middle - does anyone know what it is or what it attempts to represent? At the end of the fullers there is also a small cross. All the markings seem to have been added to the blade locally.
Do you think I am correct about this being a trade blade imported fro, Europe, or would you say this is a local blade?

I am very happy to have added this to my other kattara with a curved blade (most likely an imported shashka blade), and I appreciate everyone's comments.

Regards,
Teodor

Very nice swords of Oman... The straight sword is the famous Omani Kattara and the curved better known as an Omani Sayf.

First!! My apologies for shoving in and presenting my Short Omani Battle Sword meanderings on your thread... I hope you dont mind as no offence was meant and I should have made it a separate thread.

It is also a puzzle to me as to how many trade blades appear on Omani hilts... So far I have discovered people with Wootz blades from where?? who knows... and German blades some with possibly fake running wolf stamps and others with weird unknown stamps possibly fake?? I have one with a number on it; not arabic .. english figures ! and some with holed pommels and some not.
Decent blades bend double and retain their straight shape whilst cheap blades stay a bit bent !
The big question is; where did the idea come from and when ? The first indicator date is 1652 when Oman took Zanzibar ( they were very influencial all down the African coast and big in Kenya tradewise.. ) but the fighting technique with this weapon is so markedly different from its predecessor that it cannot be decended from it. The two swords (I mean the Omani Short Battle Sword compared to the long flexible Kattara)are as different as chalk and cheese.
Your sword "The Kattara" The straight one... was designed as a slash and snick fast whip action stand off system... The fighters were 6 feet apart or more ! and fought with a small shield; The Omani Buckler called a Terrs. This shield was used to disarm the oponent by twisting an attacking sword strike from the others hand. It was therefor a fighting system and developed a dance ... This war dance routine was a limbering up exercise before going in to battle so it became a martial art really. Nowadays that fact is shrouded in the dance and people forget its real meaning.
Great swords ~ well done !! :shrug:

A.alnakkas 16th May 2011 05:43 PM

Off topic question to Ibrahim (sorry TVV):

Do the Bani Ka'ab Tribesmen of Oman (particularly the Buraimi region) use the Kattara?

I know that the coastal people of Oman use shamshir's and sabers but always wondered what my distant relatives there use :P

Jim McDougall 16th May 2011 05:53 PM

Hi Ibrahim,
I am sorry I overlooked this thread and your amazing and wonderfully detailed post!!! I am reading through your writing and cannot thank you enough for taking the time and care in writing this, and will respond in due course. Outstanding work!!!
All the very best,
Jim

TVV 16th May 2011 06:14 PM

Ibrahim,

No need to apologize, I have been following your thoughts on the evolution of Omani swords with great interest.

My personal thoughts on the adoption of the long Omani broadsword are similar to yours on the adoption of the short sword - I think the form may have entered the Omani aresenal through military contact with the Portuguese. The blade shape of a kattara to me is quite different than the blade shape on a takouba (especially when one considers older examples with a triangular blade) or even that on a kaskara, which has a pointed tip as opposed to the rounded tips on the Omani sword. Therefore an adoption through trophies taken from the Portuguese after the latter were ousted from Muscat seems to be a more logical and direct route than trade links with the African interior.

Further, if the origin of the long kattara was from European broadswords, this would explain why older European maker marks and symbols on sword blades retained an importance well into the 19th century, causing them to be reproduced locally.

As for the curved sabers, I think I read somewhere in Elgood's book that in the mid 19th century, a lot of Caucasian shashka blades made its way into Southern Arabia (connected perhaps to the Circassian diaspora?) and were quickly given local hilts. When I look at the blade on mine, it certainly could have been taken from a shashka.

Regards,
Teodor

Jim McDougall 16th May 2011 09:27 PM

Hi Ibrahiim,
I have read through your magnificent treatise on the Omani short sword and its development, and can only say it is a wonderfully thorough analysis and description of early Islamic history, and in particular that which pertains to Oman. I must confess that it must be obvious that my knowledge in this field of study pales in comparison to what you have shown, and I am most grateful for your sharing of this information here. I also must admit that my notes comparing the earlier style of Omani hilt (Elgood, p.17, fig.2.13; 2.15)to the Nasrid form was entirely free association and suggesting the drooping quillon hilt form had similarity. I should have emphasized the speculation on my part.

I do often make such speculations in hopes of developing more discussion which might support or rebuke the case in point, and admit being caught entirely offguard here as the desired response is to comments of nearly two years ago:) Still, I am absolutely delighted and more than impressed!!

Please help me more clearly understand your reference to the 'Omani short battle sword', I am assuming you are referring to the downturned quillon hilt sword mentioned from Elgood in which I suggested possible Nasrid connection?
Also, I am unclear on which sword in Topkapi you are referring to as Abbasid of the 9th century. In checking "Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths" (the late Dr.Unsal Yucel, Istanbul, 2001) I could not isolate an example corresponding.
Whatever the case, I am very much in accord with your suggestions that the Omani swords were in most probability derived from the Abbasid swords as you well describe and support.

The focus of our discussion here was of course on the later version of the Omani kattara, which as agreed seems to have developed around the 17th century and probably does have distinct associations with the development of the Omani trade in Zanzibar which certainly diffused in Kenya and into trade routes in various networks which traversed the continent. Actually, I think most of our attention was directed to the cylindrical hilt without guard and its similarity to the guardless seme' swords of Kenya and the similar guardless hilts of Mandingo sabres in Mali. Naturally these are again visual comparisons, but placed compellingly by the prevalence of Omani trade on the East Coast of Africa.

It would seem that the profound introduction of trade blades, particularly from Solingen in about the time these 'long kattara' with cylindrical hilts developed, may have led to the simplification of the hilt. The swordplay you describe, using buckler and slashing cuts is well known in India, and in fact even well known in regions as remote as Khevsuria in the Caucusus, where the impressive leaps and parrying have indeed evolved in dancing type performances from genuine martial training. As always, these simple hilt forms could certainly have developed independantly, but the ever present trade routes described offer tempting support to think otherwise. I am inclined to think they evolved in Omani trade areas in Eastern Africa, where examples were acquired by traders moving westward and probably traded into tribal regions along the trade routes. Omani merchants as I understand, wore these proudly as marks of status, and such adorned weapons would certainly have appealed to the ranking chieftains in these trade contacts.

I would like to thank you again for placing this wonderfully written letter on this topic, and of course look forward to discussing further...for me this forum is about learning, and I have certainly enjoyed learning more from what you have added here.

With all very best regards,
Jim

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 17th May 2011 07:00 AM

Beni Kaab
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
Off topic question to Ibrahim (sorry TVV):

Do the Bani Ka'ab Tribesmen of Oman (particularly the Buraimi region) use the Kattara?

I know that the coastal people of Oman use shamshir's and sabers but always wondered what my distant relatives there use :P


Salaams,
I know many Beni Ka'ab here... They are a famous tribe and in particular were very active in retaining this part of the world as Omani in the early 50s. They dominate the mountains from Hatta to Wadi Dhank and their centre is the town of Mahada near us here about 25 kms North East. Yes indeed the Al Kaabi carry the Omani Long Sword "The Kattara."

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 17th May 2011 07:35 AM

OMANI SHORT BATTLE SWORDS.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Ibrahiim,
I have read through your magnificent treatise on the Omani short sword and its development, and can only say it is a wonderfully thorough analysis and description of early Islamic history, and in particular that which pertains to Oman. I must confess that it must be obvious that my knowledge in this field of study pales in comparison to what you have shown, and I am most grateful for your sharing of this information here. I also must admit that my notes comparing the earlier style of Omani hilt (Elgood, p.17, fig.2.13; 2.15)to the Nasrid form was entirely free association and suggesting the drooping quillon hilt form had similarity. I should have emphasized the speculation on my part.

I do often make such speculations in hopes of developing more discussion which might support or rebuke the case in point, and admit being caught entirely offguard here as the desired response is to comments of nearly two years ago:) Still, I am absolutely delighted and more than impressed!!

Please help me more clearly understand your reference to the 'Omani short battle sword', I am assuming you are referring to the downturned quillon hilt sword mentioned from Elgood in which I suggested possible Nasrid connection?
Also, I am unclear on which sword in Topkapi you are referring to as Abbasid of the 9th century. In checking "Islamic Swords and Swordsmiths" (the late Dr.Unsal Yucel, Istanbul, 2001) I could not isolate an example corresponding.
Whatever the case, I am very much in accord with your suggestions that the Omani swords were in most probability derived from the Abbasid swords as you well describe and support.

The focus of our discussion here was of course on the later version of the Omani kattara, which as agreed seems to have developed around the 17th century and probably does have distinct associations with the development of the Omani trade in Zanzibar which certainly diffused in Kenya and into trade routes in various networks which traversed the continent. Actually, I think most of our attention was directed to the cylindrical hilt without guard and its similarity to the guardless seme' swords of Kenya and the similar guardless hilts of Mandingo sabres in Mali. Naturally these are again visual comparisons, but placed compellingly by the prevalence of Omani trade on the East Coast of Africa.

It would seem that the profound introduction of trade blades, particularly from Solingen in about the time these 'long kattara' with cylindrical hilts developed, may have led to the simplification of the hilt. The swordplay you describe, using buckler and slashing cuts is well known in India, and in fact even well known in regions as remote as Khevsuria in the Caucusus, where the impressive leaps and parrying have indeed evolved in dancing type performances from genuine martial training. As always, these simple hilt forms could certainly have developed independantly, but the ever present trade routes described offer tempting support to think otherwise. I am inclined to think they evolved in Omani trade areas in Eastern Africa, where examples were acquired by traders moving westward and probably traded into tribal regions along the trade routes. Omani merchants as I understand, wore these proudly as marks of status, and such adorned weapons would certainly have appealed to the ranking chieftains in these trade contacts.

I would like to thank you again for placing this wonderfully written letter on this topic, and of course look forward to discussing further...for me this forum is about learning, and I have certainly enjoyed learning more from what you have added here.

With all very best regards,
Jim


Salaams,
Thank you for your very detailed and inspiring reply. The reference for the Topkapi 9th Century Abbasid sword is ;

Medieval Swords and Helmets from Topkapi Museum - STLCC.edu
Medieval Swords and Weapons in the Topkapi Museum, Istanbul (Part 2). ... Kufic inscription on the blade of a Abbasid sword, 9th century. ...
users.stlcc.edu/mfuller/turk/TopkapiArms2.html - United States - Cached

~perhaps best found simply by typing into google search the string ..."Abbasid swords Topkapi museum images".

I think what is quite conclusive is the fact that this sword would have been in Oman with the Abbasid garrison during the 8th Century.

In referring to the Omani Short Battle Sword; yes absolutely it is the turned down quillon sword mentioned by Elgood. I simply cannot see any relationship between the two systems(Omani kattara long / Omani Short) and suspect that the short early version may even have been called something other than Kattara though I have no proof.
It does seem that Oman adopted the "Kattara Long" possibly in the 17th Century after seizing Zanzibar initially in 1652. Whether that was the end of the Omani Short has yet to be established but it must have heralded the changeover...perhaps slowly. The Kattara Long does apper to be African linked but to which sword perhaps a Zanzibar sword we havent yet identified? or a concoction mixed with the Sudani, Ethiopian, Yemeni however I do keep raising the flag on the "Terrs" Buckler shield which is African and said to be Rhino hide (though Im sure buffalo and even whale hide were used.) as it is a combination weapon system best used with the small shield.
Thank you very much again for your very encouraging reply.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 17th May 2011 08:19 AM

Omani Swords. Origins.
 
3 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Ibrahim,

No need to apologize, I have been following your thoughts on the evolution of Omani swords with great interest.

My personal thoughts on the adoption of the long Omani broadsword are similar to yours on the adoption of the short sword - I think the form may have entered the Omani aresenal through military contact with the Portuguese. The blade shape of a kattara to me is quite different than the blade shape on a takouba (especially when one considers older examples with a triangular blade) or even that on a kaskara, which has a pointed tip as opposed to the rounded tips on the Omani sword. Therefore an adoption through trophies taken from the Portuguese after the latter were ousted from Muscat seems to be a more logical and direct route than trade links with the African interior.



Further, if the origin of the long kattara was from European broadswords, this would explain why older European maker marks and symbols on sword blades retained an importance well into the 19th century, causing them to be reproduced locally.

As for the curved sabers, I think I read somewhere in Elgood's book that in the mid 19th century, a lot of Caucasian shashka blades made its way into Southern Arabia (connected perhaps to the Circassian diaspora?) and were quickly given local hilts. When I look at the blade on mine, it certainly could have been taken from a shashka.

Regards,
Teodor

Salaams,
Thanks Teodor. The Portuguese were ejected in 1650 from Muscat and persued down the African coast as far as Mozambique and harrassed all over the Indian Ocean in Goa etc etc. Contrary to what people may think, they in fact, used Indian mercenaries as their soldiers on the ground and on their ships... Even a large Portuguese battleship had few Portuguese on board other than "the executives". Religiously they were somewhat biggotted and in no way shape or form would they have entertained an Islamic sword with an Islamic hilt in their arsenals... and in the same way the troopers were not muslims...but hindu. When the Portuguese sacked Sohar for example they slaughtered most of the inhabitants(including the Jewish community) They had a very huge bee in their bonnet about other religions in those days ! ...
While the Omani Short Sword was in use against them it certainly cannot have been introduced by them. The Omani Short, however, is compared favourably with the Abbasid 8th Century Sword. So that we are not confused between the two systems (it is better to think of them as systems since they are totally different and one employs a Buckler shield called a Terrs.) I have attached pictures. The Omani Short Battle Sword is if Im right, 8th Century, so it is no wonder it is shrouded in mystery as "Interior Oman" virtually closed to the outside world until the mid 20th Century ! The Omani Long Kattara on the other hand is generally viewed as being influenced by Zanzibar ~ the swords of Africa perhaps Zanzibari, Sudani and Ethiopian all perhaps adding to the design.
Your note about Shashka is interesting . I had never thought about that. I always thought they were just german imports but your idea is very interesting. Thanks for pointing that out !! :shrug:

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 17th May 2011 08:50 AM

TERRS SHIELD
 
1 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I was lucky enough to win this kattara on eBay about a month ago and it has finally arrived, which enables me to share pictures.
Scabbard and hilt are in poor shape, but at least they retain most of the original fittings and leather. As you can see the fittings are quite simple - no silver, nothing fancy.
Same can be said for the blade - it looks like a 19th century trade blade.
There are plenty of markings, identical on both sides - at the base of the blade there are gurda markings, with something in the middle - does anyone know what it is or what it attempts to represent? At the end of the fullers there is also a small cross. All the markings seem to have been added to the blade locally.
Do you think I am correct about this being a trade blade imported fro, Europe, or would you say this is a local blade?

I am very happy to have added this to my other kattara with a curved blade (most likely an imported shashka blade), and I appreciate everyone's comments.

Regards,
Teodor

Without a Terrs Shield working with a kattara blade is a very wobbly business.

A.alnakkas 17th May 2011 09:06 AM

Thanks for the info Ibrahim, Jazaak allah khair. I am very interested in Bani Ka'ab history and do know that the Buraimi Bani Ka'ab have fought alot of wars.

btw, my Kattara looks very attractive with that shield :P

TVV 17th May 2011 04:31 PM

Ibrahim, when I wrote "Omani broadsword" I was referring to the long kattara, not to the short sword. I should try to express myself clearer.

Regards,
Teodor

Jim McDougall 17th May 2011 04:43 PM

Hi Ibrahiim,
Thank you for the references to the Abbasid sword in Topkapi, and for continuing the most intriguing line of discussion on these swords. I very much like the way you are fielding responses to us individually and with personal attention, and appreciate your taking the time to do this as it is most informative. I am also enjoying learning more on the tribal groups you are describing to learn more on the fascinating history of Oman.

What has become most fascinating is to now realize that these forms of Omani sword are independant rather than developmentally connected, and I believe that Elgood had expressed in his book that the connections between them were somewhat tenuous. Actually the text noted that the origins of what we are terming the 'Omani short sword' were entirely unclear, though he noted several possibilities including Omani settlements in Baluchistan etc. (mentioned in discussions in 2009). Therefore I very much am in accord with your suggestions on the Abbasid origins, and delighted to learn more on this aspect.

What is now termed the 'long kattara' does indeed seem to have originated somewhat around the time of expanded Omani trade and colonial activity, and the increases in presence of trade blades in these regions. I am not sure that the cylindrical type hilt would have had to develop from a sword form in Africa, in fact this simple form would easily have developed independantly.
The fact that there is similarity in form or elements in a type of sword found in different spheres does not actually imply a developmental connection, as I have found, despite the compelling suggestion. With that being the case, it seems most likely that the 'long kattara' may have developed independantly, although if there is any connection to the Mandingo or Maasai guardless swords, I feel it would have been imported through trade materials oroginating with the Omani's. The sword was not the primary weapon with tribal groups in Africa in most cases, and became more commonly used post contact with traders from Europe and Arabia.

In Arabia, as I understand, the use of trade blades was quite prevalent from around 16th century onward, and of course many of these were German, though many came from India and Persia as well. By the later 17th and 18th centuries, the German blades had become more prevalent, and the spurious markings were of course commonly present usually suggesting quality to those acquiring them. As Teodor has noted, there was considerable contact through trade with Caucasian areas, and many blades from there had been marked with the 'running wolf' (of Germany) and the 'sickle marks' (N. Italy and Styria). Since many of these blades were of the curved form used on shashkas, it does seem that these occurred accordingly on the open kattara style hilts.

Also interesting is your note on the material used on the terrs shields, and mostly I have heard of rhino, but not of the whale hide. This would be quite understandable though, as there was a great deal of use of narwhal tusk in hilts in India, and the trade sources must have had these materials both available. Naturally the trade with Malabar in India provided probably these as well as certainly numbers of European blades which were available through Mahratta merchants.

All the very best,
Jim

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 18th May 2011 09:35 AM

Omani Swords. Origins.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Ibrahiim,
Thank you for the references to the Abbasid sword in Topkapi, and for continuing the most intriguing line of discussion on these swords. I very much like the way you are fielding responses to us individually and with personal attention, and appreciate your taking the time to do this as it is most informative. I am also enjoying learning more on the tribal groups you are describing to learn more on the fascinating history of Oman.

What has become most fascinating is to now realize that these forms of Omani sword are independant rather than developmentally connected, and I believe that Elgood had expressed in his book that the connections between them were somewhat tenuous. Actually the text noted that the origins of what we are terming the 'Omani short sword' were entirely unclear, though he noted several possibilities including Omani settlements in Baluchistan etc. (mentioned in discussions in 2009). Therefore I very much am in accord with your suggestions on the Abbasid origins, and delighted to learn more on this aspect.

What is now termed the 'long kattara' does indeed seem to have originated somewhat around the time of expanded Omani trade and colonial activity, and the increases in presence of trade blades in these regions. I am not sure that the cylindrical type hilt would have had to develop from a sword form in Africa, in fact this simple form would easily have developed independantly.
The fact that there is similarity in form or elements in a type of sword found in different spheres does not actually imply a developmental connection, as I have found, despite the compelling suggestion. With that being the case, it seems most likely that the 'long kattara' may have developed independantly, although if there is any connection to the Mandingo or Maasai guardless swords, I feel it would have been imported through trade materials oroginating with the Omani's. The sword was not the primary weapon with tribal groups in Africa in most cases, and became more commonly used post contact with traders from Europe and Arabia.

In Arabia, as I understand, the use of trade blades was quite prevalent from around 16th century onward, and of course many of these were German, though many came from India and Persia as well. By the later 17th and 18th centuries, the German blades had become more prevalent, and the spurious markings were of course commonly present usually suggesting quality to those acquiring them. As Teodor has noted, there was considerable contact through trade with Caucasian areas, and many blades from there had been marked with the 'running wolf' (of Germany) and the 'sickle marks' (N. Italy and Styria). Since many of these blades were of the curved form used on shashkas, it does seem that these occurred accordingly on the open kattara style hilts.

Also interesting is your note on the material used on the terrs shields, and mostly I have heard of rhino, but not of the whale hide. This would be quite understandable though, as there was a great deal of use of narwhal tusk in hilts in India, and the trade sources must have had these materials both available. Naturally the trade with Malabar in India provided probably these as well as certainly numbers of European blades which were available through Mahratta merchants.

All the very best,
Jim

Salaams Jim, Thanks for another very substantial and supporting response. Teodor, as you rightly say, points out the Shashka link to the curved Sayf and refers quote; ...
"As for the curved sabers, I think I read somewhere in Elgood's book that in the mid 19th century, a lot of Caucasian shashka blades made its way into Southern Arabia (connected perhaps to the Circassian diaspora?) and were quickly given local hilts. When I look at the blade on mine, it certainly could have been taken from a shashka" .

I have several shaska blades on flat conical Omani hilts and others on falcon head shaped hilts. I wonder if the hawk style hilt also originated there in the Caucasus as well... Hunting with falcons although popular with the arabs may not be the reason for the hawkshead style on the shaska blades in Arabia... perhaps the entire Curved Sayf; blade and hilt, is Caucasus inspired?

On the subject of Omani Kattara Long. Here is an important passage from W. H. INGRAMS who was an official advisor to the British governor and unusually advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar variously from about 1919 (published in 1931) in which he describes~

" The only performance or dance of the Arabs is the sword dance, RAZHA, accompanied by an orchestra of drums while the performers armed with swords and Jambiyya and small shields of rhinoceros hide indulge in mimic contests. leaping about and weilding their swords in a truly marvellous way".

However what I find amazing is...This was not a Zanzibari dance. W. H. Ingrams goes on to explain that this was only carried out by the Manga(those born in Muscat) not those Mwarcha (those born in Zanzibar).

Could this mean that the Omanis developed entirely separately a fighting system(long blade and buckler) with its own dancing martial activity totally unrelated to Zanzibar and that Zanzibar is an enormous red herring in the proceedings?

If that is the case we may need to look a lot earlier for the answers on Omani Kattara Long and Terrs Buckler Shield! :shrug:

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 18th May 2011 09:43 AM

Omani Swords. Origins.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Ibrahim, when I wrote "Omani broadsword" I was referring to the long kattara, not to the short sword. I should try to express myself clearer.

Regards,
Teodor

Not a problem~ I hope my answer answered both possibilities and please see my latest to Jim McDougall as I believe your facts about the Shashka are vital to a new aspect of curved swords in the region and there is a relevant and intriguing story from Zanzibar. :shrug:

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 18th May 2011 10:28 AM

Omani Swords. Origins.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Salaams Jim, Thanks for another very substantial and supporting response. Teodor, as you rightly say, points out the Shashka link to the curved Sayf and refers quote; ...
"As for the curved sabers, I think I read somewhere in Elgood's book that in the mid 19th century, a lot of Caucasian shashka blades made its way into Southern Arabia (connected perhaps to the Circassian diaspora?) and were quickly given local hilts. When I look at the blade on mine, it certainly could have been taken from a shashka" .

I have several shaska blades on flat conical Omani hilts and others on falcon head shaped hilts. I wonder if the hawk style hilt also originated there in the Caucasus as well... Hunting with falcons although popular with the arabs may not be the reason for the hawkshead style on the shaska blades in Arabia... perhaps the entire Curved Sayf; blade and hilt, is Caucasus inspired?

On the subject of Omani Kattara Long. Here is an important passage from W. H. INGRAMS who was an official advisor to the British governor and unusually advisor to the Sultan of Zanzibar variously from about 1919 (published in 1931) in which he describes~

" The only performance or dance of the Arabs is the sword dance, RAZHA, accompanied by an orchestra of drums while the performers armed with swords and Jambiyya and small shields of rhinoceros hide indulge in mimic contests. leaping about and weilding their swords in a truly marvellous way".

However what I find amazing is...This was not a Zanzibari dance. W. H. Ingrams goes on to explain that this was only carried out by the Manga(those born in Muscat) not those Mwarcha (those born in Zanzibar).

Could this mean that the Omanis developed entirely separately a fighting system(long blade and buckler) with its own dancing martial activity totally unrelated to Zanzibar and that Zanzibar is an enormous red herring in the proceedings?

If that is the case we may need to look a lot earlier for the answers on Omani Kattara Long and Terrs Buckler Shield! :shrug:


Omani Kattara .
The earliest picture I can find which goes back to this forum in 2004 is attached showing an 1860 slave trader Tipu Sultan with a slightly curved Sayf on a long hilt with holed pommel looking like it is an antique (but date of origin unproven!! )

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 18th May 2011 10:43 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
Omani Kattara .
The earliest picture I can find which goes back to this forum in 2004 is attached showing an 1860 slave trader Tipu Sultan with a slightly curved Sayf on a long hilt with holed pommel looking like it is an antique (but date of origin unproven!! )

Heres the photo~

Jim McDougall 20th May 2011 01:35 AM

Hi Ibrahiim,
I'm puzzled by the reference to 1860 slave trader "Tipu Sultan' ? What post was that in? The sword appears to be a military sabre blade (carrying rings) and probably corresponding blade with the Omani type hilt. Where was this slave trader said to be operating, or where was the photo from.

Also, what is meant by the 'hawkshead' hilt ? Is there an illustration? In any case the curved sabre is by no means from Caucasian ancestry in Arabia though the trade blades from there did come in through various means.
The use of some of these Caucasian blades is mentioned by Elgood in "Arms and Armour of Arabia", and the preference for Persian blades is also noted. We have discussed many times the use of Persian trade blades on Arab sabres. Many of the straight blades are known to have arrived through Indian trade contacts.

The martial swordplay/'dancing' is also described by Sir Richard Burton in 1884, and as noted is also known in India, particularly in the case of use of the pata in which deep slashing moves are made. The Mahrattas distinctly favored slashing moves, despising the thrust. In Khevsuria, in the Caucasus, these dance type moves leaping from crouched position and using bucklers are key to the well known duels practiced well into the 20th century.

I am inclined to think that the guardless Omani hilt developed in the Arabian Peninsula, and not in Zanzibar, nor was it influenced by the swords from the African interior. While the importance of Zanzibar was considerable as a trade and center including slaving commerce, I feel that it was much more receptive as far as weaponry than it was innovative, and the weapons in use there were an amalgam of many forms used by the many traders frwquenting there. It is known that later in the 19th century many makers there did produce swords of established forms using trade blades and copying styles from numerous influences. The well known 'Zanzibar' type of 'nimcha' hilts is essentially the Moroccan sa'if type hilt with a perpandicular loop on the guard (as seen in Buttin, 1933).

All the very best,
Jim

A.alnakkas 20th May 2011 09:07 AM

By hawkshead hilt, Ibrahim means the arabic Karabella. These are often flagged as yemeni but lately am considering that they might be omani or shared by both regions.

Jim McDougall 20th May 2011 03:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
By hawkshead hilt, Ibrahim means the arabic Karabella. These are often flagged as yemeni but lately am considering that they might be omani or shared by both regions.


Thank you, I thought thats what was meant, but wanted to be sure. The karabella form was indeed deeply favored in Arabia, but that rather distinct hilt form developed under Ottoman auspices as I understand. It is believed the term may reference the city in Iraq which may have associations to the name, as discussed in "Development of the Polish Sabre" (Jan Ostrowski). The karabela became prevalent as a parade sabre and considered the Polish national weapon after they adopted the form from sabres used by the Turks.
The hilt form seems to have likely entered the Arabian domain through the Ottoman influences as well.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 20th May 2011 04:08 PM

Tipu Tib and Sword Origins etc
 
4 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Ibrahiim,
I'm puzzled by the reference to 1860 slave trader "Tipu Sultan' ? What post was that in? The sword appears to be a military sabre blade (carrying rings) and probably corresponding blade with the Omani type hilt. Where was this slave trader said to be operating, or where was the photo from.

Also, what is meant by the 'hawkshead' hilt ? Is there an illustration? In any case the curved sabre is by no means from Caucasian ancestry in Arabia though the trade blades from there did come in through various means.
The use of some of these Caucasian blades is mentioned by Elgood in "Arms and Armour of Arabia", and the preference for Persian blades is also noted. We have discussed many times the use of Persian trade blades on Arab sabres. Many of the straight blades are known to have arrived through Indian trade contacts.

The martial swordplay/'dancing' is also described by Sir Richard Burton in 1884, and as noted is also known in India, particularly in the case of use of the pata in which deep slashing moves are made. The Mahrattas distinctly favored slashing moves, despising the thrust. In Khevsuria, in the Caucasus, these dance type moves leaping from crouched position and using bucklers are key to the well known duels practiced well into the 20th century.

I am inclined to think that the guardless Omani hilt developed in the Arabian Peninsula, and not in Zanzibar, nor was it influenced by the swords from the African interior. While the importance of Zanzibar was considerable as a trade and center including slaving commerce, I feel that it was much more receptive as far as weaponry than it was innovative, and the weapons in use there were an amalgam of many forms used by the many traders frwquenting there. It is known that later in the 19th century many makers there did produce swords of established forms using trade blades and copying styles from numerous influences. The well known 'Zanzibar' type of 'nimcha' hilts is essentially the Moroccan sa'if type hilt with a perpandicular loop on the guard (as seen in Buttin, 1933).

All the very best,
Jim

Salaams Jim, My mistake in calling him Tipu Sultan (sultans on the brain!!)His real name (tipu tip) was; hamed bin mohammed a swahili which is good to punch into google search ~ The greatest slaver on the African East Coast and controlling about 2 million square miles of territory. posted 11-24-2004 14:05 ( picture 7.) The sword is rigged on a scabbard that would hang at the long carry usually seen on scimitar and shamshir varieties... Anyway it is the hilt which intrigues..

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia







Tippu Tip
Tippu Tip or Tib (1837 - June 14, 1905), real name Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Saīd al-Murghabī, (Arabic: حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي‎), was a Swahili-Zanzibari trader of mixed descent. He was famously known as Tippu Tib after an eye disease which made him blind. A notorious slave trader, plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar, he led many trading expeditions into east-central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa.

He built himself a trading empire that he then translated into clove plantations on Zanzibar. Abdul Sheriff reports that when he left for his twelve years of "empire building" on the mainland, he had no plantations of his own. However, by 1895, he had acquired "seven shambas [plantations] and 10,000 slaves."[1]

His mother, Bint Habib bin Bushir, was a Muscat Arab of the ruling class. His father and paternal grandfather were coastal Swahili who had taken part in the earliest trading expeditions to the interior. His paternal great-grandmother, wife of Rajab bin Mohammed bin Said el Murgebi was the daughter of Juma bin Mohammed el Nebhani, a member of a respected Muscat (Oman) family, and an African woman from the village of Mbwa Maji, a small village south of what would later become the German capital of Dar es Salaam.[2]

He met and helped several famous western explorers of the African continent, including Henry Morton Stanley. Between 1884 and 1887, el Murgebi claimed the Eastern Congo for himself and for the Sultan of Zanzibar, Bargash bin Said el Busaidi. In spite of his position as protector of Zanzibar's interests in Congo, he managed to maintain good relations with the Europeans. When, in August 1886, fighting broke out between Arabs (Swahili) and the representatives of King Leopold II of Belgium at Stanley Falls, el Murgebi went to the Belgian consul at Zanzibar to assure him of his "good intentions." Although he was still a force in Central African politics, he could see by 1886 that power in the region was shifting. In early 1887, Stanley arrived in Zanzibar and proposed that Tippu Tip be made governor of the Stanley Falls District in the Congo Free State. Both Leopold and Sultan Barghash bin Said agreed and on February 24, 1887, Hamed bin Mohammed el Murgebi accepted.[3]

Around 1890/91, he returned to Zanzibar where he retired. He wrote his autobiography, which is the first example of this literary genre in Swahili. El Murgebi wrote his autobiography in Swahili in Arabic script. Dr. Heinrich Brode, who knew him in Zanzibar, transcribed the manuscript into Roman script and translated it into German. It was subsequently translated into English and published in Britain in 1907.

He died June 13, 1905, of malaria (according to Brode) in his home in Stone Town, the main town on the island of Zanzibar.

I have put up two fotos one is Tipu in the photo in the 1860s with the Kattara long handle on what looks like a kattara or sayf and the other a sketch of Sultan Barghash later in about 1895 annoyingly sporting the Old Omani Sword with turned down Quillons !!!


Hawkshead hilt ~ Possibly from the hilt known as Karabella and often simply leather covered in Arabian swords. It occurred to me that Shaska have similar hilts and that perhaps the hilt transferred at the same time as the blade in this variant. It would make sense that this short curved weapon was used aboard Omani ships however I cant prove that. (yet) I have put up photos of the curved smaller sayf with the hawk or falcons head simply leather covered.

Reference your "I am inclined to think that the guardless Omani hilt developed in the Arabian Peninsula, and not in Zanzibar, nor was it influenced by the swords from the African interior".

I agree but I cant quite prove it. The quote I made I think is important from the 1931 publication stating that the dance routine or "Razha" seen in Zanzibar was Omani so we look today for a similar terminology and sure enough the Omani Sword dance is called RAZHA ! That should be Game Set and Match !! but it doesnt put a suitable date on the sword entering use in Oman.

If there is no Zanzibar/ African link when did the kattara long enter use in Oman? It certainly entered folklore in the form of a martial dance and that points to a very early date. I would suggest between 9th and 13 th century ~ and on the Oman coast (BECAUSE COASTAL OMAN WOULD BRING THE RHINO HIDE SHIELDS MATERIAL FROM AFRICAN SOURCES AS OPPOSED TO IT BEING BROUGHT BY THE INTERIOR OF OMAN ~ THE TWO FACTIONS "THE INTERIOR AND THE COASTAL BELT" BEING MORE OR LESS AT WAR WITH EACH OTHER CONTINUOUSLY.

I have the Short Omani Battle Sword frozen in a time warp in the Omani interior, Abbasid influeced, entering use about 850 A.D. and remaining in use at least up to the 1890s when it was sketched on the waist of Sultan Bargash. (picture attached)

Conclusions.
The influence of Caucasus blades may have also included handle design on shorter curved sayf likely to have been used on board the very active Omani merchant and Naval vessels.
I also conclude that the Omani Long Kattara could pre date estimates by 4 centuries in view of the estimated time that folklore would need for the sword and shield dance to be imprinted and that the two systems were in use variously and together until the early 1900s. as defined in the pictures attached.
It remains to be uncovered as to wether the long curved sayf was used in the same fashion as the kattara since it is also seen with the same handle... The long flat connical hilt and pommel with a hole..

Shukran Jim

Ibrahiim


Reference your "The well known 'Zanzibar' type of 'nimcha' hilts" For years there has been a muddle over these hilts to often attributed to Moroccan.. see Antony North Islamic Arms p 29 ~ I have seen some almost identical but now attributed to Zanzibar.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 20th May 2011 06:11 PM

Karbella
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
By hawkshead hilt, Ibrahim means the arabic Karabella. These are often flagged as yemeni but lately am considering that they might be omani or shared by both regions.


SALAAMS ...Indeed they do get called Yemeni and it could be that is where they were traded in from. Good point on the Karbella ! Thanks !!

Jim McDougall 21st May 2011 04:56 AM

Hi Ibrahiim,
More on the 'karabela':
From: "Polish Sabres:Their Origins and Evolution", Jan Ostroski, in
"Art , Arms & Armour" ed. Robert Held, 1979, pp.220-237.

The hilt form known as karabela, was also widely known as 'the Polish Sabre'.
"...the oldest available karabelas now in Poland are known to have been captured at Vienna in 1683, and hence originated in Turkey, probably under Persian influence, at the beginning of the 17th century. Within a short time it became more popular in Poland than it had ever been in Turkey or Hungary."

In "The Arms and Armour of Arabia", Robert Elgood, 1994, p.15, a sword found in the suqs of Riyadh described as follows, "...the hilt is like the karabella in form with silver sheet or other netal partly covering the grip made of wood or horn. The Arab traders say these are acquired in the Yemen. **

** as noted

The so called karabela hilt became popular in Persia in the early 17th century and Shah Abbas I can be seen wearing a sword with this hilt in miniature paintings. Because of the close trade and political links between Persia and Poland, which were in alliance against the Ottomans, and the adaption of Persian culture at court, the sword became extremely popular in Poland".

Elgood further notes that in 1623 Shah Abbas had occupied Baghdad and in taking control of areas including the city of Karbala, suggesting that the name for the sword hilt was in memory of that campaign.He also cites Nadolski ('Polish Side Arms') who states that there was considerable export of these type swords in later 17th early 18th c. entering the Persian Gulf trade, with many of course arriving in Arabia.

Also discussed are these shorter combat swords 'nim sha' which indeed were ideal for maritime use and well known in the Arab trade world. I know that many of these have the 'karabela' type hilt form and are wire wrapped at the neck of the hilt as are Persian shamshirs. In Arabia, Persian swords and blades are held in the highest esteem.

While these references illustrate the probable sources of the karabela style hilts in Arabia, there is still the question of the cylindrical or guardless Omani long kattara and its origins. The examples of leather covered guardless swords posted do seem to reflect in degree a certain recognition of the Caucasian shashka, but really it seems again, a tenous connection and likely a simple hilt solution to the use of the sabre blades which came not only from the Caucusus but other European sources as well. These kinds of swords with sabre blades are well known with Bedouin tribesmen even into the Sinai.

The simple open hilt Omani 'long kattara' seems likely also a product of simplistic hilting of these longer trade blades to be used as described with the buckler. The more decorative and silver mounted versions were likely of course for prominant and status conscious Omani merchants and officials.

All the best,
Jim

kahnjar1 21st May 2011 05:21 AM

7 Attachment(s)
Thought I would add a little in the way of pics to this thread since the term Karabela has surfaced. I have such an item of Yemeni origin with that type of hilt. Have also added a couple of pics of a straight and a curved Omani Kattara, both of which have appeared in different threads of this Forum. Also a pic of a Terrs buckler which I have in my collection.
Regards Stuart

kahnjar1 21st May 2011 06:52 AM

Sultan Tipu's sword
 
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=12242
The plot thickens.................. Refer to above link where Kattara were also discussed. ARCHER posted pics of a sword with "knobs" on the top of the hilt. This was (I think) eventually identified as Manding, but take a look at the sword held by Sultan Tipu! Looks remarkably similar.
So what do the Members think now..............? Is ARCHER'S sword in fact a Kattara?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 21st May 2011 02:59 PM

KATTARA OR MENDINGO etc
 
2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by kahnjar1
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=12242
The plot thickens.................. Refer to above link where Kattara were also discussed. ARCHER posted pics of a sword with "knobs" on the top of the hilt. This was (I think) eventually identified as Manding, but take a look at the sword held by Sultan Tipu! Looks remarkably similar.
So what do the Members think now..............? Is ARCHER'S sword in fact a Kattara?


Salaams, Archers is Mendingo and the other with the Sultan is kattara. Thats not "Tippu Sultan".. that may have been a misleading comment by me ... Tippu tip al swahili was a slave trader (there was a tipu sultan but he was off another generation altogether from India not related)

Tippu Tip or Tib (1837 - June 14, 1905), real name Hamad bin Muḥammad bin Jumah bin Rajab bin Muḥammad bin Saīd al-Murghabī, (Arabic: حمد بن محمد بن جمعة بن رجب بن محمد بن سعيد المرجبي‎), was a Swahili-Zanzibari trader of mixed descent. He was famously known as Tippu Tib after an eye disease which made him blind. A notorious slave trader, plantation owner and governor, who worked for a succession of sultans of Zanzibar, he led many trading expeditions into east-central Africa, involving the slave trade and ivory trade. He constructed profitable trading posts that reached deep into Central Africa.

The photo may be one of the Zanzibari sultans like Barghash or whoever but anyway that is an Omani Kattara...with a hole in the pommel !!

I think what may be important here is that the link with African swords to the Omani Kattara is being dismantled and it may be that the Kattara is a thoroughbred Omani system coupled with the buckler Terss shield and possibly pre-dating previous estimates and dwarfing age estimates by possibly 500 years !! since it is engrained in the historical cultural Omani tradition by way of a sword and shield war dance.

My estimate is 9th century inspired from the Oman Coast, war, trade and slavery and by the fact of the traditional dance.

I think what is also slowly dawning is the suposition that the Omani Short Battle Sword may be well and truly ancient predating previous estimates by several centuries as a staggering 8th Century weapon copied from the Abbasid.

What clouds the issue on the Long Kattara is the abundance of european blades though presumeably the original blade was similar ?? Im not even sure that looking at the blade is all that relevant ~ it is the hilt and the shield which seem to be more an important flag on origin and the cultural aspect of a traditional war dance which takes ages before it becomes imprinted as a national iconic structure.

By the way do you notice the brass escutcheons on the front of the Buckler ?... They are for securing the handle and for disarming with a twist the opponents sword.

I think I should put on record the number of different swords on this long hilt is vast...both straight, double edged, single edged, zig zag blades, slight curved, and very curved and in my collection alone there are lots... so a picture should be seen displaying that conundrum~

That alone underpins how difficult it is to trace back the origin of species of the Omani Kattara and the oldest picture(photo) I have seen is about 1860. If anyone has any older photos or pictures I would appreciate that. :shrug:

Regards Ibrahiim.


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