Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Possible mystery - first clue (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=19397)

DaveA 9th December 2014 05:38 PM

Possible mystery - first clue
 
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Hello all,

I have recently obtained a very interesting sword from a fellow forum dweller who is also a respected dealer. Let's call him "FFD" for now. The sword in question has what would seem like a solid identification from a respected previous owner (who indeed was so certain that he published it). However, FFD and I agree that the features don't seem to match. So what is it?

So as not to prejudice the investigation or produce a hasty conclusion, I will reveal the clues one by one.

Here is the first clue: the pommel. It is a hard wood with a deep brown-red color, lacquered. (The entire hilt, long enough for two hands, is the same and of a single piece.) The shape of the pommel is an elongated cone, at the base of which the shape is a reverse truncated cone that leads to the hilt grip proper. See the attached photo.

Anyone recognize this shape pommel?

Best Regards,

Dave A.

Sajen 9th December 2014 07:40 PM

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Hi Dave,

when I not complete wrong it is the pictured chopper you ask about. It is for sure not Indonesian like suggested but a Thai or Laos chopper when I am not wrong.

Regards,
Detlef

A. G. Maisey 9th December 2014 08:35 PM

Looks a bit like an old-time Aussie cane knife, used for cutting sugar-cane --- yeah, yeah, I know its not, but it has similar features.

As Detlef says:- not from the Indonesian Archipelago.

Ian 10th December 2014 02:46 AM

Detlef:

I agree that this one is not necessarily from the Indonesian Archipelago. HOWEVER, in Anthony Tirri's book, Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul, there is a picture of the identical sword (but with a blue background) that he calls a parang beng kok from Bali (see fig. 300B, p. 424). That sword is mentioned also in van Zonneveld's encyclopedic reference on Indonesian arms, although with a different hilt and the sharpened edge is on the S-shaped section (not the straight back). This example is based on Gardner (1936), and the information provided shows that is sharpened on the opposite edge to the one pictured in Tirri's book.

Based on the shape of the pommel alone, which is the initial subject of this thread, there is a passing similarity to a Tengerrese sword that was discussed here a few months ago (see: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18718). The Tengerrese are from eastern Java. Interestingly, van Zonneveld describes a ruding lengon (p. 115) from East Java as "an ancient weapon with a heavy, fancifully shaped blade which may be thick along the back, ending in a point curving forwards. The edge is extremely S-shaped." The drawing for this one is based also on an example shown in Gardner (1936) and appears closer to the subject of this thread than a parang bengkok.

Despite the comments to date, I would not dismiss an Indonesian origin just yet based on the shape of the pommel alone. Let's see the rest of the actual sword first.

Ian.

References:

Gardner, GB (1936). Keris and Other Malay Weapons. Singapore. (reproduced by Wakefield, 1973).

Tirri, AC (2003). Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul. Indigo Publishing.

Van Zonneveld, A (2001). Traditional Weapons of the Indonesian Archipelago. Zwartenkot Art Books:Lieden.

DaveA 10th December 2014 04:05 AM

Good!
 
This is the same sword once in Tirri's collection and depicted in his book as you cite.

Here is what sets it apart from similar style cane knives/swords: It is sharp along the flat straight edge as shown in the picture, not the curved edge.

The Laos idea is interesting.

Other ideas?

Sajen 10th December 2014 05:10 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Detlef:

I agree that this one is not necessarily from the Indonesian Archipelago. HOWEVER, in Anthony Tirri's book, Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul, there is a picture of the identical sword (but with a blue background) that he calls a parang beng kok from Bali (see fig. 300B, p. 424). That sword is not mentioned in van Zonneveld's encyclopedic reference on Indonesian arms, so I would guess Tirri is likely incorrect. Nevertheless, it is the exact same sword that you show in the post above.

Based on the shape of the pommel alone, which is the initial subject of this thread, there is a passing similarity to a Tengerrese sword that was discussed here a few months ago. See: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=18718

Despite the comments to date, I would not dismiss an Indonesian origin just yet based on the shape of the pommel alone. Let's see the rest of the actual sword first.

Ian.


Hello Ian,

my opinion wasn't based alone by the pommel shape but by the complete sword/chopper. When it was for selling I was interested as well and have discussed it with a friend.

Hello Dave,

you have got a great bargain, this choppers are very rare. Maybe I will be able to show a similar example soon.

Regards,
Detlef

A. G. Maisey 10th December 2014 06:16 AM

Aussie cane knives are sharp on the opposite side to the hook.

After the cane has been burnt to get rid of excess foliage and snakes you cut and then turn the knife over and use the hook to throw the cane behind you. Its rotten work.

Like I said:- this knife is similar to the knives used in Oz to cut cane.

Interesting thing to me is that this knife has no ferrule. Balinese tools for cutting cane, grass, light scrub have either a solid ferrule, or a socket to accept the hilt. The construction of this knife shown appears to have no ferrule, which means that it seems not intended for any sort of heavy work, and certainly not as a weapon --- first bone you hit the hilt would split. Even knives intended to cut grass in Bali have ferrules --- in fact even the fruit knives and kitchen knives have ferrules.

So what was it designed to do?

Maybe harvesting some sort of fruit, or nuts?

Place a partial cut through the stem and use the hook to pull the fruit down?

No impact that way, hence no need for a ferrule.

kai 10th December 2014 06:39 AM

Hello Ian,

Quote:
I agree that this one is not necessarily from the Indonesian Archipelago. HOWEVER, in Anthony Tirri's book, Islamic Weapons: Maghrib to Moghul, there is a picture of the identical sword (but with a blue background) that he calls a parang beng kok from Bali (see fig. 300B, p. 424). That sword is not mentioned in van Zonneveld's encyclopedic reference on Indonesian arms, so I would guess Tirri is likely incorrect.

BTW, Albert does mention the parang bengkok from Java and Bali: p. 98, Fig. 382.

As with many utility blades, good antique examples seem to be rare; moreover, determining the origin og a given piece is also often a challenge due to the form-follows-function factor. Maybe our member billhook can lend a helping hand?

Regards,
Kai

kai 10th December 2014 06:48 AM

Hello Dave,

Quote:
Here is what sets it apart from similar style cane knives/swords: It is sharp along the flat straight edge as shown in the picture, not the curved edge.

That does sound like what Alan is describing below, doesn't it? I'm not sure wether I'm getting the description in AvZ - sounds similar though.

Regards,
Kai

kai 10th December 2014 06:56 AM

Hello Alan,

Quote:
Aussie cane knives are sharp on the opposite side to the hook.

After the cane has been burnt to get rid of excess foliage and snakes you cut and then turn the knife over and use the hook to throw the cane behind you. Its rotten work.

Like I said:- this knife is similar to the knives used in Oz to cut cane.

Where did the early sugar cane plantation workers in Oz come from? Tamil?

Albert does mention this tool also from Java - what old-time tools have you seen having been used there for cane?


Quote:
Interesting thing to me is that this knife has no ferrule. Balinese tools for cutting cane, grass, light scrub have either a solid ferrule, or a socket to accept the hilt. The construction of this knife shown appears to have no ferrule, which means that it seems not intended for any sort of heavy work, and certainly not as a weapon

That's an issue to take into consideration, too.

Detlef, how about your other example?

Regards,
Kai

Sajen 10th December 2014 06:56 AM

Hello Dave,

please post the dimensions from the chopper and the thickness of the blade, this will be very helpful.

Regards,
Detlef

Sajen 10th December 2014 07:05 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
Detlef, how about your other example?


Hello Kai,

let me some time, my friend think that he have a picture but need to dig it out. The dimensions will show that it is not a cane chopper.

Regards,
Detlef

A. G. Maisey 10th December 2014 07:44 AM

Kai, Australia's early cane field workers were Melanesians. Essentially they were slaves. Young men and women were kidnapped, either by guile or by force and taken to work in the Queensland cane fields.

The practice was known as "blackbirding". It was a bloody disgrace.

But the upside is that the descendants of these people have produced some brilliant brilliant footballers.

Maybe the Australian Rugby League and Rugby Union should make ongoing donations to the Solomon Islands, and the other places that the ancestors of their best players came from.

Anyway, back to the knife.

Chisel grind?

Hook forms a hand-stop on the blunt back edge.

This design would be perfect for splitting bambu.

No, of course it is not any sort of chopper, let alone a cane chopper. No ferrule on a wooden handle and with a longish blade? How long would that stay in one piece if it was used to chop anything?

Roland_M 10th December 2014 01:19 PM

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Hello,

this blade is from an auction (Posting a link to a live auction is against forum rules.) and looks a little similar, especially the hilt. Description claims "Klewang".

Greetings

Ian 10th December 2014 01:34 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
Hello Ian,


BTW, Albert does mention the parang bengkok from Java and Bali: p. 98, Fig. 382.

As with many utility blades, good antique examples seem to be rare; moreover, determining the origin og a given piece is also often a challenge due to the form-follows-function factor. Maybe our member billhook can lend a helping hand?

Regards,
Kai
Kai:

You're absolutely correct about van Zonneveld and I have amended my original post. Van Zonneveld also mentions another similarly shaped weapon from East Java.

Ian.

DaveA 10th December 2014 03:39 PM

Dimensions of the sword
 
OAL is 33 1/2 inches

Blade length is 19 inches

Blade thickness is 5/16th inch with distal taper to 1/8th inch

Blade width is 1 1/2 inch at base and 2 5/8 inch at the widest point of the bulge along the backside.

The edge is sharp along the straight edge on through the curve up to the tip.

The blade cross section is full flat with a flat grind (on both sides).

This is a very solid and relatively heavy weapon. I've no doubt it would find good use chopping in the fields or in battle.

I will post some close up pictures soon.

Best,

Dave A.

DaveA 10th December 2014 04:26 PM

Gardner, Von Zonneveld, Tirri reference to p. bengkok
 
See Gardner, "Keris and other Malay Weapons", plate 58. The drawing shows the parang bengkok (Java) #6 sharp along the hook side. The parang bengkok (Bali) #1 is ambiguous about the edge. Gardner doesn't claim to have actually seen this weapon.

A. Von Z. p98 image 382 (btw, this is the identical drawing from Gardner) describes the back as straight and the edge as "between S-shaped and concave." (I.e., on the hook side) This is in concord with Gardner's illustration, or at least we share the same interpretation. Curiously, Albert says the "blade's tip is curved sharply upwards." If the sharp edge is the curved side, it would seem correct to say that it "curves downwards." Yes? This suggests to me that Albert was working only with Gardner's text (which he cites) and never actually held the sword himself.

Tirri shows us the first real photo I can find in published sources. On p.423-424 there are depictions of three weapons from Bali. Figure 300a is a Teabuna and figure 300 is a Kudi Tranchang, both with a superficial resemblance to our subject weapon which is shown in figure 300b. However, compare the hilts and other features and I think you'll agree our subject weapon seems out of place.

I feel like I once saw a similar hilt on a Laotian or Cambodian weapon, but unfortunately I cannot recall anything more specific.

Best,

Dave A

spiral 10th December 2014 05:55 PM

Isnt there a blade like this in Rawsons work a Burmese dao/dha of some sort? :shrug:

Also the hilt may not be original & may once of had a bolster/ferrule?

spiral

Ian 10th December 2014 06:28 PM

Dave:

That pommel is really not a typical feature for mainland SE Asian weapons. While there are occasional blades that resemble a ram dao (which your example also resembles IMO), the hilts on mainland SE Asian examples are quite different from yours and more closely resemble either those seen on ram dao from India/Nepal or hilts seen on dha/daab of that region. From memory, all that I've seen had a metal bolster or ferrule adjacent to the blade.

There is an old thread started by Oriental-Arms concerning two "bird swords" that were possibly dha and showed elongated and pointed hilts (See: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=2324). Those are the only two wooden hilts on dha-like swords that I can recall coming anywhere close to the elongated form on your sword.

It's hard to know what that elongated "cone" pommel on your hilt might represent, but it is quite different from the "lotus bud" depicted commonly on the pommels of dha/daab and which is an important Buddhist emblem.

Ian.

spiral 10th December 2014 06:59 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by spiral
Isnt there a blade like this in Rawsons work a Burmese dao/dha of some sort? :shrug:

Also the hilt may not be original & may once of had a bolster/ferrule?

spiral


Kabui dancing dao page. 58 & fig. 34 Rawson "The Indian sword."

Doesn't need a ferrule its for dancing..... {from the Kabui tribe, Assam/Burma regions...} :)

spiral

A. G. Maisey 10th December 2014 08:48 PM

Forget my suggestion for splitting bambu, now we have the complete description the blade geometry militates against that use.

~~~~~~~~

In respect of terminology.

In Jawa and also in Bali there is a hooked knife that we use for cutting grass and pruning bushes.

This knife is called a TELABUNG in Raffles, but I've never heard it called that in either Jawa or Bali, in Jawa it usually gets called a "BENDO", in Bali I've heard several people call it an "ARIT". Both these modern names could be historically incorrect and represent the common generic names used by modern people.

The TELABUNG frequently has the handle fitted into a socket, the example shown in Raffles has a handle that uses a ferrule. Every TELABUNG that I have seen is less than 24 inches overall length, the ones I use in the garden are only about 15 inches in length. The blade has a flat grind and is sharpened on the hooked side of the blade. It is a typical billhook, and is used like one.

Albert van Zonneveld shows a TELABUNG on page 143, but incorrectly names it a TELABUNA. He quotes Raffles as his reference. This is an understandable error, as the print in Raffles is very faint, and could easily be misread.

I do not own a copy of Tirri.

If Tirri names a KUDI TRANCHANG as Balinese he is wrong.

The KUDI is not Balinese, it is Javanese, principally from western Central Jawa, Banyumas and Cilacap. I have never heard the term KUDI TRANCANG used in Jawa.

Raffles shows a knife that we would now call simply a KUDI, and he names this as a KUDI TRANCHANG --- which of course should be KUDI TRANCANG. It is probable that Raffles is the source of the incorrect spelling that is repeated and repeated and repeated, and also the addition of "tranchang"

The word TRANCANG is Javanese and it means a net or a grid made out of wire. I have long thought that Raffles' name of KUDI TRANCHANG was the direct description of a specific KUDI given to him by his indigenous informant. A kudi with heavily veined material would be described as KUDI TRANCANG because the veined material would have the appearance of wire or cable.

Gardner shows a variety of tools and weapons from various locations that he names as KUDI, or KUDIK (kudi and kudik would sound the same to a native English speaker), and PARANG BENGKOK. Gardner is an historically interesting source, but it is as well not to take him too seriously.

Alfred van Zonneveld shows several blade forms that he names as KUDI, and he shows two implements that he names as KUDI TRANCHANG (kudi trancang). One of these is a Balinese pengentas, used in cremation ceremonies. The other is something I have never seen an example of and I do not know a name for it.

As for BENGKOK.
BENGKOK means bent or crooked.
Just that simple.

A PARANG BENGKOK is a bent parang.

Its a description rather than a name. There are any number of S.E. Asian tools/weapons that can be called PARANG BENGKOK.

I have a very intense dislike for this name game business. Every collector I've ever known wants to stick a name on every item that comes into his possession.

Very, very frequently the names that they have to choose from are corruptions of the name provided by the indigenous informant, or the name is not a name at all, but a description, or the name is simply wrong.

Collecting is one thing.

Affixing correct names is something different. It is a very good idea for anybody who wishes to collect S.E.Asian weapons and tools to gain some knowledge of the relevant languages and get hold of a few decent dictionaries.

~~~~~~~

SPIRAL:- I've had a look at the Rawson references you've provided, I cannot see anything that looks like the thing that Dave posted a pic of.

spiral 10th December 2014 08:59 PM

mmm that's strange.... :shrug:

Ian 11th December 2014 01:00 AM

Spiral:

The item to which you refer is Fig. 50 in my version of Rawson which was published in Copenhagen (there are at least two different publishings and they differ somewhat in content). In any case, the Kabui item you refer to has a very different blade and hilt from the one shown by Dave.

I'm surprised that you did not think the ram dao section of Rawson worthy of discussion here. To my eye, the blade form of Dave's sword is closer to some of the Indian/Nepalese ram dao than other examples in his book.

Ian.

Ian 11th December 2014 01:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
... Gardner is an historically interesting source, but it is as well not to take him too seriously. ...

... I have a very intense dislike for this name game business. Every collector I've ever known wants to stick a name on every item that comes into his possession.

Very, very frequently the names that they have to choose from are corruptions of the name provided by the indigenous informant, or the name is not a name at all, but a description, or the name is simply wrong.

Collecting is one thing.

Affixing correct names is something different. It is a very good idea for anybody who wishes to collect S.E.Asian weapons and tools to gain some knowledge of the relevant languages and get hold of a few decent dictionaries.
Alan, I agree completely with your comments! The same can be said for the naming of Filipino weapons, Burmese, Thai, etc. Our Western culture seems to crave a specific name for each identifiable item, and we want to catalog and classify these items as precisely as possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can certainly lead to a false sense of knowledge and specificity when, as you say, we authoritatively pronounce something as being called a "bent knife."

However, without some attempt at classifying and sub-classifying our interesting collections, we are left with heaps of bolos, punales, parang, kris, pisau, dha, dao, etc. that are each heterogeneous in form and function. We do need a way to be able to talk with each other about the subtle differences. Not all of us can be immersed in the respective cultures and fluent in the languages of our interests. So we borrow from people who sound like they know what they are talking about, have maybe done some academic-looking research, and have published in a language that we understand.

I don't have an answer to this dilemma other than to read widely, and to visit here and other fora to try to sift out the wheat from the chaff. I am certain of one thing, however, and that is collectors are more numerous and better connected than ever before because of the internet and fora such as this one. Hopefully this is a good thing. :)

Ian.

A. G. Maisey 11th December 2014 02:54 AM

Yes Ian, you're right:- there needs to be a common language, and if that common language includes words from a foreign language, it probably doesn't matter.

Provided that collectors as a whole recognise that the names they use for these ethnographic things are their own names, not necessarily the names that are used in the societies of origin of the things so named.

With keris its a pretty similar thing. When Ensiklopedi (second edition) came out many people commented that a lot of the names used for various things included in the work were very puzzling and probably incorrect, but the book did provide terms of reference that everybody could use to communicate.

I personally like the idea of naming weaponry with an alpha-numeric system. Maybe a latter day Stone will do that some day.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Re the Kabui dao.

My Rawson is a 1969, ARCO, New York edition.

Plate 36 has the Kabui dao shown, but it is nothing like Dave's thing.

Jim McDougall 11th December 2014 04:42 PM

While I do not have anything to add to the topic here, as arms from these categories are far outside my usual fields of study, I just wanted to say how impressive this thread is!

Though the initial post began with a somewhat negatively postured query, the responses and discussion has proven extremely informative for those of us not particularly well versed in these arms. Most impressive to me are the detailed and well texted posts complete with cited references and notes to comparative examples .
Above all, even conflicting observations or errors are pointed out with completely gentlemanly discourse and response, thus constructively enhancing the discourse rather than distracting it.

It is wonderful to see interaction with great knowledge and expertise being shared here, and a textbook example of what our forums are intended to be.

Thank you so much gentlemen,
Jim

DaveA 11th December 2014 07:25 PM

The pommel
 
3 Attachment(s)
Ian, the pommel resembles more closely an uncircumcised penis than a flower, but for me that is no clue.

Alan, we've discussed nomenclature before and I concur with your view. My interest is far less in what this sword is called and more in its regional and ethnic origin and function.

The idea that this sword might be related to a Naga Kabui weapon used for dancing was the first to occur to me when I saw it for sale. Please see the pictures attached - two depict my Kabui dao and the third is a dancer with a substantially smaller Kabui dao. My Kabui dao is a two-handed weapon of roughly the same size and even greater heft as the mystery sword we are discussing. The overall length is 25 1/2 inches with a 16 inch blade. Also, the Kabui dao is sharp on the curved edge, not the straight edge like our mystery sword.

I consider Assam as fertile hunting ground for identification of weapons that don't seem to fit the surrounding regions very well. Consider: The Kabui are one of the Naga tribes who reside in the area around Manipur. The dominant sub-tribe is called "Rongmei". In Manipur, "Zemes" and "Liangmais" together were recognised as "Kacha Naga", while the "Rongmei" and "Npuimei" as "Kabui".In the Brahmaputra valley and nearby are found other tribes such as the Kuki, Kachar, and Khasi. [See references below]

Much blending and cultural interchange has occurred since British occupation, but they retain distinct identities. The Kuki tribe is known to decorate their weapon blades with copper and brass and this may have, for example, influenced the decoration of my Kabui Dao.

This has led me to the idea that Assam deserves more attention; there is scant information available regarding edged weapons of the region.

References
P.R.T. Gordon, The Khasis. Available from Project Gutenberg

Rongmei Naga, Wikipedia

Sajen 11th December 2014 07:46 PM

1 Attachment(s)
The here shown blade is a pole arm from Tonkin area owned by my friend, 19th century. The edge is on the same side like the mystery sword from Dave. We think that Daves blade is a similar pole arm blade with a later handle. Please note the reddish lacquer on the handle from Daves chopper, something what is typical for this region. My friend still search for the picture in his large storage.

Detlef

DaveA 11th December 2014 08:18 PM

Reiterate Dimensions & more pictures
 
7 Attachment(s)
Since this thread is getting long, for your reference here is an annotated picture of the sword showing the dimensions I reported earlier.

I also am attaching:
  • three pictures of where the hilt and blade meet
  • a top-down thickness picture
  • a tip detail picture
  • a picture showing me holding the sword with one hand -- note this was very difficult due to the weight distribution. This is not a one-handed weapon unless you are very strong.

Thank you very much for the comments and discussion thus far!

Best,

Dave A.

Ian 12th December 2014 04:28 AM

Detlef: That Sino-Vietnamese polearm is socketed whereas Dave's sword has a tang. As far as I have seen, polearms from Vietnam are all socketed in a similar fashion to this one. Similarly for polearms from Burma, Thailand, and Laos. While the blade shape and edge seem to have the same orientation as Dave's sword, the attachment to the handle is completely different.

Dave: As I noted earlier, and I think Alan agreed, the Kabui attribution seems a bit shaky based on Rawson's description and picture, and what you have shown here. The blade of the Kabui dao has a significantly different shape from yours, having a diamond shape and being especially wide midway down its length. Also, the hilt of the Kabui dao has a ferrule and its sharpened edge appears to be on the same side as the hooked tip; both of these features are different from your dao.

Thanks for the close ups of the hilt and adjacent blade. That hilt looks as though it has been on the sword for a while. I'm also seeing a crack in the wood that runs through its end, and Alan's earlier comment about the lack of a ferrule leading to splitting in that area may be pertinent.

I agree that Assam and neighboring parts are an interesting mix of styles, with ample opportunity for blending and migration of styles at the local level. The Kuki dao, for example, is another hooked tip sword but has a solid brass hilt of various forms.

Ian.


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