Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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-   -   Old Omani Saif (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=23202)

TVV 1st October 2017 03:13 AM

Old Omani Saif
 
5 Attachment(s)
I am really excited to share this old Omani saif, as one of these has been on my wish list forever. Here are the measurements:
Entire length: 36 inches (91.44 cm)
Blade length: 25 inches (63.50 cm)
Blade width at base: 2 inches (5.08 cm)
Weight: 1 lb 11.5 oz (780 grams)

The hilt is the typical old style hilt, with three rivets. The grip is hexagonal, and so is the pommel, with silver decoration along the edges. Whatever other covering and decoration may have been there is long gone.

The blade has a single central fuller, with a distal taper and surprisingly thin. It is in great polish, and perhaps most importantly, entirely made of wootz. I did not do a great job of bringing the pattern out and wootz is always hard to photograph for me, but I believe it is clearly visible in the pictures.

This is not the only old Omani saif with a wootz blade, as there is at least one such sword in the sold section of Oriental Arms. Indian blades were of course popular since the early years of Muslim conquest all through the entire Middle Ages, as mentioned by Nicolle in "Early Islamic Arms". I suspect that Indian wootz blades remained valued in Oman and the Omani holdings on the East African Coast up until Solingen's prolific production offered a cheaper alternative without compromising the quality, ultimately leading to the adoption of the longer style blade and hilt.

What are your thoughts on this sword's age and origin?

Teodor

Iain 1st October 2017 09:01 AM

A lovely piece, I too have always liked the form of these and the wootz blade is quite clearly visible. I'm surprised it is fullered, other wootz blades I have seen in these mounts have been without fullers.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 1st October 2017 03:25 PM

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...NI+BATTLE+SWORD This thread deals exclusively with this weapon. It is the Sayf Yamaani ...

The old Omani Battle Sword with the addition of possibly an Indian blade...or a wootz blade from somewhere. The two holes are blocked by rivets on the ends of the crossguard whereas on other examples it is suggested they were anchor points for tassles. The holes in the grip are usually three ~ The two lower holes for constructing the grip of hexagonal or occasionally tubular metal to a wooden core and the upper hole near the pommel as a wrist strap hole. On age you can glide up and down the piano keys all day on age and also the same as to originality arguably as far back down the line as 751AD as the Ibaathi Battle Sword against the Abaasid in Oman. Other guestimates are without secure data and attempt to place this weapon at about 12th C again without foundation... as recently as about 10 years ago some thought it was Portuguese and others since have suggested from the Saladin type.

Personally I ride with the team who suggest a much earlier provenance and I see nothing wrong with the Ibn Julanda ticket of 751 AD making this virtually another Sword of the Prophet form and with the name suggesting Yemeni provenance (Sayf Yemaani)it scores equally well in that regard.

The blade however causes much uncertainty since several of these weapons have been recently twinned with blades...and very expertly done ... from other regions. I would say that if the blade is a genuine item it could go back a few hundred years ...There is no scabbard? There are no blade marks. It does leave itself somewhat open .... Tell me where you got it and I will be more forthright...

When you say ~ I suspect that Indian wootz blades remained valued in Oman and the Omani holdings on the East African Coast up until Solingen's prolific production offered a cheaper alternative without compromising the quality, ultimately leading to the adoption of the longer style blade and hilt.

This is completely incorrect since the both Omani longhilts: the longer style of straight blade is a dancing sword and pageant only and the equivalent sabre in curved mode and single edge is nothing to do with the Sayf Yemaani whatsoever. To muddle up these swords on both price and Solingen production is a very unsatisfactory precedent as each must be viewed on its own.

Readers may be aware that I have placed favourable comparison between the dancing sword and the Sayf Yemaani but this is only a historical linkage for example; the two have both got 2 sharp edges and they both have a flat spatulate tip section and both use the Terrs shield but the two swords have an entirely different function and one is a Battle Sword whilst the other has never been in a fight! Your para on Solingen and price, therefor, misses the point.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

TVV 1st October 2017 05:47 PM

Thank you for your responses.

Iain,

Yes, the fuller is unusual, not sure what that would signify though.

Ibrahiim,

Your passion about ethnographic arms is admirable and overall an asset to this forum. I am well aware of your hypothesis about Omani swords - after all, the whole discussion started in a 12-page thread for a sword I posted years ago. I am sure you are also aware that I am among the many members here who simply find that hypothesis factually incorrect. I do not expect you to change your position, but you should also understand that posting the same hypothesis over and over and over again will not make it true or make us accept it. Based on that, I will ask that we avoid the topic of your theory about the "battle" and "dance" swords here, as doing so will be entirely unproductive at this point.

Back to the subject of the sword in hand: everything is possible, including a marriage of hilt and blade. I am sure that there is such a practice in Oman, and to deny so would be naïve. The blade is of a shape that fits the older Omani sword shape and not much else. Are you aware of any Indian, Persian or Central Asian swords that have short wide thin wootz blades that fit the measurements I gave above, because I cannot? The fact that it is made of wootz is also important in another manner. The crucible steel technology has been recreated in modern times, thanks to the effort of researchers and bladesmiths, some of whom are members here. Based on what I have seen, just knowing how to replicate the process does not make producing crucible steel easy or cheap, however. So in the worst possible case, this could be a marriage of an old hilt with an old blade from another Omani sword, though the pitch inside the hilt looks to have some age and the blade width fits the sword perfectly.

Regards,
Teodor

S.Al-Anizi 1st October 2017 05:52 PM

Beautiful Piece Teodor,

A certain private collection in Abu Dhabi contains at least 4 of these swords that I have seen, all sporting wootz blades.

I suspect that many of these were longer once and became shorter due to re-hilting IMO.

Cheers!

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 1st October 2017 08:46 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Thank you for your responses.

Iain,

Yes, the fuller is unusual, not sure what that would signify though.

Ibrahiim,

Your passion about ethnographic arms is admirable and overall an asset to this forum. I am well aware of your hypothesis about Omani swords - after all, the whole discussion started in a 12-page thread for a sword I posted years ago. I am sure you are also aware that I am among the many members here who simply find that hypothesis factually incorrect. I do not expect you to change your position, but you should also understand that posting the same hypothesis over and over and over again will not make it true or make us accept it. Based on that, I will ask that we avoid the topic of your theory about the "battle" and "dance" swords here, as doing so will be entirely unproductive at this point.

Back to the subject of the sword in hand: everything is possible, including a marriage of hilt and blade. I am sure that there is such a practice in Oman, and to deny so would be naïve. The blade is of a shape that fits the older Omani sword shape and not much else. Are you aware of any Indian, Persian or Central Asian swords that have short wide thin wootz blades that fit the measurements I gave above, because I cannot? The fact that it is made of wootz is also important in another manner. The crucible steel technology has been recreated in modern times, thanks to the effort of researchers and bladesmiths, some of whom are members here. Based on what I have seen, just knowing how to replicate the process does not make producing crucible steel easy or cheap, however. So in the worst possible case, this could be a marriage of an old hilt with an old blade from another Omani sword, though the pitch inside the hilt looks to have some age and the blade width fits the sword perfectly.

Regards,
Teodor



Whatever you think about threads gone by and my place in Forum it remains a free place to comment on the discussion of items and thus I have exercised that right. I find it obscure to present a sword but to expect to launch with it spurious details about other swords under that umbrella. It simply isn't right. Your comment about price and Solingen blades is incorrect and unrelated to topic nor should you expect to try that on unchecked. Why expect it to be inoculated against rebuke.

No evidence exists to support your point about cheaper blades..Solingen did not make Omani dancing blades and the curved sword with the same hilt has an entirely different provenance. In one paragraph you cannot expect a trashing of half of the swords of Oman just to pass quietly and without comment...That is not how Forum works. However, if you think you are right, please make the case. It's a Forum.

What I suspect you have here is something like a 16th C /17thC Hilt with a recent replacement blade. Examination of the material holding the blade firm is extremely difficult to guage when the blade was fitted...Actually these swords have no glue or tar as the blade is held in place by two rivets through a hexagonal two piece metal tube and a wooden core and through the tang...unlike Khanjars blades which are glued/tar fixed.

These blades are not usually thin... They are normally thicker and stiff ...There is normally about an inch of flexibility only as these were chopping weapons. If you can disclose where you got the sword I will be closer to knowing who did the blade fit up. That can be done by PM or stick it on the thread.

TVV 1st October 2017 09:33 PM

Ibrahiim,

I am not going to get dragged into a pointless debate about your theory which contradicts all the period accounts, drawings and existent examples of Omani swords.

If you are trying to imply that a master bladesmith of Rick Furrer's ability is making kattara blades to fit to old hilts, you are seriously risking losing whatever credibility left you have here, with me at least. I am afraid I am reaching the point where I will be forced to simply start ignoring your posts as spam.

Teodor

TVV 1st October 2017 09:43 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by S.Al-Anizi
Beautiful Piece Teodor,

A certain private collection in Abu Dhabi contains at least 4 of these swords that I have seen, all sporting wootz blades.

I suspect that many of these were longer once and became shorter due to re-hilting IMO.

Cheers!


Thank you! As Robert Hales illustrates on p. 361 of his book, extensive rehilting was common for these swords. This could have led to slight shortening.

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 1st October 2017 11:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Ibrahiim,

I am not going to get dragged into a pointless debate about your theory which contradicts all the period accounts, drawings and existent examples of Omani swords.

If you are trying to imply that a master bladesmith of Rick Furrer's ability is making kattara blades to fit to old hilts, you are seriously risking losing whatever credibility left you have here, with me at least. I am afraid I am reaching the point where I will be forced to simply start ignoring your posts as spam.

Teodor


Where did I say that? I am very much aware of who is making what blades in the market and that is why I suggested the information... I never mentioned any names whatsoever...The person you name is highly respected . Your remark is nonsensical...and insulting. My remarks are based on solid hands-on research of over 30 years where I assure you I have handled hundreds of Omani swords...which simply reinforce my viewpoint despite the baseless nonsense you place at this thread...Kattara blades? I think you have that slightly wrong... Straight blades are Sayf. Your descriptive "Kattara" are curved.

Kubur 2nd October 2017 06:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Ibrahiim,

I am not going to get dragged into a pointless debate about your theory which contradicts all the period accounts, drawings and existent examples of Omani swords.

If you are trying to imply that a master bladesmith of Rick Furrer's ability is making kattara blades to fit to old hilts, you are seriously risking losing whatever credibility left you have here, with me at least. I am afraid I am reaching the point where I will be forced to simply start ignoring your posts as spam.

Teodor


Sorry Ibrahim, but I support Teodor. He absolutely right and I myself stopped to read these posts on Omani and nimcha things since a long time.

ariel 2nd October 2017 09:12 AM

The handle sports new rivets. The implications are obvious.

Re- use of parts is virtually expected in case of old “Oriental” swords: they utilized parts of organic nature. But wood shrinks or rots, mastique dries and crumbles, bone cracks and breaks.

I do not think it might be possible to pinpoint the age of restoration of this sword short of full disassembling it . But the good thing is that all components look very old.

A.alnakkas 2nd October 2017 10:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The handle sports new rivets. The implications are obvious.

Re- use of parts is virtually expected in case of old “Oriental” swords: they utilized parts of organic nature. But wood shrinks or rots, mastique dries and crumbles, bone cracks and breaks.

I do not think it might be possible to pinpoint the age of restoration of this sword short of full disassembling it . But the good thing is that all components look very old.


As mentioned, these are still valued in Oman and go through many restorations and even are fitted with new silver parts to sort of make them presentation worthy. The rivets while in appearance seem 'new' are not negative indications.

I have no information about how old is the blade, the wootz is clear and the condition does not suggest a newly made blade. Nor does a mismatched patina between handle and blade suggest much... how many shamshirs are there with excellent polished blades and pitted quillons? we all know why.

Teodor, nice sword! it is called saif Yamani and saif Ya'rubi as well by Omanis in an effort to try to pinpoint its origin.

TVV 2nd October 2017 04:21 PM

Thank you Lotfi,

Is the Saif Ya'Rubi name based on the Ya-Rubi dynasty?

Teodor

Jim McDougall 2nd October 2017 05:04 PM

The swords of Arabia have always intrigued me, particularly as I began to learn more on their place in the complex history and development of sword types, as well as in the web of trade blade movement.
In the many years I have studied swords' history, it was only in probably the past decade that I began to better understand, actually more in beginning to recognize the pieces in a complicated jig saw puzzle.

Like Teodor, I always wanted one of these old Omani swords, and had since seeing them in Elgood's book on Arabian arms years ago. When I finally acquired am Omani sa'f (the form known colloquially as 'kattara') I was delighted, and it was at a time over 20 years ago when these were rarely seen available. I felt I had achieved a sort of 'milestone' in just having an example.

It was not until a number of years ago that I met Ibrahiim here, and must admit that at first I was reticent to accept some of the information and detail he was proposing on these Omani swords. After a time I realized what he was revealing was soundly field researched as he is of course situated in the very regions these weapons have been used, and unfortunately, as often the case in ethnographic arms, being 'commercially' crafted.

I was also impressed by the comprehensive research he tenaciously had applied in learning more historically on how and why these weapons were developed. There was remarkably present, the kind of dynastic volatility and use of weaponry in regalia and ceremony which has in so many cases called for dramatic establishment of legitimacy in changes in rule.

Our discussions here have afforded us incredible opportunity to examine and present evidence toward the understanding of the history and development of the many weapon forms which have remained simply this or that in books and cataloques, without any dimension for far too many years.

We have achieved more than was ever even imaginable over these past two decades here, and advanced knowledge on so many arms forms and topics.

That is the focus, and we absolutely must give up the false notion of 'debate' and personal conflict for the positive and constructive value of discussion..that is presenting observations and evidence for consideration.

We have everything to gain, and too much to lose wasting time with debates (well described as 'pointless' ) and the opportunity to learn together as we have always done here.

Jim McDougall 2nd October 2017 05:37 PM

As Ariel has pointed out, obviously this blade is newly mounted, and the hilt clearly has age. As he also well notes, weapons were often remounted through generations, not just to replenish non durable components such as hilts and coverings etc.

To me it seems a blade of such esteem as made with wootz, at least in most I have seen, are mounted in more elaborate context than in a relatively austere hilt like this.

The wootz blades as mentioned, were indeed highly prized in their various forms in India, Central Asia, and many places but I would point out that the favor of Solingen blades was more about the fact that they became more readily available. Also, wootz had circumstantial downsides in that it could be brittle and non battle worthy in many cases as noted in Pant.

The Solingen industrial machine was more on volume than cost, and actually its permeation of many blade producing centers went on for centuries before the inception of the longer blade and guardless hilt of the Omani saif known as kattara. This adaption seems to have taken place sometime in the second half of the 18th century, and as has been discussed, the use of lighter blades was keenly favored for the purpose of certain ceremonial events.

The presence of German blades was hardly a phenomenon in Arabia any more than India, Africa, Red Sea regions or many other trade entrepots in many locations. Their presence in Yemen was of course through such trade, and they diffused accordingly and certainly into Omani regions. The term Yemen, as I understand, was used rather collectively and broadly in earlier times, so the 'Yemeni' appellation refers to place where blades were from.
This seems to have been an Islamic convention used from the earliest times, describing a blade by place of origin, often thus calling the sword accordingly.

TVV 2nd October 2017 05:57 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall

To me it seems a blade of such esteem as made with wootz, at least in most I have seen, are mounted in more elaborate context than in a relatively austere hilt like this.


Jim,

Thank you for your very thoughtful posts, as always.

To address your statement above that a wootz blade would be expected to have more elaborate dress, I am posting a couple of pictures from Oriental Arms sold archive of another Saif Yamani (or Saif Ya'Rubi) with a wootz blade and a fairly simple and similar hilt. Of course, nothing precludes both hilts from having had some silver decoration at one point, but it has been lost due to age (or for reuse in jewelry) and the only traces that remain are the silver wire inlay on the pommel of the sword I posted.

http://oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=5903

Regards,
Teodor

Kubur 2nd October 2017 06:46 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This seems to have been an Islamic convention used from the earliest times, describing a blade by place of origin, often thus calling the sword accordingly.



On this topic I suggest to read this excellent book.

Kubur 2nd October 2017 06:50 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
We have achieved more than was ever even imaginable over these past two decades here, and advanced knowledge on so many arms forms and topics.


Well Jim, I disagree on this one, or let's say not always: quoting Wikipedia all the time and using Google search for pictures is not research...

Jim McDougall 2nd October 2017 07:13 PM

Thank you Teodor. It seems it has been thought from the 1990s that these type hilts must have had some sort of silver cladding or decoration which has been invariably removed presumably for the silver or other decoration. It seems odd though that no example of antiquity exists in its full dress. The only examples of such dress are several regalia oriented examples which were mounted in more modern times in Oman.

I suppose that there are no real guidelines for the pairing of types of blades and hilts as there are many instances of for example, officers blades mounted in rather pedestrian other ranks hilts, but it seems unusual.

Jim McDougall 2nd October 2017 08:41 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
Well Jim, I disagree on this one, or let's say not always: quoting Wikipedia all the time and using Google search for pictures is not research...



Hi Kubur,
Thanks for the reference to that title, always helpful to have these and I don't have that particular book.
Actually often I have certain book titles, but in the months of the year I am on the road, I don't have them with me.
In those times, I rely heavily on material found online, and I do use a Google search engine.

As many here are aware, I have researched arms and armor for quite a long time (most of my life), and in fact in the early days it was done with letters and book searches through stores or interlibrary loans and tons of photocopies. I still prefer books, but obviously, these days research is remarkably facilitated by the web!! especially when books or material is not readily available.

In researching, I have never relied on a single source for conclusive observations or assertions, and as any researcher or responsible author will say, you must cross check everything. Above all, one cannot use museum descriptions nor especially sales catalog entries with that caveat.

Wikipedia is what I consider a valuable resource as a quick reference, and a bench mark for further research or sources. From there, one can move to other references which can be either reliably considered or not, depending on the outcome of your cross check.

Pin Interest is somewhat frustrating at times as it leaves one with tempting photos, but little detail, however, if one pursues, often it is linked to either sites or other references.

When I commented on how much has been achieved here, I meant the interaction, discussion and sharing of experience and knowledge of the membership in learning together. There are many degrees and kinds of research methods, but overall I think most everyone here has offered contributions to achieving the advances I mentioned.

I personally chose to value each contribution and evaluate it much the way I do the material I find in books, papers or any resource, including Wikipedia and others.

ariel 3rd October 2017 02:13 AM

The book mentioned by Kubur is indeed relevant: it mentions Yemeni "wootz" repeatedly. Whether true or not, the possibility of local manufacture still exists.

Wootz blades were highly valued, and attaching one to the "tried and true" handle might have been a significant upgrade and a pride of the owner.

I have similar kattara, but regretfully not wootz-y.


Just like Teodor and Kubur, I am hesitatnt to accept the idea of a special " dancing sword"

Sword dances are known around the world, but nowhere with special swords.
Ritual dance is kind of magic and sacred. The weapon plays the same role as the dancer. It is a union of both. To imagine that pretty poor Omanis went into trouble and expense to acquire a bauble stretches my imagination. The pics Ibrahiim had shown depict them in pretty worn out clothes. If they did not buy new clothes for a celebratory dance, buying a new sword for a once-a-year occasion sounds dubious.

A.alnakkas 3rd October 2017 06:50 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
The book mentioned by Kubur is indeed relevant: it mentions Yemeni "wootz" repeatedly. Whether true or not, the possibility of local manufacture still exists.

Wootz blades were highly valued, and attaching one to the "tried and true" handle might have been a significant upgrade and a pride of the owner.


Best proof for "Yemeni" wootz is the nafi'i dharia blades. Those come in varieties of patterns and I do not recall Indian or Persian examples that fit the bill. Local production is highly likely.

ariel 3rd October 2017 08:42 AM

Can you show them?

A.alnakkas 3rd October 2017 11:15 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Yes. And by pattern I meant the wootz pattern, not the shape of the blade! any Persian or Indian (or Ottoman) example with such a blade? I only found them with Arab fittings, so local production?

First example, crystalline wootz.

A.alnakkas 3rd October 2017 11:17 AM

6 Attachment(s)
2nd example, a more open pattern. Belongs to my friend, who polished and etched it. Obviously the mounts are later, and these rhomboidal nafi'i blades are highly sought after and wootz is not as common as once thought. Some even have black wootz similar to one found on Persian blades.

A.alnakkas 3rd October 2017 11:20 AM

So, knowing that the Omani sword is not a one of a kind since there are multiple examples of ones with wootz blades and the existence of other Arab ( I do not see otherwise) made wootz blades that makes sense of such Omani swords having wootz blades.

In my eyes, Teodor's sword looks 100% right for what it is. Can the handle be older? could be, similar to how tulwars often get rehilted using older handles. This offers no sense of suspicion.

TVV 3rd October 2017 04:25 PM

Lotfy, thank you very much for sharing, I had never even considered the possibility of wootz dharia blades. As rare as such blades would be, there are probably some in collections that simply have not been polished and etched. Back in 2009 Rick Stroud published a presentation for the Timonium seminar of some wootz blades on swords where you do not really expect wootz, including a longer Omani saif on slide #4:

http://vikingsword.com/library/rick_seldomwootz1.pdf

In your opinion, is this another example of Yemeni wootz?

Teodor

Kubur 3rd October 2017 04:42 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
In your opinion, is this another example of Yemeni wootz?
Teodor


I don't know if my opinion counts but i will answer yes.

BTW have you seen the circular marks around the new rivets?
Is it possible that some sort of coins were used to fix the guard and then removed?
Because the two circular marks are very similar in diameter...

Jim McDougall 3rd October 2017 05:39 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by A.alnakkas
So, knowing that the Omani sword is not a one of a kind since there are multiple examples of ones with wootz blades and the existence of other Arab ( I do not see otherwise) made wootz blades that makes sense of such Omani swords having wootz blades.

In my eyes, Teodor's sword looks 100% right for what it is. Can the handle be older? could be, similar to how tulwars often get rehilted using older handles. This offers no sense of suspicion.



I recall Rick Stroud's great dissertation on wootz blades in anomalous mounts, and this presented a wonderful illustration of these occurring in a wide range of weapons.
This does seem to be a very old hilt, which of course would have been retained in the traditional manner well observed in Oman. Actually, as noted with tulwars etc. it is not unknown to find wootz blades in such hilts, while the circumstances offer great interest.

With this being obviously an old hilt, it would not be surprising to see a very attractive new blade being mounted in the old heirloom however.

Lofty, I know Yemen has a long enduring blade making tradition, and is often mentioned pertaining to quite early times. However it seems at some point more recently (17th-18th c.) it moved away from making blades into focus on daggers and their blades as noted with your examples.
I am under the impression that the blades diffused through Yemen in this later period were typically trade blades from Europe and elsewhere.

The presence of wootz in blades is of course intriguing, and I am wondering if Yemen artisans actually could produce the wootz, or was it imported?
If so, would the material have been from India?
If the concentration on wootz in blade making in Yemen was keenly focused on dagger blades, would the upgrade to fashioned a sword blade be more challenging for makers typically making obviously smaller dagger blades?

Ariel, interesting observations as always. It seems to me that 'sword dance' was pretty well known through most tribal cultures who used the sword, and well into history. It was of course intended to incite warriors and of course infuse adrenalin in effect.
These of course became firmly emplaced in recalling the warrior tradition and part of the pageantry in many cultural circumstances.

I recall some years ago watching an event presented by the famed Scottish 'Black Watch' regiment, and the notably stirring 'sword dance'.
The basket hilts used were of course, like most military dress swords of many years, anything but 'combat worthy', but were most impressive.

In the case of the Omani 'Funoon' events, these are performed at many times during the year, as they have been since initiated over two centuries before as dynastic pageantry and maintained by these Omani traditions.
While many of these 'dance' sa'if are austere and not expensive thus certainly affordable, individuals often have heirloom examples which may have more notable decoration added. Also, obviously, according to a person's station and means, more elaborate examples are often seen.

I think this topic has been pretty well covered on the 'dance' swords, which is a bit aside from this combat type sa'if with wootz blade, so hope we can return to that.

A.alnakkas 4th October 2017 04:45 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Lotfy, thank you very much for sharing, I had never even considered the possibility of wootz dharia blades. As rare as such blades would be, there are probably some in collections that simply have not been polished and etched. Back in 2009 Rick Stroud published a presentation for the Timonium seminar of some wootz blades on swords where you do not really expect wootz, including a longer Omani saif on slide #4:

http://vikingsword.com/library/rick_seldomwootz1.pdf

In your opinion, is this another example of Yemeni wootz?

Teodor


I am not sure, to be honest! as it could have came straight off an Indian straight sword with Rick's (now Alex's) example?

A.alnakkas 4th October 2017 04:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I recall Rick Stroud's great dissertation on wootz blades in anomalous mounts, and this presented a wonderful illustration of these occurring in a wide range of weapons.
This does seem to be a very old hilt, which of course would have been retained in the traditional manner well observed in Oman. Actually, as noted with tulwars etc. it is not unknown to find wootz blades in such hilts, while the circumstances offer great interest.


It depends on what you are examining as an oddity. Further examining and collecting shows that Omani short swords and dharias with wootz blades are not that uncommon.

Quote:
With this being obviously an old hilt, it would not be surprising to see a very attractive new blade being mounted in the old heirloom however.


What do you mean by new? this term could throw off a piece as recently rehilted compared to say... 200 years? again, I do not see why everyone is assuming the blades to be much younger than the hilt. Is it the relative cleanness compared to the hilt?

Again, with blades being the most valued part, rehilting of good blades into newer hilts is fairly common and whats even more common is maintaining the blades while neglecting the handle. This is nothing new to collectors and researchers a like.

Quote:
Lofty, I know Yemen has a long enduring blade making tradition, and is often mentioned pertaining to quite early times. However it seems at some point more recently (17th-18th c.) it moved away from making blades into focus on daggers and their blades as noted with your examples.
I am under the impression that the blades diffused through Yemen in this later period were typically trade blades from Europe and elsewhere.


With sword blades, that is for sure!

Quote:
The presence of wootz in blades is of course intriguing, and I am wondering if Yemen artisans actually could produce the wootz, or was it imported?
If so, would the material have been from India?
If the concentration on wootz in blade making in Yemen was keenly focused on dagger blades, would the upgrade to fashioned a sword blade be more challenging for makers typically making obviously smaller dagger blades?


I think it would have been difficult for sure. But what we have is very little. The dharia blade is not as tiny as a usual jambiya blade. Some can be about the size of Teodor's sword actually. Imho, its not hard to think that Yemeni smiths were capable smiths but the dagger market outlived the sword market for a while. Since I noticed the amount of wootz dharia blades and other Yemeni oddities I wondered, how many wootz jambiya blades do we have in our collections that are not etched? decided to test a few, some were pattern welded!

Quote:
Ariel, interesting observations as always. It seems to me that 'sword dance' was pretty well known through most tribal cultures who used the sword, and well into history. It was of course intended to incite warriors and of course infuse adrenalin in effect.
These of course became firmly emplaced in recalling the warrior tradition and part of the pageantry in many cultural circumstances.

I recall some years ago watching an event presented by the famed Scottish 'Black Watch' regiment, and the notably stirring 'sword dance'.
The basket hilts used were of course, like most military dress swords of many years, anything but 'combat worthy', but were most impressive.

In the case of the Omani 'Funoon' events, these are performed at many times during the year, as they have been since initiated over two centuries before as dynastic pageantry and maintained by these Omani traditions.
While many of these 'dance' sa'if are austere and not expensive thus certainly affordable, individuals often have heirloom examples which may have more notable decoration added. Also, obviously, according to a person's station and means, more elaborate examples are often seen.

I think this topic has been pretty well covered on the 'dance' swords, which is a bit aside from this combat type sa'if with wootz blade, so hope we can return to that.


There is an issue with mixing past and present. Funoon, like the ardha and the Yemeni dances, are not recent and historically were done with the arms available. People did not twirl around fake guns in the 1800's nor did the mock fencing with fake swords during eid, they did it with their weaponry. Heirlooms prove that, as there are plenty in Oman still present with the owner's descendants. Even the ones with 'flexible' blades are fully functional, often reaching extra flexibility due to countless number of sharpening and polishing. There are examples dated to battles too! I am sure they fought, not danced around with fake swords.

Also, Omani museums, the national one and bait alZubair have immense collections gathered by dedicated Omani researchers. Most if not all, have functional blades which are mostly European. To argue otherwise is akin to arguing that the earth is flat.

TVV 4th October 2017 05:05 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
I don't know if my opinion counts but i will answer yes.

BTW have you seen the circular marks around the new rivets?
Is it possible that some sort of coins were used to fix the guard and then removed?
Because the two circular marks are very similar in diameter...


Kubur,

Since the holes and rivets there do not seem to serve any structural purpose, I assume they were for affixing decoration to the guard. The traces seem to suggest that it was of circular shape, and small coins is a possibility.

Teodor

Jim McDougall 5th October 2017 01:41 AM

Lofty, thank you for responding and for your answers. As you have well pointed out, the perception of what is and is not an anomaly is pretty individual. Also, the use of the term 'new' is quite relative and perhaps simply noting a blade as replaced or 'not original' would serve better.

Clearly swords being remounted and overall refurbished is quite normal is the often long working lives of many, and as heirloom and trophy or otherwise acquired components change hands.

There is really no way to discuss Omani swords without bringing in the case of the sa'if which has commonly been termed the 'kattara' broadsword.
As I have understood, the sword dance in the Funoon calls for remarkable dynamics, such as bright, polished blades which are flexible enough to quiver and produce dramatic whirring sound when held upright with wrist movements.
While these can be effective in sharpness, it seems doubtful they could withstand the rigors of combat, and I have yet been unable to find sound evidence of their use in same. It seems after some conflicts, a number of weapons were found but in quarters not in combat circumstance, and several of these may have been present among others.

In Burton (1884, p.166, fig. 183) notes, in accord with Demmin (1877) that he had found, "...it difficult to understand how this singular weapon could be wielded. It is mostly for SHOW and when wanted is used like a quarterstaff with both hands". Interestingly it is captioned as a 'Zanzibar' sword, which seems where these were primarily worn about, which transmitted into its presence in Oman.

From what I have learned, it seems that these distinct cylindrical hilt broadswords were fashioned to use in certain performances of tradition during dynastic changes in Oman and Zanzibar around latter 18th c.
Interestingly the hilt of these, though appearing cylindrical, has a section much like the khanjhar, which was also being redesigned at this time. I have thought that the unusual sword with such hilt might be in effect an extension of that khanjhar form, much in the way the katar evolved into the pata (in examples with open hilt of bars). It seems these swords did adopt some features of these old battle swords such as the pommel and the cuff over the blade forte.

Naturally sword dances in earlier times were I believe inspirational rallies and indeed using true combative weapons. But I think that for effect, the use of thinner, much more flexible blades was instituted eventually in these situations and in these times of dynastic change.
It seems that this unusual hilt style became prevalent in Oman as well as Zanzibar in the 1800s, and while many served as implements in the dance ceremonies there were numbers which were embellished and highly decorated in accord with the means and station of the wearer.

It is likely that as these dynastically unique swords became more popular and known, many were hilted with highly esteemed European blades, which of course were quite functional ideally, though worn more as accoutrements of status. It does not seem far fetched that these sa'if (aka kattara) became interpolated or confused with the ceremonial examples of this form as these became more known among collectors in the west.
I know that I was also unaware of the differences when I first acquired one of these around 1997,when they were quite rarely seen in sales or found in collections.

Actually I feel fortunate to have learned more on these Arabian swords, both the sa'if used ceremonially, its stoutly bladed brethren worn proudly as status symbols by merchants and officials, and these 'battle' type examples of the OP, over the years studying along with Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
He has been tenaciously dedicated to investigating and preserving the history of these Omani arms and has remarkable insights into many of the collections and museum holdings there.

Naturally I am always grateful as well to others here who have collected and are familiar with Arabian arms, and have contributed their observations and examples.

Returning to Teodor's 'Yemeni saif', it is an outstanding example, and always wonderful to see these traditional old hilts still present, and always with more stories to tell with whatever blades they now hold.


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