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Old 16th May 2011, 10:27 PM   #10
Jim McDougall
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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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
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