Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Buraimi Oman, on the border with the UAE
Omani Swords. Origins.
Originally Posted by TVV
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.
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 !!