EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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,