Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
In revisiting post #67, Teodor posted an interesting hilt type nimcha which has the distinct D ring guard which has long been attributed loosely to Zanzibar. This hilt is however notably different in the rather blockish pommel area with metal cover and the interesting lozenge type insets in the grip.
The blade has a crudely inscribed Star of Solomon surround over the initials M.K. and is one of the deeply channeled straight blades known to have been exported to Abyssinia from Solingen around end of the 19th century .
The MK is believed to have been M.Kevorkoff & Co. in Harar, Ethiopia.
These blades were typically mounted there with rhino hilts for shotel, and many ended up being sent to Yemen, where the hilts were removed for janbiyya and the blades were usually remounted in San'aa with various silver hilts.
In his post, Teodor stated he had obtained this from an Egyptian gentleman in Saudi Arabia.
It seems that this rather crude hilt form is characteristic of the sabre hilts of Bedouin in Palestinian regions, often Sinai. However, the characteristic D ring is that seen in many sabres (nimcha) known to have been used in Yemen as ersatz weapons during conflicts in the mid 20th century. These were part of the lot obtained by Artzi as discussed and somehow the apparent origin of the Zanzibar attribution.
It would seem that the MK blade which is typically associated with the Harar entrepot in Ethiopia, and subsequent traffic to San'aa for 'redistribution' of hilt materials, suggests it may have been rehilted there in this case with the ring hilt guard. As it is an unusual hybrid in hilt style, with the also familiar metal wrap around hilt often seen in Yemen examples, as well as the ring hilt and attributes of other Bedouin styles.....it seems that production or use of these D ring hilts centers in Yemen regions.
While the Zanzibar nimcha hilt of ivory and gold embellished seems to reflect characteristic decorative features of that location, it does not seem to represent a commonly known type which might be designated 'Zanzibari' other than its decorative motif.
The presence of this stylized and somewhat distinctive pommel cap device does present some interesting possibilities however, and quite honestly I had not thought of this before, admittedly not noticing these. It does seem that in photographing or presenting swords the pommel cap or motif is often overlooked . This has long been an issue with swords such as tulwars, which often have distinctive designs and motif inside the disc.
It does seem that the application of this device as a pommel cap may well have apotropaic intent, much as the 'aghrab' on many Arab sword mounts.
On the other hand of course, this could simply be an aesthetic feature but it seems curious that if that were the case, such attention would be afforded to 'design' in otherwise crude and vestigial applications in some instances.