Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Bay Area
Sboula for Comments
I acquired this sboula. Thanks to Jim's research and some photographic evidence, now we are in agreement on the geographic origin of these long daggers/short swords: the Maghreb.
However, it seems we know very little about their origin. The hilt is certainly unlike anything else in the Maghreb, or even in the Sahel. Tirri claims similarities with Beja daggers, but the hilt construction is entirely different: Beja hilts are of one piece of wood, whereas sboulas hilts are made of two pieces of horn riveted to the tang. Personally, I do not see a link.
I see a similarity with the baselard on the other hand. We know that Moroccan saifs had guards, influenced by southern European hilts from the Renaissance period, so European influence could have extended to other weapon forms as well.
The blade appears to have been made from that of a (most likely European) military sword. It has typical markings, which one can see on other sboulas that have been posted here for comment in the past. While they obviously are an illiterate copy, the symbols look like the Latin letters D, N & M - DOMINE? Whatever the case, this appears to be another trace of European influence.
The interesting thing about the blade is that it is not simply shortened, but the tip is shaped in a very particular way to a thin point. In a way, these blades are similar to flyssa blades, especially in the style of the tip. Morocco is quite a bit away from the Kabyle areas, but if these sboulas have showed up as far as Ethiopia and Zanzibar, then Algeria is not that much of a stretch at all.
I wonder if these daggers originated back in the 15-16th centuries from European influences, and then survived through the centuries as a form of a self-defense weapon similar to yataghans and bauerwehrs.