EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
These s'boula are Moroccan, but I will note here that there was confusion on them as early as 1870s.
Using the flyssa reference previously noted in this discussion:
Stone (1934,p.234, fig.291) describes the flyssa as "the national sword of the Kabyles of Morocco".
This venerable reference is of course, incorrect in the sense we now are aware of the history of these unique edged weapons.
We may consider that this misattribution may be explained as follows:
The Kabyles, of the Berber tribal confederations (Ar. gabail= the tribes) are typically most well known as of the Djurdjura range of the Little Atlas mountains in Algeria.
They are best known for the unique 'flyssa' sword, which takes its name from the Iflyssen tribal group who are said to have initiated this form.
The Kabyles Berbers seem to follow the Sunni Malakite Rite, whose aparant center was situated in Morocco.
Tenuously, this Moroccan connection to the Kabyles groups, as noted usually associated with Algeria, may have accounted for the Stone attribution to Morocco.
The point is that there were clearly connections tribally between Morocco and Algeria via the Kabyle and more broadly Berber contexts.
The diffusion of these similarities between the s'boula and flyssa seems to be understandable in these considerations.
As for the correct attribution of the s'boula to Morocco as its original region of development, as I have emphasized previously, these very same hilted and bladed forms are shown in "Catalogue de la Collection d'Armes Anciennes" , Charles Buttin (Rumilly, 1933) in fig, 1032 and 1033, both termed 'poignard des Berberes du Maroc', plate XXXI.
As described in my research through 1990s, paper 2004, and discussions since then, Buttin notes (p.270) the error of A,Demmin (1877) attributing these to Zanzibar, and the subsequent carrying of that forward by Richard Burton (1885).
These attributions led to the perceptions of arms writers that these were from Zanzibar, and the term 'Zanzibar swords'. It has been found however that these same hilted and bladed weapons did occur in degree in Ethiopia (Lindert, 1967) with a number of examples inscribed in Ge'ez (Amharic).
It does seem that these very same swords likely did gain travel to Zanzibar with Omani traders who networked through the African interior and did interact with traders from these Ethiopian entrepots.
Therefore, the misattribution by Stone, the similarity of some features of s'boula to flyssa, and the misattribution by Demmin and Burton to Zanzibar have all been actually somewhat explained.
As for Tunisian or Libyan attribution for the s'boula, it is possible that some of these might have ended up in their sphere....but only incidentally from interaction via trade networks eastward from Morocco. I have not found any evidence for these being indigenous for either of these regions in the many years I have researched them.