Thread: Old Omani Saif
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Old 4th October 2017, 04:58 PM   #30
A.alnakkas's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: Kuwait
Posts: 1,206

Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I recall Rick Stroud's great dissertation on wootz blades in anomalous mounts, and this presented a wonderful illustration of these occurring in a wide range of weapons.
This does seem to be a very old hilt, which of course would have been retained in the traditional manner well observed in Oman. Actually, as noted with tulwars etc. it is not unknown to find wootz blades in such hilts, while the circumstances offer great interest.

It depends on what you are examining as an oddity. Further examining and collecting shows that Omani short swords and dharias with wootz blades are not that uncommon.

With this being obviously an old hilt, it would not be surprising to see a very attractive new blade being mounted in the old heirloom however.

What do you mean by new? this term could throw off a piece as recently rehilted compared to say... 200 years? again, I do not see why everyone is assuming the blades to be much younger than the hilt. Is it the relative cleanness compared to the hilt?

Again, with blades being the most valued part, rehilting of good blades into newer hilts is fairly common and whats even more common is maintaining the blades while neglecting the handle. This is nothing new to collectors and researchers a like.

Lofty, I know Yemen has a long enduring blade making tradition, and is often mentioned pertaining to quite early times. However it seems at some point more recently (17th-18th c.) it moved away from making blades into focus on daggers and their blades as noted with your examples.
I am under the impression that the blades diffused through Yemen in this later period were typically trade blades from Europe and elsewhere.

With sword blades, that is for sure!

The presence of wootz in blades is of course intriguing, and I am wondering if Yemen artisans actually could produce the wootz, or was it imported?
If so, would the material have been from India?
If the concentration on wootz in blade making in Yemen was keenly focused on dagger blades, would the upgrade to fashioned a sword blade be more challenging for makers typically making obviously smaller dagger blades?

I think it would have been difficult for sure. But what we have is very little. The dharia blade is not as tiny as a usual jambiya blade. Some can be about the size of Teodor's sword actually. Imho, its not hard to think that Yemeni smiths were capable smiths but the dagger market outlived the sword market for a while. Since I noticed the amount of wootz dharia blades and other Yemeni oddities I wondered, how many wootz jambiya blades do we have in our collections that are not etched? decided to test a few, some were pattern welded!

Ariel, interesting observations as always. It seems to me that 'sword dance' was pretty well known through most tribal cultures who used the sword, and well into history. It was of course intended to incite warriors and of course infuse adrenalin in effect.
These of course became firmly emplaced in recalling the warrior tradition and part of the pageantry in many cultural circumstances.

I recall some years ago watching an event presented by the famed Scottish 'Black Watch' regiment, and the notably stirring 'sword dance'.
The basket hilts used were of course, like most military dress swords of many years, anything but 'combat worthy', but were most impressive.

In the case of the Omani 'Funoon' events, these are performed at many times during the year, as they have been since initiated over two centuries before as dynastic pageantry and maintained by these Omani traditions.
While many of these 'dance' sa'if are austere and not expensive thus certainly affordable, individuals often have heirloom examples which may have more notable decoration added. Also, obviously, according to a person's station and means, more elaborate examples are often seen.

I think this topic has been pretty well covered on the 'dance' swords, which is a bit aside from this combat type sa'if with wootz blade, so hope we can return to that.

There is an issue with mixing past and present. Funoon, like the ardha and the Yemeni dances, are not recent and historically were done with the arms available. People did not twirl around fake guns in the 1800's nor did the mock fencing with fake swords during eid, they did it with their weaponry. Heirlooms prove that, as there are plenty in Oman still present with the owner's descendants. Even the ones with 'flexible' blades are fully functional, often reaching extra flexibility due to countless number of sharpening and polishing. There are examples dated to battles too! I am sure they fought, not danced around with fake swords.

Also, Omani museums, the national one and bait alZubair have immense collections gathered by dedicated Omani researchers. Most if not all, have functional blades which are mostly European. To argue otherwise is akin to arguing that the earth is flat.
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