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Old 5th January 2005, 03:40 PM   #14
Mark
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When I cross-posted this "monograph" on Swordforum, Ruel, not unfairly, challenged the validity of the description because I had not defined what the limits of the term "dha" were, and hence made unclear what it was that I was describing. Though I think the totality of the original post at least tells one how to distinguish what we here call a "dha," I did eventually come up with a list of the essential criteria, and the assumption that underly our defining them as a single type of sword.

So, what I am talking about are those swords used by the peoples of mainland Southeast Asia, defined as present-day Burma, Thailand (exclusive of the Malay peninsula), Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and in places like Assam and Bengal, to the extend these people have migrated there. They share a few essential defining features that distinguish them from other weapons/tools used in this area (and when there are exceptions they are due to a limited external stylistic influence), which are: (a) a grip with a round cross-section, (b) a long, generally curved blade and (c) no cross-guard or knuckle-bow, and at most a very small tsuba-like guard.

There are four basic assumptions to the definition, which form the basis of the hypothesis which we are trying to disprove:

(1) These swords are used by the Tai and Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups of these areas, not by the Mon-Khmer and Viet.

(2) The people using them do not make distinction between them, viewing them as essentially a single type of sword with local stylistic variations.

(3) There is not real distinction between "working" swords which are used both as tools and as weapons by non-urbanized users, and strictly "martial" swords used only for warfare or ceremonial/status purposes

(4) They have essentially a common origin

My expectation is that assumptions (1)-(3) will hold true, but that assumption (4) will not, and that we will find at least two, and perhaps three "ancestors" which melded in various ways and in various regions, leading to some of the heterogeneity we see in the appearance of the sword.

We may or may not find a suitable name of these, and will likely end up calling the "swords" in the local languages (i.e., dha or darb, or some common root term).
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