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Old 4th October 2017, 04:58 PM   #31
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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.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 5th October 2017 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 4th October 2017, 05:05 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Kubur
I don't know if my opinion counts but i will answer yes.

BTW have you seen the circular marks around the new rivets?
Is it possible that some sort of coins were used to fix the guard and then removed?
Because the two circular marks are very similar in diameter...


Since the holes and rivets there do not seem to serve any structural purpose, I assume they were for affixing decoration to the guard. The traces seem to suggest that it was of circular shape, and small coins is a possibility.

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Old 5th October 2017, 01:41 AM   #33
Jim McDougall
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Lofty, thank you for responding and for your answers. As you have well pointed out, the perception of what is and is not an anomaly is pretty individual. Also, the use of the term 'new' is quite relative and perhaps simply noting a blade as replaced or 'not original' would serve better.

Clearly swords being remounted and overall refurbished is quite normal is the often long working lives of many, and as heirloom and trophy or otherwise acquired components change hands.

There is really no way to discuss Omani swords without bringing in the case of the sa'if which has commonly been termed the 'kattara' broadsword.
As I have understood, the sword dance in the Funoon calls for remarkable dynamics, such as bright, polished blades which are flexible enough to quiver and produce dramatic whirring sound when held upright with wrist movements.
While these can be effective in sharpness, it seems doubtful they could withstand the rigors of combat, and I have yet been unable to find sound evidence of their use in same. It seems after some conflicts, a number of weapons were found but in quarters not in combat circumstance, and several of these may have been present among others.

In Burton (1884, p.166, fig. 183) notes, in accord with Demmin (1877) that he had found, " difficult to understand how this singular weapon could be wielded. It is mostly for SHOW and when wanted is used like a quarterstaff with both hands". Interestingly it is captioned as a 'Zanzibar' sword, which seems where these were primarily worn about, which transmitted into its presence in Oman.

From what I have learned, it seems that these distinct cylindrical hilt broadswords were fashioned to use in certain performances of tradition during dynastic changes in Oman and Zanzibar around latter 18th c.
Interestingly the hilt of these, though appearing cylindrical, has a section much like the khanjhar, which was also being redesigned at this time. I have thought that the unusual sword with such hilt might be in effect an extension of that khanjhar form, much in the way the katar evolved into the pata (in examples with open hilt of bars). It seems these swords did adopt some features of these old battle swords such as the pommel and the cuff over the blade forte.

Naturally sword dances in earlier times were I believe inspirational rallies and indeed using true combative weapons. But I think that for effect, the use of thinner, much more flexible blades was instituted eventually in these situations and in these times of dynastic change.
It seems that this unusual hilt style became prevalent in Oman as well as Zanzibar in the 1800s, and while many served as implements in the dance ceremonies there were numbers which were embellished and highly decorated in accord with the means and station of the wearer.

It is likely that as these dynastically unique swords became more popular and known, many were hilted with highly esteemed European blades, which of course were quite functional ideally, though worn more as accoutrements of status. It does not seem far fetched that these sa'if (aka kattara) became interpolated or confused with the ceremonial examples of this form as these became more known among collectors in the west.
I know that I was also unaware of the differences when I first acquired one of these around 1997,when they were quite rarely seen in sales or found in collections.

Actually I feel fortunate to have learned more on these Arabian swords, both the sa'if used ceremonially, its stoutly bladed brethren worn proudly as status symbols by merchants and officials, and these 'battle' type examples of the OP, over the years studying along with Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
He has been tenaciously dedicated to investigating and preserving the history of these Omani arms and has remarkable insights into many of the collections and museum holdings there.

Naturally I am always grateful as well to others here who have collected and are familiar with Arabian arms, and have contributed their observations and examples.

Returning to Teodor's 'Yemeni saif', it is an outstanding example, and always wonderful to see these traditional old hilts still present, and always with more stories to tell with whatever blades they now hold.
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