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Old 18th December 2008, 01:21 AM   #1
Michael Blalock
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Default Yemeni sword

I came across this on Sotheby's website this evening. It is the only other example of this type of Yemeni sword I have seen except for the two I have.

http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lo...sp?lot_id=45W55
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Old 18th December 2008, 02:31 AM   #2
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..............interesting!!! Elgoods book on Arabian blades doesn't show this either!! It bears a faint resemblance to the Omani Kattara in hilt shape. Is the blade straight, and do you have scabbards for either of yours? It would be nice to see some pics of the whole blade.
I wait with baited breath to see what comes of this thread!
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Old 18th December 2008, 01:43 PM   #3
Michael Blalock
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They were discussed in earlier threads.

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=708
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Old 18th December 2008, 10:16 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
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Michael, you have really keyed toward the subject of these fascinating, apparantly early Arabian hilt forms the last few years, and it is intriguing to revisit the discussions we have had on them. The example you post here from a recent Sotheby's auction is described as Yemeni and of 19th c.
You have also shown the two great examples of hilts on your swords from Yemen.
In my opinion, the hilt style in the Sothebys example, with its conical pommel seems more like an Omani kattara with its repousse silver clad covering intact.In Elgood, the examples of these early kattara are shown (2.13, 2.15) sans the covering, with the hilts bare structure alone remaining, including the uncovered yet distinctly shaped pommel. These pommels are yet another example of architectural elements represented in those of hilts, with these resembling the conical domes of some minarets on Mosques in my opinion.

Elgood notes that the actual origins of these hilts remain a mystery, but that they are of considerable antiquity seems agreed by scholars, with potential for 17th century,possibly earlier.These may also reflect what may be considered neoclassic or 'revival' Islamic style in reflecting the style of the downward and shouldered guard of Hispano-Moresque jineta of 14th-15th c. and the more stylized versions of these hilts of Mamluk origin c.15th c.

It has been suggested that these swords may be of Central Asian origin as well, and it is worthy of noting the previous mention of the established contact between Yemen and the Emirate of Bukhara. The Yemeni swords of this type often have the diagonally gadrooned silver wire on the scabbards, similar to that seen on Bukharen sword scabbards as one example.

It would seem to me that this example posted with conical pommel is of Omani form, of the early silver clad hilt style which was apparantly superceded by the fully conical guardless style of late 18th into 19th c. (Elgood 2.14).
The spherical pommel hilts as Michael has shown are again neoclassic in recalling the earlier Mamluk style hilts of 15th c.and shown in Yucel, with repousse metal covered hilt, and Yemeni. By the early 20th century these spherical bulb type hilts, still using kattara style broadsword blades, were with Persian style crossguards and short vestigial quillons. They are believed hilted in Yemen in probably San'a or Hadhramaut, and seem to have gone as far as Dubai to the north, emphasizing the established trade diffusion of these weapons.

These are just my own observations from notes, previous discussions and reviewing Elgood. The diffusion of these swords with the complexity of trade throughout the Dar al Islam is difficult to establish with any certainty, but I hope somewhat near correct, and I look forward to other thoughts.

All best regards,
Jim

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 19th December 2008 at 02:20 AM.
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Old 19th December 2008, 02:06 AM   #5
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Thanks Michael for the link---interesting stuff. Thanks also Jim for your comments. Us collectors of Arabian weaponry have a lot of fun trying to identify some items, as there is very little written about them, and also the cross-pollination due to trade routes over the centuries tends to cloud matters some what.
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Old 6th December 2014, 03:42 PM   #6
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Here is another one of these straight Yemeni Swords that just sold at Czerny's. It would look great in my collection. Maybe my wife got it for me and I will find it under the tree.

http://www.czernys.com/auctions_lot...48&submit=+view

I have a new one coming that should be here by the end of the year. I will post photos when I get that.
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Old 7th December 2014, 04:09 PM   #7
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Blalock
I came across this on Sotheby's website this evening. It is the only other example of this type of Yemeni sword I have seen except for the two I have.

http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lo...sp?lot_id=45W55



Salaams Michael Blalock, Thank you for opening the discussion again upon this subject...I noted some time ago that the Wallace had a good example of this weapon. It occurred to me that the work if it is Yemeni could come from one of the Jewish houses?...Such is the delicate nature of the decorative work.
I refer you to one important post from Ham at your reference which I Quote "Gentlemen,

These are very rare swords indeed but they are not Omani, nor for that matter are they from anywhere in Arabia. They are from the Emirate of Bukhara in Central Asia, as a brief comparison of the repeating engraved motifs on any of the examples of bronze and silverwork from that region pictured in A SONG IN METAL, Abdullayev et al, will show. The few examples I have seen were datable to the early 19th century. There is a fine sword of this type in the Moser Collection, now part of the Berne Historical Museum in Switzerland but it (and all the rest) were taken off display a couple of years ago for some reason. There is another in the V & A pictured in Coe's SWORD AND HILT WEAPONS p. 141; it is included with a group of other swords and unhelpfully described, "Turkish and Persian weapons of the 16th-19th century" or something similar. Jarnuszkiewicz's excellent work SZABLA WSCHODNIA I JEJ TYPU NARODOWE shows the origin of this form on plate 11, a 9th century Samanid king from a fresco at Nisapur carries one extremely similar. Perhaps Pan Michal de Wolviex can post this?
Given the conservative nature of Central Asian groups-- both nomadic and sedentary-- it is not unusual that the form survived so long. One doubts nonetheless that they were ever very common; swords in Central Asia in general, except for that unpleasant late 19th century variety of Afghan saber that so clumsily sought to duplicate the fine lines of the Caucasian shashka, were relatively rare and then usually limited to Persian shamshirs, or the equally rare Bukharan sidearm which looks like an attenuated peshqabz, see Elgood ed., ISLAMIC ARMS AND ARMOUR, FLINDT, for examples.
These swords are quite rare. Congratulations on such fine acquisitions."Unquote.




Jim McDougall ~ Thank you for your excellent referenced reply and I agree these look like fine weapons... though there may be some influence from the Omani general style in similarity with the Old Omani Battle Sword I am not sure what other bridges there may be and in fact looking at the hilt though it is with a cuff...and has a tubular hilt and ends with a pommel (which I agree is a religious architectural design) there is something strange about its comparison ...which I cannot put my finger on !! The blade is broad sharpened on both sides..and with a single fuller and I wonder to its flexibility...It has an apparent pointed tip...and it looks pretty rigid? The decoration is distinctly not Omani but I cannot rule out some sort of influence .No sword like this exists in any of the National Museums in Oman nor any of the publications...but I agree it does rather jump off the page when comparing the Omani style. I do, however, tend to agree about the provenance above and would be pleased to hear what others have to say particularly about the two identical stamps..?? I think I recall the Wallace example was suspected of having been done as a special commission for a well off person...and that may have been for someone in Cairo perhaps... and provenanced to the Bukhara region...as already stated.

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 7th December 2014, 06:47 PM   #8
Oliver Pinchot
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Salaam ya Ibrahim!
I corresponded with Ibrahim about the sword pictured by Michael Blalock awhile back; we reached the same conclusion. It was offered by Auctions Imperial in the 2013 sale, here is a link to the description:
http://www.auctionflex.com/showlot....genum=5&lang=En

The blade is broad and well-tempered. While it showed some flexibility due to its relative flatness, it isn't particularly so.

Other than a very basic form from the same early Arab swords which influenced the Omani kattara, i.e. a simple, symmetrical, cylindrical grip with expanded pommel and straight, double-edged blade, I see no evidence for these swords being Arab at all. There was an example on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum when I visited there in the mid-90s, which was also of this form. It was mounted in silver, and the scabbard was done in black and red leather. It was labeled rather generically as an Islamic sword, I believe. Unfortunately, it isn't pictured in Anthony North's book.
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Old 7th December 2014, 11:31 PM   #9
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A good catch that this is the same sword that was at Auctions Imperial. I have seen eleven of these swords with these distinctive hilts. I got my first in Yemen in 1963, I have seen photographs of two others, both located in Yemen. I own two others that as well that were obtained in the Arabian peninsula. Oriental-Arms had one as well that was identified as Yemeni, I believe it was at Christie's later. It seems implausible not to make a Yemeni attribution when I consider that out of eleven swords of this type I have seen over twenty years of searching, three would be found in Yemen, sporting the types of blades one finds on neighboring Omani swords.
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Old 7th December 2014, 11:56 PM   #10
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I think it was Elgood who mentioned Bukharan jewellers working in Southern Aravia.
Could it be that the decorative motives might be Central Asian, but the shape is that of the old Omani katara?
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Old 8th December 2014, 10:04 AM   #11
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver Pinchot
Salaam ya Ibrahim!
I corresponded with Ibrahim about the sword pictured by Michael Blalock awhile back; we reached the same conclusion. It was offered by Auctions Imperial in the 2013 sale, here is a link to the description:
http://www.auctionflex.com/showlot....genum=5&lang=En

The blade is broad and well-tempered. While it showed some flexibility due to its relative flatness, it isn't particularly so.

Other than a very basic form from the same early Arab swords which influenced the Omani kattara, i.e. a simple, symmetrical, cylindrical grip with expanded pommel and straight, double-edged blade, I see no evidence for these swords being Arab at all. There was an example on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum when I visited there in the mid-90s, which was also of this form. It was mounted in silver, and the scabbard was done in black and red leather. It was labeled rather generically as an Islamic sword, I believe. Unfortunately, it isn't pictured in Anthony North's book.



Salaams Oh Yaa Ustadh Oliver Pinchot !! Oh yes of course ...I had not forgotten but my notes are somewhat scattered about ... Your reference is absolutely superb and nails the entire sword in all its glory and with the stamp also translated ... Seldom have I seen a more accurate reference... Thank you for that ..and it is great to see you on Forum. There is also a brilliant example at the Wallace in London ...and on Forum ..

Ariel... Its not Omani but I can only agree that it certainly gets a second look as parallels / similarities initially jump off the page. I think that since it is a late design the maker has used several devices which whilst they may look slightly like the Omani old Battle Sword...it is as stated at the reference and probably not Arabian ...It certainly is not Omani. The blade in this case is pointed not round tipped...and the pattern/decoration is not Arabian ...etc.

Regards,
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Old 8th December 2014, 02:21 PM   #12
Michael Blalock
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When we got this sword in Taiz in 1963 we were told it was Turkish. That is what I thought until I discussed it with Oriental-Arms back in 2002. Artzi told me he had seen others of these swords come from Yemen.
The Ottoman Turks held Yemen from the 1870's till 1918 when the last Pasha left. The repousse work on the hilts looks similar to Turkish work so it is not a big stretch to speculate that there were Turkish sword smiths that came to Yemen with the army and may have trained local artisans to copy their techniques. These swords could have been produced in Yemen for the Turks as a souvenir or made for local use by Yemeni's at weddings or even for sale in Aden. There is a tradition of renting swords for Yemeni weddings.
I know the Turkish styles had a big impact on the Jewish jewelers who developed styles to sell to the Turks and visitors to Aden.

In 1963 there were still Yemenis who had grown up under Ottoman rule, so, the original attribution that the sword is Turkish is very plausible. Some Turks stayed in the Imams administration until 1962. Taiz and its nearby port of Mocha was one of the more stable areas for the Turks and close to trade with Aden, the Omani coast and East Africa. I think it is credible that these swords were made in Yemen with Turkish influence that was incorporated onto the readily available blades found throughout Southern Arabia and East Africa at the time.
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Old 9th December 2014, 09:16 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Blalock
When we got this sword in Taiz in 1963 we were told it was Turkish. That is what I thought until I discussed it with Oriental-Arms back in 2002. Artzi told me he had seen others of these swords come from Yemen.
The Ottoman turks held Yemen from the 1870's till 1918 when the last Pasha left. The repousse work on the hilts looks similar to Turkish work so it is not a big stretch to speculate that there were Turkish swordsmiths that came to Yemen with the army and may have trained local artisans to copy their techniques. These sword could have been produced in Yemen for the Turks as a souvenir or made for local use by Yemeni's at weddings or even for sale in Aden. There is a tradition of renting swords for Yemeni weddings.
I know the Turkish styles had a big impact on the Jewish jewelers who developed styles to sell to the Turks and visitors to Aden.

In 1963 there were still Yemenis who had grown up under Ottoman rule, so the original attribution that the sword is Turkish is very plausible. Some Turks stayed in the Imams administration until 1962. Taiz and it's nearby port of Mocha was one of the more stable areas for the Turks and close to trade with Aden, the Omani coast and East Africa. I think it is credible that these swords were made in Yemen with Turkish influence that was incorporated onto the readily available blades found throughout Southern Arabia and East Africa at the time.


Salaams Michael Blalock ~I see nothing wrong with your assumption and indeed I thought there could be Jewish influence on the style. I do however tend toward the already laid down description of the Central Asian type (though personally I suspect the blade form may even be Algerian). At least it is not of the Omani flexible straight dancer format of The Omani Sayf.

Here I reprint the excellent reference description from Oliver Pinchot

Quote"A RARE CENTRAL ASIAN BROADSWORD
A quite similar example depicted in the ninth-century fresco of a mounted Samanid ruler at Nishapur allows attribution of the form. The distinctive guardless hilt silvered or gilt, with an expanded ferrule and cylindrical grip, embossed and engraved overall with vinework, the bud-form pommel spirally fluted. The exceptionally long, straight, double-edged blade with evidence of wootz forging, a short central fuller to either side and a polygonal makerís mark inscribed, WORK OF HASSAN [?] struck twice on either side. In its wooden scabbard with velvet covering, the locket and chape embossed and engraved en suite with the hilt, the suspension bands with openwork decoration. Beginning of the 19th century. Light wear, small area of pitting to blade. Very rarely encountered, probably a coronation sword.Overall length 101.3 cm. Condition I, Unquote"

It may well be such that this weapon although apparently a late comer to the sword world may have no brief and deliberate label moreover the design and style could be a mixed hybrid taking variations on a theme from various quarters and even as you say with the craftsmanship of the Jewish artisan and reflections of red sea blades in the ensuing mixture...It certainly makes for a very interesting conundrum...and a great thread !! Which is what the world of Ethnographic research is all about...no?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 9th December 2014 at 09:36 AM.
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