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Old 3rd January 2013, 12:09 PM   #1
Taffjones
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Default African curved sword for discussion/comment ?

Hi Guys,
Had this sword in my collection for a few years. Believe it to be African. It measures 90cm from the top of the hilt to the end of the blade(Across the curve not going with it). Has very nice age patina and feels very well balanced in the hand. Don't think it is a decorative piece. Comments welcome

Thanks in advance
Darren
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Old 3rd January 2013, 01:02 PM   #2
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Hi Darren,

Others can doubtless add more, but for a start I can at least ID what you've got. A rather nice Ethiopian shotel.
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Old 3rd January 2013, 02:20 PM   #3
Martin Lubojacky
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There is nothing more to add. Classical, nice shotel.
Martin
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Old 3rd January 2013, 03:02 PM   #4
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I would add I have always found these swords particularly interesting of the weaponry from Ethiopia as they feature native made blades and are a very old design.

I find this a nice contrast to the gurade and saif which usually feature imported blades.
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Old 3rd January 2013, 07:57 PM   #5
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Thanks for the help so far, It would be interesting to know whether there was any migration of this type of weapon to any of the Arabian countries across the red sea. As quite a lot of the images showing up on this site and others seem to have Arab type filigree work and other types of embelishments.

Thanks
Darren
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Old 3rd January 2013, 10:24 PM   #6
Jim McDougall
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Hi Darren,
Which type of embellishments and filigree work are you referring to? I know there is a great deal of silvered openwork on Abyssinian shields, but have not seen same on these shotels.
The shotel you have shown seems to be one from latter 19th century most likely, and these deeply parabolic sickle type swords were traditionally favored by many of the Abyssinian tribes. Apparantly they continued to be used though the Italian occupation (ending with Battle of Adwa 1898) and as late as 1936-41 with the Italian-Abyssian war.

During the early 20th century these type blades were often produced by both Germany and Wilkinson of England in this traditional form, many of these supplied to forces of Haile Selassie I. More familiar in these times were the gurade, a stirrup hilted military type sabre, and shotels with military type sabre blades but the same rhino horn hilt. As far as I have known there was no diffusion of these Abyssinian swords into other regions, though reasonable similarities are seen in hilts of certain other African edged weapons and sickle type blades on Ngombe sabres (much heavier and shallower).
It does appear numbers of shotels were entered into Red Sea trade and into Arabia, as I understand primarily to obtain the rhino horn hilts, extremely desired in Arabia for thier janbiyya/ khanjhar daggers. Some of the more straight and shallow curved blades of these swords appear to have been rehilted in San'aa in the Yemen in some degree, but none were of the parabolic blade shotel form.

There is a great deal of debate on the use of these sickle blades, which were looked upon disdainfully by Sir Richard Burton as being entirely useless, but many sources insist these were used gainfully in combat by reaching cuts around the opponents shield. These double edged 'sickles' are believed to have the focus of thier cut to the point, with the impetus of thier slashing cut in the momentum of the dramatically curved blade.

Most attractive swords, and seem to be getting somewhat harder to find. Thier long use by Ethiopian warriors, even contemporary to the other forms described, suggest they were indeed deadly in the hands of these warriors.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 4th January 2013, 08:12 AM   #7
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Hi Jim,
I notice that the pommel caps of particularly the rhino hilted shotels have the Arab type filigree work which I know is also found on weapons of the Beja Hadendoa and the Jile type daggers and swords from surrounding countries.
Thanks
Darren
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Old 4th January 2013, 09:28 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taffjones
Hi Jim,
I notice that the pommel caps of particularly the rhino hilted shotels have the Arab type filigree work which I know is also found on weapons of the Beja Hadendoa and the Jile type daggers and swords from surrounding countries.
Thanks
Darren


I wouldn't classify this as an Arab style particularly. As Jim said, there is a long history of detailed metal work in Ethiopia including jewelry and church items like elaborate crosses. Here's a particularly fancy shotel and scabbard: http://oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=4693
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Old 4th January 2013, 09:55 AM   #9
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Thanks Iain,
I now know that i have a tendency to oversimplify and generalize on these matters. Having read through some old forum postings I now realize that not all Silver granulation and filigree work originated in Arabia and that African countries have a strong tradition with silver/ metal work.
Thanks
Darren
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Old 4th January 2013, 10:00 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taffjones
Thanks Iain,
I now know that i have a tendency to oversimplify and generalize on these matters. Having read through some old forum postings I now realize that not all Silver granulation and filigree work originated in Arabia and that African countries have a strong tradition with silver/ metal work.
Thanks
Darren


Hi Darren, happy to help out. Ethiopia is an interesting case as a country with fairly well defined territorial borders and history for a very long period of time. It was also somewhat isolated due to cultural and religious factors. Seeing your sword is making me want to start collecting Ethiopian items as well!
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Old 4th January 2013, 02:00 PM   #11
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Ethiopia and Eritrea are indeed interesting regions, and Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) entered the Mahdist campaigns alled with Great Britain and Ottoman Egypt from 1885-89. The kaskara of the Sudan in well known in Eritrea as well as in degree in Ethiopia, and Beja Hadendoa tribal groups were well situated already in these regions. The shotel however did not cross diffuse into Sudanese regions, and I am not aware of Hadendoa using them.
The 'gile' was the shorter and heavier weapon which was used by the Afar in Danakil regions of Ethiopia.

The filigree and openwork seen on some of these weapons more decorative seem likely to have been the work of artisans associated with the brisk import trade from the Red Sea including Arab regions, much of which was situated in Addis Adaba and Harar both in Ethiopia.
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Old 8th January 2013, 04:55 PM   #12
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Just to add a bit of interesting historical detail, the British had actually fought the Ethiopians not that long before the Madhist period. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britis...on_to_Abyssinia

There was also large battle between the Madhists and the Ethiopians
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gallabat

Not as well known as the actions involving the British but extremely important none the less.
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Old 8th January 2013, 09:31 PM   #13
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Hi Iain,
I am afraid - aren“t you developing a taste for Ethiopia ? (BTW - If you are in Prague this Saturday, Ethiopians celebrate theit Christmas in Technical Library)
The history of the country is very rich and interesting, including the history of military affairs. As far as the interaction with the Arab Peninsula is concerned, maybe it is irrelevant in connection with filigree - but this history of close interaction began thousands years ago - during the ancient times of the Land of Sheba, when, allegedly (I should study a liitle bit more), Yemen and Abyssinian territories were culturally homogenous (maybe also during Aksum Kingdom). And at that old times, the Horn of Africa was settled in two big waves from Arab peninsula, and the "newcomers" mixed with old residents.
Ethiopians are very skilled gold and silversmiths, which could by confirmed by everybody who visited "Piazza" in Addis. They have still been producing their own various styles (also filigree) of gold and silver jewelery.
(encl. "Ethiopian still life")
Regards,
Martin
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Old 7th March 2013, 11:13 PM   #14
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Default Nice Shotel

Hi Taff,

I've been away for ages (seriously, years now) but Ethiopia was one of my collecting passions. That's a very good shotel with a locally made blade. Many, as someone else has noted, were ordered by Menelik II from various European sources and then hilted locally.

I still have several, and my son now has the collecting bug....its genetic.

-d
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Old 8th March 2013, 06:29 PM   #15
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Default shotel

this is called a shotel,and was used by sudanese warriors,against the british.nice thing !
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Old 8th March 2013, 06:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by napoleon
this is called a shotel,and was used by sudanese warriors,against the british.nice thing !


Ethiopians actually... Not Sudanese. Although as mentioned above the British did see action against the Ethiopian kingdom in 1868.
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Old 8th March 2013, 07:30 PM   #17
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Default Shotel

without any doubts an Ethiopian shotel. They have different formsm depending of region and tribes. Below a small collection.
Best Wolf
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Old 8th March 2013, 07:38 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wodimi
without any doubts an Ethiopian shotel. They have different formsm depending of region and tribes. Below a small collection.
Best Wolf
www.africanarms.com


Absolutely fantastic collection Wolf! Thanks for sharing. Could you tell us what the tribes are and attributions in the examples you showed? I know very little about Ethiopian arms beyond being able to identify the main types.

(Just a note for others - if you haven't visited Wolf's website you really should. It showcases an amazing and diverse collection with very well done photos.)
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Old 8th March 2013, 10:10 PM   #19
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Default For comparison

Here is my shotel. It is 31.25 inches in length, blade is 27 inches and sharp on both sides. The red leather sheath is in pretty good condition although a very tight fit for the shotel and I don't keep it in the sheath for fear of cutting it.

The shotel was the traditional sword of Abyssinia (current Ethiopia). The last picture is a painting that depicts Dejazmach Hailu, governor of Hamasien in the Asmara
region, armed with a shotel. Dejazmach 
Hailu held office during the reign of Emperor Tewodros II (1855-68)

It is really hard to imagine sword fighting with this weapon. The most evocative description I've heard is this one from the essay "There is no best sword" by Hank Reinhardt
"The natives fight with these swords from behind large, circular leather shields. Rather than try to cut through the shield, or feint it out of the way, they reach around it to hook their opponent with the point of the sword. I think you can image what a strange type of combat it must be. Many years ago, when the movie theaters had shorts subjects, I saw a travelogue that briefly showed two Abyssinians "fencing" with sword and shield. They hopped and ducked and bounced all around, with the long curved swords moving in very awkward ways. Really strange."
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Old 8th March 2013, 10:16 PM   #20
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Default Really great collection

I never new the shotel had such diverse form. Thanks for posting! I would also welcome any further description you can provide (or I suppose I can just visit your website)

- Dave A
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Old 9th March 2013, 10:45 AM   #21
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Here is my one, and a pic of my rino hilted guradč pommel caps with a (common) Maria Theresa thaler. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Theresa_thaler
Paolo
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Old 9th March 2013, 11:45 AM   #22
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Just a quick few lines to say thank you to everybody past, present and future who is helping in this thread. My brain is positively swelling with the information gained.

Taff
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Old 9th March 2013, 12:44 PM   #23
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great, a fantastic example Paolo and sure from DaveA too.

Regarding the question from Iain and DaveA it's difficult to answer. The three in the middle of my group I think are from the Amhara living on the central highland plateau of Ethiopia. The one on the top and the bottom of the group picture I think more south from the ethnic group Oromo, formerly often called Galla. Sorry that I can't say more.
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Old 9th March 2013, 10:28 PM   #24
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Congratulation on your nice collection of Abyssinian sabres, Wolf (nicely treated blades)!
As far as the group photo is concerned, I think the lowest sabre is "gile" ("jely"), allegedly used by Danakil before (I would say eastern part of Ethiopia - the scabbard used to have the same features like Danakil/Afar daggers). I do not think it is "sword common in many Eastern African countries" (description from Tirri“s book). Once it was common in "antique shops" in Addis, now it is becoming rare.... The handle is usually made of hard wood.
I know some authors describe Ethiopian sabres and swords as a group of shotels (which varies from straight shotels called saifs/seifs through normally curved shotels called gorades/gurades to deeply curved sabres called simply shotels). But when I discussed with Addis sellers, they always spoke only about saifs (straight), only about gorades (single edged mostly European blade). And shotel was name of a big "round" sickle weapon with double edged blade, nearly always of local production (based on this experience I would even call the sabre from Tirri“s book, fig 52, page 82 with Wilkinsom blade "shotel with the blade made by Wilkinson", not gorade). This is my personal opinion, but similar to the description in "African Arms and Armour".
Gorades and saifs often used to have rhino hilts, shotels mostly cattle horn hilts. I even saw something like bakelite hilts.
Regards,
Martin
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Old 9th March 2013, 10:39 PM   #25
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Thanks Martin for your comment. I will add your words to my records, we never know enough, but always a little bit more with the time.
Best wishes,
Wolf
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Old 10th March 2013, 09:14 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain
Ethiopians actually... Not Sudanese. Although as mentioned above the British did see action against the Ethiopian kingdom in 1868.
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Old 10th March 2013, 09:25 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by napoleon


Happy to share detail and info when I can. I think the Ethiopian position and interaction with the Madhist Sudanese and the British is quite fascinating.
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Old 10th March 2013, 10:17 PM   #28
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Default Shotel, Imported blade and bakelite hilt

I let go of several, but this one has managed to hang around.
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