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Old 4th December 2018, 12:22 AM   #1
tokashikibob
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Default Ethiopian swords

Gents, I bought these East African swords at a swap meet recently and researched that they are Ethiopian. Are these hard to find relics?
There is not much to find on the web about them and I'd appreciate help in better understanding them.

Best regards,
Bill
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Old 4th December 2018, 06:09 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!
You came to the right place! most of the entries online often end up bringing the queries here at one point or another.

These two swords (very nice BTW) are indeed Ethiopian.
The one with the lionhead is a stirrup hilt sword of military type and appears to be Italian. These seem to be from the 1890s going by the George V blade, which is extremely nice by Wilkinson, who was of course in London and supplying blades to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in these times.
The sword itself is termed a shotel, and the distinctive hilt was typically of rhino horn. The enthusiasts here are better at determining what type of horn this is but probably rhino.

These were turbulent times in Abyssinia with the Italian occupation and the Mahdist campaigns going on in adjacent Sudan with British forces.
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Old 4th December 2018, 07:56 PM   #3
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Hi Bill.

Welcome to the forum. Please make sure you read the stickies at the top of the forum page that describe the forum rules, etc. You will find that we require a picture of the whole sword when answering questions about inscriptions and ID. If you could post some further pics showing the entire swords it would be appreciated.

Regards,

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Old 5th December 2018, 08:00 AM   #4
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George V was on the throne from 1910 to 1936 so the Wilkinson sword must be post 1910.
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Old 5th December 2018, 09:31 AM   #5
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Hi and welcome,
Both swords are very typical for Ethiopia/Emperorīs times. They are in a very nice condition. The handle of shotel is of rhino horn. (Now you would not find it in Etrhiopia complete - only blades without handles or with some ugly wooden replacements. I looks like complete swords with rhino handles survived in the hands of collectors only ...)
Martin
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Old 5th December 2018, 09:35 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Lubojacky
Hi and welcome,
Both swords are very typical for Ethiopia/Emperorīs times. They are in a very nice condition. The handle of shotel is of rhino horn. (Now you would not find it in Etrhiopia complete - only blades without handles or with some ugly wooden replacements. I looks like complete swords with rhino handles survived in the hands of collectors only ...)
Martin


... and museums, of course
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Old 5th December 2018, 06:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Welcome to the forum!
You came to the right place! most of the entries online often end up bringing the queries here at one point or another.

These two swords (very nice BTW) are indeed Ethiopian.
The one with the lionhead is a stirrup hilt sword of military type and appears to be Italian. These seem to be from the 1890s going by the George V blade, which is extremely nice by Wilkinson, who was of course in London and supplying blades to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in these times.
The sword itself is termed a shotel, and the distinctive hilt was typically of rhino horn. The enthusiasts here are better at determining what type of horn this is but probably rhino.

These were turbulent times in Abyssinia with the Italian occupation and the Mahdist campaigns going on in adjacent Sudan with British forces.

Hi Jim,
I believe that the term SHOTEL to which you refer to is not in fact the correct description to the subject sword (with the horn/rhino hilt). The correct term for this particular blade shape is in fact GURADE.
The term SHOTEL refers to the "double" curved blade also found on Ethiopian swords and shown in the pic attached.
As an aside, Wilkinson and various Solingen makers made and shipped many hundreds of sword blades to Ethiopia which would have been locally mounted. A large % of these bore various inscriptions in Amharic language as shown on the Wilkinson blade above.
Also attached is an early advertisment from Wilkinson for Ethiopian blades.
Stu
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Old 5th December 2018, 06:51 PM   #8
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SEE also https://www.bing.com/images/search?...pia&FORM=HDRSC2

Some hilts below to tune up along side your first picture at post 1 above ~
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Old 6th December 2018, 12:45 AM   #9
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Actually I appear to have made compound errors here, and somehow I misread the correct period for George V.....who reigned as noted 1910-1936.,,so thank you Dave F.


As Stu has noted, Wilkinson Sword Co. had supply contracts to furnish blades to Abyssinia into the 1930s.Some of these, as well as those from Solingen earlier, were indeed the dramatically parabolic 'sickles' which were termed shotel. Burton (1884, p.163) described these with considerable disdain , and notes the blade tapering to a point, which "...can hardly be used". The commonly held lore is of course that these sickles were so curved so that the warrior could reach around the shield and stab the opponent.


Getting to the 'name game', the dramatically curved shotel began to go out of favor with the advent of more conservatively curved sabre blades from England and Germany. While some still carried the shotel of the traditional dramatic curve, the shallow blade versions which were hilted with the same shaped rhino hilts became more of a 'shotel' variation. In this sense, many termed them shotel, while technically the proper term locally for sabre was 'gurade'. In the literature, I have seen both terms used, however, over the years the term gurade, in my experience was always limited to the typically stirrup hilted military style sabres.


While on this topic, one of my recurring quests in the study of swords has often been trying to find the origin of the terms used for certain sword forms.Obviously there is a great deal of contention and debate over these terms, and quite frankly, many terms have been used for many years without genuine foundation.

One example was the term 'kaskara', which I was surprised to discover not anyone in Sudan or Ethiopia had ever heard. Efforts to find a source were futile, and even the authorities in museums and authors of references had no idea where the word came from. As in Ethiopia, where these are termed sa'if.....so too was the case in Sudan. It was not until Iain found the origin in tribal language to the west, and probably brought to the west by Burton (1884).


I would ask here if anyone has ever found the basis for the term 'shotel'.
It seems to be another of these generic terms for any cutting item as illustrated in a reference by an 18th century traveler ("Protskys Travels in Ethiopia and other Countries" translated 1991 by Arrowsmith-Brown...which uses the term 'shotel' to refer to a carving knife,.


Perhaps somebody out there reading this might have some information or ideas toward this.


Thanks very much for the input,
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Old 6th December 2018, 02:35 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Actually I appear to have made compound errors here, and somehow I misread the correct period for George V.....who reigned as noted 1910-1936.,,so thank you Dave F.


As Stu has noted, Wilkinson Sword Co. had supply contracts to furnish blades to Abyssinia into the 1930s.Some of these, as well as those from Solingen earlier, were indeed the dramatically parabolic 'sickles' which were termed shotel. Burton (1884, p.163) described these with considerable disdain , and notes the blade tapering to a point, which "...can hardly be used". The commonly held lore is of course that these sickles were so curved so that the warrior could reach around the shield and stab the opponent.


Getting to the 'name game', the dramatically curved shotel began to go out of favor with the advent of more conservatively curved sabre blades from England and Germany. While some still carried the shotel of the traditional dramatic curve, the shallow blade versions which were hilted with the same shaped rhino hilts became more of a 'shotel' variation. In this sense, many termed them shotel, while technically the proper term locally for sabre was 'gurade'. In the literature, I have seen both terms used, however, over the years the term gurade, in my experience was always limited to the typically stirrup hilted military style sabres.


While on this topic, one of my recurring quests in the study of swords has often been trying to find the origin of the terms used for certain sword forms.Obviously there is a great deal of contention and debate over these terms, and quite frankly, many terms have been used for many years without genuine foundation.

One example was the term 'kaskara', which I was surprised to discover not anyone in Sudan or Ethiopia had ever heard. Efforts to find a source were futile, and even the authorities in museums and authors of references had no idea where the word came from. As in Ethiopia, where these are termed sa'if.....so too was the case in Sudan. It was not until Iain found the origin in tribal language to the west, and probably brought to the west by Burton (1884).


I would ask here if anyone has ever found the basis for the term 'shotel'.
It seems to be another of these generic terms for any cutting item as illustrated in a reference by an 18th century traveler ("Protskys Travels in Ethiopia and other Countries" translated 1991 by Arrowsmith-Brown...which uses the term 'shotel' to refer to a carving knife,.


Perhaps somebody out there reading this might have some information or ideas toward this.


Thanks very much for the input,

Hi Jim, The Shotel sword is mentioned in Wiki here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotel but does not give a concise origin of the word.
Perhaps if one had a very rough night and woke up in a strange bed it could be called a "Shhotel" if the brain was a bit foggy??
Stu
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Old 6th December 2018, 03:11 AM   #11
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Thank you for the info fellas. I thought they were older but they are still from a very interesting time period. I will probably move them on as I am into pre 1860
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Old 6th December 2018, 03:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kahnjar1
Hi Jim, The Shotel sword is mentioned in Wiki here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotel but does not give a concise origin of the word.
Perhaps if one had a very rough night and woke up in a strange bed it could be called a "Shhotel" if the brain was a bit foggy??
Stu



I saw the Wiki entry also, actually got the note about the 18th c. reference using the term shotel for a carving knife. In this Wiki entry they state that the shotel dates back to these ancient groups in Ethiopia and that they had forces using these weapons and called the forces 'shotelai'. this begs the question were they called this because of the name of the weapon or was the weapon named for the force. That would mean there was a root word involved.


Whatever the case it seems that the term is used in a broader sense for sword/knife etc. much as the situation with many ethnographic edged weapons. We have seen this so many times in these discussions, and we could write a book on the countless misnomers, collectors terms, semantics and transliterations. I was once told by a reliable authority that in many of the Malaysian and Indonesian spheres weapons are called by different terms almost village to village. Perhaps exaggerated of course, but the point is well placed.
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Old 7th December 2018, 03:21 PM   #13
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It is good to see that interest in Ethiopian swords is still there.... and that good swords are still to be found. I cannot see the blade of the European hilted sword well enough to identify it. Where is the suggestion that it is Italian came from? The majority of these that I have seen mount German blades. A few British and very few French.
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Old 7th December 2018, 03:26 PM   #14
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As far as I know SHOTEL is not an Amharic word, rather it is from Tigrai and what is now Eritrea and it means BIG KNIFE. Amharic for sword is GORADE (actually spelled with the "O" and not the "U").
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Old 7th December 2018, 04:02 PM   #15
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Hi, Tokashikibob. Move them on?? Let me know.
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Old 7th December 2018, 07:00 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roanoa
As far as I know SHOTEL is not an Amharic word, rather it is from Tigrai and what is now Eritrea and it means BIG KNIFE. Amharic for sword is GORADE (actually spelled with the "O" and not the "U").




Thank you Ron! Not only good to see interest in the Ethiopian swords out there but to see you enter in. You were always my primary source for reliable data on Ethiopian weapons, and I still have the great paper you wrote on them years ago.

I think the idea that this European sword was Italian is that curious rise in the grip is an Italian characteristic in military swords on 19th c. (I think my source was 'Calemendrei' on Italian military swords not on hand at the moment).


The point I was making re: the use of shotel in classifying the European style bladed examples with the familiar hilt shape of rhino is due to the broader application typically occurring in collectors circles (the breeding ground for collectors terms) associating the hilt style.


While 'gurade' is of course proper for sword, it is transliteration and collectors use with these terms from different languages that contributes to the confusion. The use of 'big knife' and various applications for swords is a common occurence in a number of situations in many ethnic groups and cultures. For collectors, it is all the 'name game' in desperately trying to classify thier items......for students of arms, it is more cross referencing and broader descriptive explanation.
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Old 7th December 2018, 07:51 PM   #17
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If is recall correctly, the Ethiopean Imperial guard used a sword that looks much like a 1796LC or Blutcher with the Ethiopean Lion and amharic lettering etched, were generally carried in a fairly plain locally madeblack leather scabbard by the well dressed and properly western style dress-uniformed guardsman, who did NOT wear shoes. They ran, marched everywhere, at speed barefoot and I gather, quite good warriors. Just not enough of them. The OP's sword may have been captured from the Italians.

Here is the IMperial Guard Officers with more up-to-date British style swords. Our member Katana has/had one of the 1796 type...
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Old 7th December 2018, 08:42 PM   #18
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Well, my friends, I for one go a very simple rule when it comes to Abyssinian swords: shotel = sickle shaped; gorade = single edge curved sabre; se'f (saif) straight blade (including kaskara). This is accepted internationally by researchers and collectors. Then the unsolvable problem of the "Imperial Guards" swords. In Menelik II's times they were all over the place in terms of design and "European" origin. The most common one, and probably the "real" one, is the one with German blade with the inscription MENELIK and SAINT GEORGE. Locally made scabbard. In Haile' Selassie's times we start to see more identifiable pattern for which there is, at last, photographic evidence. THIN STRAIGHT blades with a peculiar inscription (LOVE YOUR COUNTRY - HONOR YOUR EMPEROR); lion head pommel with MULTI-BRANCHED guard and steel scabbard. Other patterns were used by the cavalry. Cheers.
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Old 1st April 2020, 03:30 PM   #19
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very nice and interesting topic.... Thanks
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Old 3rd April 2020, 03:12 PM   #20
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I have one who doesnt fit in the typology.
What should i do? Bin it??
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Old 3rd April 2020, 03:56 PM   #21
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No, send it to me, I will give her a good home, hug her and squeeze her and call her Georgia Shotel.
(Gratuitous B. B. Leporidae reference):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzmlqJnlcn4

(It's been a slow day at home self-isolating)
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Old 4th April 2020, 05:23 AM   #22
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Can we have a close up picture of the ricasso? Is there a "star" stamp?
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Old 4th April 2020, 07:45 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roanoa
Can we have a close up picture of the ricasso? Is there a "star" stamp?


No. I have the king on one side and the lion on the other.
It's the reason why i think it's a Solingen blade.
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Old 4th April 2020, 01:17 PM   #24
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Very interesting topic.
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Old 5th April 2020, 09:25 PM   #25
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Here are mine. Both with original scabbards.
Neither are of my primary area of interest, so I might have missed important details.
If anyone needs additional pics, send me a PM and I post more pics here, for everyone to see. Same with questions. I just do not want to overload the topic with unnecessary entries.
Start with the one carrying German blade
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Old 5th April 2020, 09:34 PM   #26
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And now- with a Russian blade. Imperial Russia ( IR), as always, tried to align herself with faraway nations. Ethiopia was a Christian land surrounded by Islamic nations, a seemingly ideal target. Thus, at the end of the 19th century, IR sent surplus of good old blades there together with " volunteers" and " advisers" ( similar to today situation in Syria)
This blade carries an engraving on its spine " Zlatoust august 1853 year"
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Old 6th April 2020, 06:05 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
And now- with a Russian blade. Imperial Russia ( IR), as always, tried to align herself with faraway nations. Ethiopia was a Christian land surrounded by Islamic nations, a seemingly ideal target. Thus, at the end of the 19th century, IR sent surplus of good old blades there together with " volunteers" and " advisers" ( similar to today situation in Syria)
This blade carries an engraving on its spine " Zlatoust august 1853 year"


Clearly an Ethiopian shashka

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Old 6th April 2020, 10:15 PM   #28
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" There are no tigers in Africa" ( Monty Python)
And no shashkas in Ethiopia ( Me) :-)
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Old 7th April 2020, 12:19 AM   #29
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But...There ARE tigers in Africa!

https://roaring.earth/why-tigers-in-south-africa/

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Old 7th April 2020, 01:32 AM   #30
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There are more tigers in the USA than in India!
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