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Old 22nd February 2020, 07:07 PM   #1
David
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Default Sumatran Sewar?

So this is a little outside my usual sphere of collecting, but i was in my favorite antique shop in Halifax, NS and the owner was just unpacking some new items he picked up at a recent estate sale. I once found a worn, but interesting anak alang keris there for a good price and we were chatting about that and he remembered this dagger and pulled it out to show me.
Well. i though this thing was just so damned cute and the price seemed rather good to me (though again, out of my collecting sphere so i can't be certain, but i think i got a great deal on it) that i just had to bring it home.
My understanding is that this is a sewar, but that that these blades are also referred to as Sewah by the Gayo people, Seiva by the Minangkabau people, Siva by the Alas people, and Siwaih by the Acehnese people.
I have know idea which region or people this particular one comes from so perhaps someone out there who knows more about these can help me out nailing down the identification and possible age.
The sheath seems to be horn and the fittings are sliver. The blade length is about 22cm (about 8.6 inches), about 28cm (11 inches) including the hilt.
The blade is pattern welded and seems fairly old. A stain would raise the pattern, but i am not certain that these blades were traditional treated with warangan or not so perhaps someone could advise me about that. Thanks!
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Old 22nd February 2020, 08:28 PM   #2
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Hello David,
Yes, it's a sewar and a very nice one! Can't help with the exact origin. I think that the blades were stained originally but possible not so strong as a keris blade. I would polish the blade a little bit before staining.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 22nd February 2020, 08:32 PM   #3
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Thanks Detlef. I knew you had a nice collection of these that i have seen before and was hoping you would respond.
Yes, i cleaned up the blade a little with a fine steel wool, but can see how polishing it up more before staining would be a good idea. Do you know if these were traditionally stained with warangan or some other substance?
Any idea on the age?
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Old 22nd February 2020, 08:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
Thanks Detlef. I knew you had a nice collection of these that i have seen before and was hoping you would respond.
Yes, i cleaned up the blade a little with a fine steel wool, but can see how polishing it up more before staining would be a good idea. Do you know if these were traditionally stained with warangan or some other substance?
Any idea on the age?


Thank you for the compliment David! Really no clue if they were traditionally stained but I guess they were. I would try it with warangan but don't would give it the typical strong "black/white" finish like a keris blade so my suggestion to polish the blade, it will be more easy to repolish the blade when the contrast would be to strong.
But frankly said I never have tried to etch one of my blades!
Age I would guess around 1900.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 22nd February 2020, 11:40 PM   #5
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Hello David,

Yes, an interesting Sewar/whatever!

The laminated blade looks old and I'd have no qualms to believe it to be sometime from the 19th c.

As usual, the crosspiece/mouthpiece of the scabbard is from horn and well-carved in fine detail. Either this got removed from SE Asia rather early or it might be somewhat later IMHO. The scabbard stem will be wood; if any of the silver covers could be slided off, some more info might be gained.

The silverwork on the scabbard may be medium craftsmanship, the quality of the hilt less so IMHO. Since the latter's motifs are not en suite, I'd guess that it got restored/replaced later, possibly after WW2.

I don't see any stylistic hints for this piece to come from any of the highland groups. This most likely is a Malay piece and originates from the Sumatran East coast or the western Malay peninsula.

Historically, there probably never was any clear-cut preference for staining these blades with warangan. There are colonial accounts that staining with warangan was known and practised in Aceh (sometimes, not universally). This is also seen in some examples that appear to remain in old, original stain; OTOH, many blades in museum collections exhibit low-contrast stain compatible with fruit acids or vinegar (or no remaining visible stain at all).

Most laminated blades from this region are forged from low-contrast steel (which still can look very nice if stained) while some are obviously intended to exhibit pattern-welding with stronger contrast. Thus, it wouldn't hurt to give it a try IMVHO.

Regards,
Kai
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Old 23rd February 2020, 12:20 AM   #6
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Thanks Kai.
The bottom silver sleeve slides off quite easily. The wooden stem is terminated neatly and with some craft. What more information can it tell?
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Old 23rd February 2020, 03:22 AM   #7
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I have also found the name Tumbuk Lada associated with these blades. Certain presents a whole lot of play for the name game. I would imagine that each culture group that uses these has a different name for them.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 06:44 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I have also found the name Tumbuk Lada associated with these blades. Certain presents a whole lot of play for the name game. I would imagine that each culture group that uses these has a different name for them.


I have one similar to yours and i call it Tumbok lada
like the car but more nice...
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Old 23rd February 2020, 07:18 AM   #9
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David, with the exception of Tumbok Lada, I would suggest that all the other names are exactly the same name, but written down by people from various different societies who recorded the name in their own interpretation of the sound they heard. The different spellings simply bear evidence of the variation in phonetics of the various languages involved.

I have a few of these things myself, they are usually very carefully made, nice quality little knives.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 11:39 AM   #10
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Hello David,

Quote:
The bottom silver sleeve slides off quite easily. The wooden stem is terminated neatly and with some craft. What more information can it tell?

A pic or two could possibly tell more than words...

Regards,
Kai
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Old 23rd February 2020, 03:19 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
A pic or two could possibly tell more than words...

Of course. But i thought if you could tell me what you were looking for it would aid me in how to approach the shot. However, i suspect this pic might give you what you need to know. Sorry, i didn't bother to pull out the real camera for this, but i believe the iPhone shot should suffice.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 03:22 PM   #12
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A nice Sewar, also called 'Siwar'. The term Tumbok Lada is known for a look-a-like of the Sewar,but with different thicker hilt and more straight blade. the Sewar ha a more curved blade and slimmer hilt and scabbard mouth. Many collectors mix these names up. They both come from Sumatra

Here a typical Tumbok lada (Oriental-Arms)


Here the Sewar or Siwar (my own)
https://antiquesbythesea.nl/wp-cont...9-1536x1028.jpg

See the much more curved blade of the Sewar compared to the Tumbok Lada.

Best regards,
Peter
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Old 23rd February 2020, 03:40 PM   #13
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Thanks, David!

Any different patina, marks, etc. visible along the stem?

Regards,
Kai
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Old 23rd February 2020, 03:48 PM   #14
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Well, the exposed part of the stem has more patina than the unexposed part of the stem if that is what you mean.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 04:07 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I have also found the name Tumbuk Lada associated with these blades.


Hello David,
A tumbok lada (pepper crusher) is a different knife, blade and handle are bigger. See the picture from two examples from my collection, in up a tumbok lada from the Batak, in down a normal sized sewar.
See also "Traditional Weapons Of The Indonesian Archipelago" under sewar and tumbok lada.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 23rd February 2020, 04:48 PM   #16
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Thanks Detlef. From feedback i am getting on a couple of tosan aji facebook pages from collectors who are indigenous to the Indonesian area i am getting a different response. Many there do not seem to make the distinction and considered both to be Tumbok Lada . That is not to say that you are incorrect. Simply pointing out the differences in how academics of European descent view these categorical differences compared to the locals.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 05:38 PM   #17
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Hello David,

Quote:
Well, the exposed part of the stem has more patina than the unexposed part of the stem if that is what you mean.

Good if the contours match. I'd have expected some more stain from the silver (alloy).

Any additional shadows?

Regards,
Kai
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Old 23rd February 2020, 05:43 PM   #18
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Hello David,

Quote:
I have also found the name Tumbuk Lada associated with these blades. Certain presents a whole lot of play for the name game. I would imagine that each culture group that uses these has a different name for them.

True enough - I was trying to avoid discussing that...

As Alan noted, the other names are just variants of the same name. I can't really judge how much this may be based on actual differences in pronounciation due to local dialects/languages (their usage by colonial linguists conversant in several branches of the Malay language family may indicate so).

While the typical blade of these daggers (single edged blade curving down towards the tip; strong integral bolster; at the base with usually a short, engraved line which I hesitate to term fuller since it seems to be done pretty sloppily) is widely distributed, the fittings do exhibit a lot of local styles. Yet the shared name seems to indicate that these were regarded as basically equivalent daggers with pretty much only the blade as common denominator. I haven't looked into the entymological origin of the Malay word sewah yet.

On the other hand, the Malay concept of tumbok lada [pepper crusher/grinder] seems to be based on the hilt whose shape could be likened to a tool. In AvZ only the single example with carved horn hilt qualifies as a piece from the coastal Malay community on both sides of the Malacca Strait. The other 4 are Karo status pieces and these apparently got never referred to as tumbok lada by any highland group (possibly short of Scots, that is... ). Both types exhibit similar (broader and more straight) blades (often with fullers). Despite these blades not being identical, the collectors' approach has been to lump these broader blades with stubby hilts as tumbok lada; and to refer to any with dowwncurving blades (and usually short engraved line) as Sewah. This notion may be supported by the status siwaih from Aceh which also exhibit very bulky hilts (more so than many Malay tumbok lada) and still not referred to as tumbok lada in Aceh. I wouldn't be surprised though if somewhat intermediate pieces like yours would have been referred to as tumbok lada by the Straits Malay - or possibly as sewah the other day or in the next village...

Regards,
Kai
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Old 23rd February 2020, 07:29 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
True enough - I was trying to avoid discussing that...

As Alan noted, the other names are just variants of the same name. I can't really judge how much this may be based on actual differences in pronounciation due to local dialects/languages (their usage by colonial linguists conversant in several branches of the Malay language family may indicate so).

While the typical blade of these daggers (single edged blade curving down towards the tip; strong integral bolster; at the base with usually a short, engraved line which I hesitate to term fuller since it seems to be done pretty sloppily) is widely distributed, the fittings do exhibit a lot of local styles. Yet the shared name seems to indicate that these were regarded as basically equivalent daggers with pretty much only the blade as common denominator. I haven't looked into the entymological origin of the Malay word sewah yet.

On the other hand, the Malay concept of tumbok lada [pepper crusher/grinder] seems to be based on the hilt whose shape could be likened to a tool. In AvZ only the single example with carved horn hilt qualifies as a piece from the coastal Malay community on both sides of the Malacca Strait. The other 4 are Karo status pieces and these apparently got never referred to as tumbok lada by any highland group (possibly short of Scots, that is... ). Both types exhibit similar (broader and more straight) blades (often with fullers). Despite these blades not being identical, the collectors' approach has been to lump these broader blades with stubby hilts as tumbok lada; and to refer to any with dowwncurving blades (and usually short engraved line) as Sewah. This notion may be supported by the status siwaih from Aceh which also exhibit very bulky hilts (more so than many Malay tumbok lada) and still not referred to as tumbok lada in Aceh. I wouldn't be surprised though if somewhat intermediate pieces like yours would have been referred to as tumbok lada by the Straits Malay - or possibly as sewah the other day or in the next village...


Hello Kai,
Don't worry, I agree complete with you. It's is like Alan used to say a name game.
And apparently belong the sewars and the big Karo "tumbok ladas" to the same family and there are other variants of this type also, see the both before shown daggers with another Karo Batak dagger (complete down, ivory handle) but not a status piece and a dagger (third from up) of unknown exact origin but from very similar shape. Both without fullers.
I only mentioned it because most of the collectors do it like you stated before.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 23rd February 2020, 07:52 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
True enough - I was trying to avoid discussing that...

hmmm...isn't a discussion forum a funny place to avoid, you know, discussion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
As Alan noted, the other names are just variants of the same name. I can't really judge how much this may be based on actual differences in pronounciation due to local dialects/languages (their usage by colonial linguists conversant in several branches of the Malay language family may indicate so).

Well yes, and i was quite aware that all the "S" words are indeed a variant on the same word. However it does seem that these variant may perhaps be specific to different areas so i was trying to determine which name spelling and pronunciations might be specific to which regions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
While the typical blade of these daggers (single edged blade curving down towards the tip; strong integral bolster; at the base with usually a short, engraved line which I hesitate to term fuller since it seems to be done pretty sloppily) is widely distributed, the fittings do exhibit a lot of local styles. Yet the shared name seems to indicate that these were regarded as basically equivalent daggers with pretty much only the blade as common denominator.

How unusually for Indonesian. Nothing like the keris then, for instance. LOL!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kai
On the other hand, the Malay concept of tumbok lada [pepper crusher/grinder] seems to be based on the hilt whose shape could be likened to a tool. In AvZ only the single example with carved horn hilt qualifies as a piece from the coastal Malay community on both sides of the Malacca Strait. The other 4 are Karo status pieces and these apparently got never referred to as tumbok lada by any highland group (possibly short of Scots, that is... ). Both types exhibit similar (broader and more straight) blades (often with fullers). Despite these blades not being identical, the collectors' approach has been to lump these broader blades with stubby hilts as tumbok lada; and to refer to any with dowwncurving blades (and usually short engraved line) as Sewah. This notion may be supported by the status siwaih from Aceh which also exhibit very bulky hilts (more so than many Malay tumbok lada) and still not referred to as tumbok lada in Aceh. I wouldn't be surprised though if somewhat intermediate pieces like yours would have been referred to as tumbok lada by the Straits Malay - or possibly as sewah the other day or in the next village...

And indeed it is numerous Straits Malaysians who have referred to this particular knife as Tumbuk Lada on the 2 Facebook collectors page where i also posted this knife. I can clearly see why AvZ makes a distinction between Sewar and Tumbuk Lada, but i am not sure that all the collectors who actually are native to these regions make the same distinction.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 07:53 PM   #21
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Detlef, Alan still refers to this pursuit as the name game --- he just doesn't get angry about it these days and tends to find the whole thing rather amusing.

Kai, in respect of the variant spellings of the same name, there is more than just the different dialects and accents of the users involved, there is also the way in which a Dutchman, or a Portugese, or an Englishman would represent on paper a sound that he heard.

Then there are the peculiarities of the Malay family of languages such as letters that sound the same to an untrained ear, or empty spaces that actually contain letters, or sounds other than sounds that can be represented by letters.

In transcription from native scripts to roman scripts it sometimes becomes necessary to guess at the actual letters that are represented by the native script, and this can occur even with educated people who use the language involved as their own language.
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Old 23rd February 2020, 10:04 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David

I can clearly see why AvZ makes a distinction between Sewar and Tumbuk Lada, but i am not sure that all the collectors who actually are native to these regions make the same distinction.



There could be another reason, you harly can call the second example from the left as "pepper crusher".
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Old 24th February 2020, 04:57 PM   #23
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Kai, i emailed the antique dealer who i bought this blade from to see if i could get some idea of when this sewar may have been collected. He tells me that the family who had it collected it in Indonesia themselves and had not been there since before WWII. Says that the silver fittings were heavily tarnished when he received it and that he cleaned it up himself before i ever saw it.
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Old 25th February 2020, 06:31 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen
Hello David,
A tumbok lada (pepper crusher) is a different knife, blade and handle are bigger. See the picture from two examples from my collection, in up a tumbok lada from the Batak, in down a normal sized sewar.
See also "Traditional Weapons Of The Indonesian Archipelago" under sewar and tumbok lada.

Regards,
Detlef


Thank you I looked at the book and I changed the name on my folder, now I have a sewar.

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