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Old 3rd October 2019, 11:20 AM   #1
AHorsa
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Default 3 Pulwars

Hi There,

I just acquired these three Pulwars. But it is actually not my field of collection, so I would be very happy if one can help me with them.
The overall-lengths are 93cm, 87cm and 73cm for the small one.
The middle on has an inscription on the blade, which is not readable and also I do not get it on an image clearly.

Is it possible to date them?
And are they all from Afghanistan or also from India?

Looking forward to your feedback.

Thanks and best regards
Andreas
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Old 3rd October 2019, 01:15 PM   #2
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Honest munition grade examples. Blades are likely Indian trade, the decorations by the hilt were likely made locally.

I would polish their spines close to the hilt: if you find a longitudinal seam(“crack”), that may indicate wootz blade. Then, polishing and etching the entire blade would be justified.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 01:47 PM   #3
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Of course, these items are from Afghanistan. It’s not entirely clear to me why Ariel decided that the blades were “Indian trade”. But perhaps he will explain his point of view in the following posts. The presence of "ricasso" in this case cannot be a decisive attribute relating the blade to India.
In my humble opinion, blades may be of local origin. Because in Afghanistan there were many masters who made blades (by the way, including Indian masters). I will assume (I am focusing on handles Pulwars) that these Pulwars were made in the second half - late 19th century.
I agree that you need polish their spines close to the hilt. But I think that this applies only to the lower Pulwar. Although perhaps Ariel will show wootz blades of such form and decor as your first two (Unfortunately, I cannot recall such examples. But, Ariel has much more experience.).
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Old 3rd October 2019, 03:22 PM   #4
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These Afghan sabers are always most attractive to me, and these more rugged examples in my view reflect that kind of demeanor fitting to the Afghan warrior.

It would seem that the bottom example, while the fluting in the grip resembles the hilts of a number of Rajasthani examples, in which that design seems to parallel ewers and other items with this motif......has a blade of the shamshir form and of course does not appear to have the 'ricasso'.

The center example has the distinct yelman, which I have always taken to be a characteristic of many Indian tulwar blades of 18th c. This was a peculiarity I was looking into as I was studying a British officers saber of 1796 with an almost identical feature in its blade.

Both first and second examples seem to have the 'ricasso' feature which Rawson terms the 'Indian ricasso'. I have never fully grasped why that feature nor term was regarded as characteristic only on Indian blades, but perhaps it was to differentiate from the Persian shamshir which does not have this blade feature.

With the number of Indian tulwars which were known in Afghanistan, effectively diaphanously filtered through the regions known a the Northwest frontier, it seems reasonable to see how many blades from India ended up in 'Afghan' context. Remounting blades, as in most native cultures, was pretty much a regular thing.

It has always seemed odd that while we know many blades, copying European and other forms, were produced in India, especially in Rajasthan, we are seldom, if ever, made aware of sword blade making in Afghan context. We know that in producing guns such as the jezail, components such as EIC locks were copied in addition to using existing examples, but the barrels were typically imported from Persia or other regions in India's northwest. While the Afghans certainly could produce barrels, they simply usually didn't.

I wonder if that may have been the case with blades?
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Old 3rd October 2019, 03:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
It has always seemed odd that while we know many blades, copying European and other forms, were produced in India, especially in Rajasthan, we are seldom, if ever, made aware of sword blade making in Afghan context. We know that in producing guns such as the jezail, components such as EIC locks were copied in addition to using existing examples, but the barrels were typically imported from Persia or other regions in India's northwest. While the Afghans certainly could produce barrels, they simply usually didn't.

I wonder if that may have been the case with blades?


Jim, it is absolutely known that in Herat and Kabul there were private workshops producing edged weapons (blades). This was written by English officers in their memoirs. Most of these workshops in Kabul at the end of the 19th century were included in the Mashin Khan factory in Kabul and produced edged weapons for the army.

Of course, a significant part of the blades (and the sabers itself) came from India and Persia. But this did not stop the Afghans themselves from making blades.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 04:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
Jim, it is absolutely known that in Herat and Kabul there were private workshops producing edged weapons (blades). This was written by English officers in their memoirs. Most of these workshops in Kabul at the end of the 19th century were included in the Mashin Khan factory in Kabul and produced edged weapons for the army.

Of course, a significant part of the blades (and the sabers itself) came from India and Persia. But this did not stop the Afghans themselves from making blades.



Thanks very much Dima, I do recall of course that many workshops were in the Mashin Khana factory complex in Kabul, but was unclear on their production of blades beyond the military ones. It stands to reason there were numbers of individual makers in native regions, its just that it does not seem widely known.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 05:51 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Thanks very much Dima, I do recall of course that many workshops were in the Mashin Khana factory complex in Kabul, but was unclear on their production of blades beyond the military ones. It stands to reason there were numbers of individual makers in native regions, its just that it does not seem widely known.



You're absolutely right. In my opinion, this problem exists because Afghanistan was a very closed country in the 19th century. The emirs of Afghanistan supported this isolation. Very rarely, Europeans traveled to Afghanistan. They did not have the opportunity to study the blade manufacturing centers. And by the beginning of the 20th century, when firearms replaced blades, private production ceased to produce blades
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Old 3rd October 2019, 06:35 PM   #8
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Perfectly explained Dima! and I well understand their preference for isolation, after all, they were indeed always threatened by invasion. The 'Great Game' was not just a 19th century phenomenon (invasions through millenia) and their strategic location in Central Asia made it a most desirable real estate.

With the focus on firearms in the 19th c. it would seem that swords and blades were surely secondary in the arms game, so that incidental production, mostly remounting, probably continued in more isolated tribal levels.
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Old 3rd October 2019, 08:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
With the focus on firearms in the 19th c. it would seem that swords and blades were surely secondary in the arms game, so that incidental production, mostly remounting, probably continued in more isolated tribal levels.


A very interesting point is that the mass rejection of blades begins only with the beginning of the 20th century, when border tribes begin to receive rapid-fire rifles from Kabul.
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Old 4th October 2019, 11:42 AM   #10
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Thank you Gentlemen for the replies and the interesting discussion.
I didn´t clean the splines yet, but one can see at the inscription of the middle one´s blade, that it is foldet steel (not sure if this already means wootz, most (european) blades I know are made from foldet steel). I´ll check the others once I find the time.

Best regards
Andreas
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Old 4th October 2019, 04:47 PM   #11
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As a matter of fact, the great majority of European blades dating back to the 19 century were NOT made from folded steel ( mechanical damascus); by that time all major European blademakers used excellent monosteel ( which was the death knell for wootz and mechanical damascus of Eastern manufacture).
If you see a pattern, can you photograph it and post here?
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Old 4th October 2019, 04:48 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
A very interesting point is that the mass rejection of blades begins only with the beginning of the 20th century, when border tribes begin to receive rapid-fire rifles from Kabul.


Well noted Dima, thank you for that key perspective which is of course much more accurate. The sword remained the primary weapon in many distinctly tribal cultures well into the 20th century, and the gun was often even vehemently rejected.

Andreas, thank you for the updates on the physical characteristics and close examinations of the properties of these blades. While personally I am limited in my understanding of metallurgy in these blades, it is fascinating to follow your well explained observations as well as those entering here in the discourse.
Great examples of very integral swords in Afghan history.
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Old 6th October 2019, 01:07 PM   #13
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Hello Gentlemen,

thanks again for the interesting discussion.
It is not easy to catch with my camera, but I did my best to do a photo of the spot where it seems that one layer is a bit loose.

Ariel, you are surely right that from the 19th century on it was mainly monosteel used on european swords. My statement was more pertained to medieval swords and I also know folded steel from some 17th and 18th century swords.

Best regards
Andreas
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Old 6th October 2019, 05:29 PM   #14
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I see a semblance of delamination and some letters, but ....I may need new glasses...
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Old 6th October 2019, 06:02 PM   #15
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Sabers and rifles co- existed for a surprisingly long time.

But any new development in military technology eventually kills some older instrument or a tactic. Invention of glacis radically complicated the idea of siege ladders. Tanks killed the very idea of cavalry. And I am not talking about infantry advancing in ranks or wildly running forward. Omdurman proved the point.

“ Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not”

The battle of Lepanto was won by European galleasses and firearms over Ottoman galleys and bows. Missiles made anti-aircraft guns antiquated. Stingers at their introduction to Afghani mujaheddin were a laughingstock for the Soviet military, but within several months their helicopters and transport planes had to be grounded.

Nuclear weapons... this is another story.....

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Old 6th October 2019, 06:23 PM   #16
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Hello gentlemen,

I would like to make a few observations.

Blades made of layers of steel are correctly called "laminated" and by no meaning, "damascus."

Longitudinal cracks in the spine are signs of "delamination" and they are by no means indication of wootz. These cracks just indicate that the blade was laminated.

When the layers of steel and the finishing of the blade are made so that the layered structure is deliberately revealed, it is called "pattern welded steel" and colloquially "pattern welded damascus" or simply "damascus."

Regarding the blades in the original thread, in my opinion, based solely on the photos, it would be impossible to assert their origin. Even with them in hand, I believe it would be difficult to say whether the blade is of Indian origin or locally made Afghan.

It is true that Northern India was housing several centres that were mass producing and trading blades, but blades were also made in Afghanistan and they bore very similar characteristics to the Indian blades.
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Old 6th October 2019, 06:45 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Regarding the blades in the original thread, in my opinion, based solely on the photos, it would be impossible to assert their origin. Even with them in hand, I believe it would be difficult to say whether the blade is of Indian origin or locally made Afghan.

It is true that Northern India was housing several centres that were mass producing and trading blades, but blades were also made in Afghanistan and they bore very similar characteristics to the Indian blades.



Hi Marius. You're absolutely right. That is why I wrote before
Quote:
Originally Posted by mahratt
blades may be of local origin
It is impossible to say for sure whether these blades were made in India or Afghanistan.
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Old 7th October 2019, 03:00 AM   #18
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Andreas,

There are many problems with Afghan weapons.
First, virtually all Afghan pulwars we encounter date back to the 19 century. As such, we lack good signs of any potential evolution . We just do not know how they looked in the 17 or 18, if they indeed changed at all.

Second, swords consist of 2 parts: handle and blade, and those could have been mixed and matched several times during the working life of the sword.

Third, the origin of pulwar handle is apparently mixed: they took the general concept of a Tulwar handle, but there is a twist. Most likely, they took as an inspiration Indian handle from the 16 century or earlier that was shown in the Hamzanameh: cup like pommel without a lid. You can find the only living example in “ Hindu arms and ritual” by Elgood. It is shown there in the chapter about 4 important sword, and belongs to Brian Isaac. Almost certainly, this idea came from South India, and we can see it in N. Sumatran Piso Podang.Then they added a lid to the cup. Also, the quillons came from Persian tradition. And at the end they made it all iron. Rather mad olio, isn’t it? Jens in his book shows a Tulwar with brass handle of NW India ( ??) or even Afghanistan without a lid ( pp.321-3) . I have a much more “Afghani” looking brass handle dating likely to 17 century. But it is very difficult to build a case on so few examples.

Fourth, NW India retained the “ Hamzanameh” - like idea, but the cup became more shallow. I have two of those. In the rest of the country the pommel became flat.

Fifth, the blade. Some came from Persia, and they were usually wootz.
The rest by and large had “ Indian ricasso”, so by default we are forced to suspect their Indian origin or an Afghani imitation of an Indian original. There are very few features allowing us to suggest true Afghani origin: they tend to be more narrow and thick. Perhaps, the only one that is a better indicator, is their system of fullers. Afghani blades tend to have a horizontal segment close to the handle giving the fullers a box-like appearance. Also, they very often have several very thin fullers of different lengths close to the spine, and those are interrupted by almost triangular flat panels.

Lastly, let’s not forget that a large population of Pashtuns live in what currently is Pakistan ( formerly colonial India). Thus, the question whether a particular sword is Afghani proper or NW Indian acquires political dimensions.

Now, after all those equivocations, do you really want a yes or no answer?:-)

I would like to thank Brian Isaac and Jens Nordlunde for many years of insights and suggestions and for teaching me the fine points of analysis. They were beyond helpful.
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Old 7th October 2019, 03:49 AM   #19
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Although not my area of expertise, I do want to point out the possibility of the 3rd pulwar blade (bottom of picture) having a scarf weld. The geometry of the curve is "broken" in the middle and a polish and etch might show this.
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Old 7th October 2019, 07:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Although not my area of expertise, I do want to point out the possibility of the 3rd pulwar blade (bottom of picture) having a scarf weld. The geometry of the curve is "broken" in the middle and a polish and etch might show this.


Hello Battara,

That is a sign the blade was badly bent there, then straightened up.
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Old 9th October 2019, 02:31 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Although not my area of expertise, I do want to point out the possibility of the 3rd pulwar blade (bottom of picture) having a scarf weld. The geometry of the curve is "broken" in the middle and a polish and etch might show this.


It is definitely no welding. The direction of that "curve" is also quite strange for beeing bent, but indeed in this area there is a bend in horizontal direction....
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Old 9th October 2019, 02:49 PM   #22
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What Jose has astutely noted, the anomaly in the curvature of the blade on the example #3 is most interesting, and I had not noticed it. It does seem to have the appearance of a scarf weld. I have seen this on blades and honestly could not understand the viability of such repair, would the blade still have its effective integrity?

I have also heard of straight blades being worked into curved, but this seems a lot of work.

The blade on this paluaor seems to have the typical radius of a shamshir blade and overall character. Could it have been bent and straightened? Not sure whether scarf weld or straightened, but some repair at center of blade seems evident.
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Old 9th October 2019, 03:06 PM   #23
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A bit of polishing and etching is likely to give an answer.
Without it the cows will never come home:-)
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Old 9th October 2019, 11:53 PM   #24
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It is as I said, bent laterally (say "z" axis, where longitudinal ,direction is "x" axis, and the direction of the curvature of the blade is the "y" axis) then straightened up!

The blade has a triangular cross-section, with more material at the spine and when the blade is bent laterally (along z axis) there is more material that extends near the spine than near the edge. Then, when the blade is straightened up, the extended material near the spine compresses less than the material near the edge, thus resulting the "counter-curvature" along the y axis that is in the opposite direction of the curvature of the blade.

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Old 10th October 2019, 01:28 PM   #25
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Hi,
Here are a couple of images of a scarf weld on one of my Tulwars. There is no interruption to the geometry of the blade in any direction.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 10th October 2019, 06:28 PM   #26
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Question to the professional blade smiths:

Scarf welding of wootz must have involved forging at low temperatures and involve only limited volumes of steel. Correct?
If so, how strong was the weld?
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