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Old 31st December 2019, 03:38 AM   #1
Battara
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Default Huge Beja Dagger with Silver Filigree

I recently got this Beja dagger. It is huge (12.75 inches long). The silver filigree caught my eye and the blade is hand forged and blued/blackened.

I know that these were used in Ethiopia and what is now Eretrea.

What I don't know is if this belonged to royalty. Never seen this before, but this is also out of my usual field.

BTW - I did clean the silver since it was completely black when it arrived.

Any help and comments would be appreciated.
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Old 31st December 2019, 06:18 AM   #2
TVV
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Edster will probably comment on this, but from his paper we know they were made in Kassala (Sudan), and probably still are, to this day. The silver work is reminiscent of higher end Ethiopian shields and sword fittings. Whatever the case, this is the nicest I have seen.
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Old 31st December 2019, 07:07 AM   #3
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Wow! Superb piece. Congratulations!
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Old 31st December 2019, 01:17 PM   #4
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Amazing piece!! Best I've ever seen. The silver work is superior. Not sure about Beja royalty, but could have been made for a high political leader with connections to the Beja like the Mirghani family who were also sufi leaders of the Khatmiyah order. Also, the Kassala political leadership could have made a political gift to an outsider, although the silver work would take too much time for a presentation to a visitor.

The profile of the grip is much flatter than the more recent double 'C" version. More like early 20th C. if not earlier. Remember the Italians were in Kassala during the Mahdiya, WW1 & WW2 with colonial ambitions.

The wood looks reddish color and different from the usual African Black Wood or Ebony traditionally/ virtually exclusively used for Beja knives made in Kassala. Not sure what that might mean. Maybe made in Eritrea with a different wood availability.

Well done,
Ed
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Old 31st December 2019, 02:40 PM   #5
drac2k
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WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 31st December 2019, 05:19 PM   #6
roanoa
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Amazing. I have seen Beja/Hadendoa daggers with silver wire wrapping and rosettes, but never one like this!!! The wood looks reddish, but is hard to find a piece of ebony this size completely black. I have a HUGE dagger and the hilt has some reddish tones. I thought mine was the best.... I stand corrected!
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Old 31st December 2019, 11:22 PM   #7
Battara
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Thank you folks for the comments and help so far. Possible Sufi connection? That would be sooooo cool and wonderful. I love the Sufis.

The type of filigree made me think of the Ethiopian region. Did not think of Sudan or Islamic. Very helpful.

Again zukran!
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Old 1st January 2020, 12:01 AM   #8
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Nicest, most flamboyant, an example I have ever seen. Certainly a status piece, but I doubt we will ever learn the "level" of the status.

Terrific find! Congrats!

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Old 1st January 2020, 07:06 AM   #9
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This is a Red sea work, I don't think at Kassala.
Maybe from Yemeni Jewish diaspora
One of the best I have seen.
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Old 1st January 2020, 07:28 PM   #10
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Thank you gents.

So Kubur could I say that this belonged to someone in the Eretrea region and the hilt made in Yemen?
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Old 1st January 2020, 09:08 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Thank you gents.

So Kubur could I say that this belonged to someone in the Eretrea region and the hilt made in Yemen?


I won't tell you what to say...
I would say that the knife including hilt was made in Africa.
The filigree work or embellishment might be Yemeni jewish but as pointed out previously could be Arab Egyptian filigree or proper African filigree... in an area in between Halayeb to Suakin...
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Old 2nd January 2020, 07:50 AM   #12
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Hi Battara, your dagger is exceptional.
The filigree could also come from Ethiopia/Abyssinia and Eritrea, (some of old silver pendants, e.g. old crosslets are bedecked similarly here, also you can see something similar on some old rings belonging to Rashaida people from Eritrea and Yemen, also on old silver hairpins - but it is, indeed, part of the wider region - as Kubur mentioned, where the cultural influences used to blend together). There is a group of pommels decorated slightly similarly and used mostly for handles of short heavy weapons which probably belonged to Oromo people from the Ethiopian "Wollo region" (before called Azebo Galla ?) - picture enclosed.
The blue/black coulour of the blade may be caused by conserving/restoring activities of the previous owner (use of the tannin solution, which can be used as effective rust inhibitor, it causes such colour).
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Old 2nd January 2020, 05:14 PM   #13
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Kubur, I apparently misunderstood you. Thank you for the illumination.

Martin Lubojacky, this type of filigree looks identical to mine! Very precise id and thank you.

Again this is out of my area but I am up to researching and learning more folks. Many many thanks.
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Old 2nd January 2020, 05:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Lubojacky
Hi Battara, your dagger is exceptional.
The filigree could also come from Ethiopia/Abyssinia and Eritrea, (some of old silver pendants, e.g. old crosslets are bedecked similarly here,as Kubur mentioned, where the cultural influences used to blend together)..


Maybe from Falasha Ethiopian Jewish
and remember that Yemeni were in Gondar too
But for your Beja dagger i still believe that it might be a red Sea work rather than something from the mountains
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Old 2nd January 2020, 07:53 PM   #15
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The knife type is iconic to the Beni-Amer (part of the Beja) split between E. Sudan & NW Eritrea. My guess is the client was the Italian government during their tenure in Eritrea between 1890 & 1945, and it was a political gift to a Diglal or head of the B-A during that period. The pristine nature of the silver work suggests a later age. It was likely made in Massawa, an old-time port on the Red Sea coast across from Yemen, by a immigrant Yemeni Jewish artisan.

The imperfection (dig) of the blade near the hilt concerns me. Likewise, but not to be picky, the blade is a little off-center going into the hilt.

Best regards,
Ed
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Old 2nd January 2020, 09:40 PM   #16
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I do not think there is anything wrong with the blade being a little off the axis. Mine is the same. It's just the design. The filigree work is superb. Decorations for shields, swords and scabbards were made by silversmiths and the design is the same one finds in Eritrean/Ethiopian jewellery. And yes, most of these smiths were from Yemen and in many cases (I believe) these pieces were actually made in Yemen and imported as a finished product. I am posting just samples of these decorations. Two are from sword hilts (though they have been washed in gold). One is the "spur" of a sword scabbard (pointing upwards) and the last picture is of two sliders of a belt.
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Old 3rd January 2020, 05:33 AM   #17
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Old 4th January 2020, 01:37 AM   #18
Battara
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This thread has been most enlightening.

Many thanks to you all!
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Old 7th January 2020, 05:41 PM   #19
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Battera, certainly the best example of these type daggers that I have seen. The work is most certainly influenced by Yemeni silver work and similar to Abyssinian pieces. As others have noted, the hilt looks to be a hardwood of a reddish color rather than the typical African blackwood and the formation of the hilt is atypical differentiated from the x-hit types often seen from the Sudan such as Kassala. With that being said, I opinion this piece to be early 20th Abyssinian region as my best guess. Attached are two x-hilt reverse hook daggers from my collection with some silver wire and studs for comparison. Not too old, approximately mid-20th century, the largest at 14.5 inches. Also, an Ethiopian gile (not mine) with similar silver work for brainstorming.

Best,
-Geoff
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Old 10th January 2020, 06:32 AM   #20
Battara
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Very nice thank you.

I LOVE that gile. I had one once, but the one you posted is one I would keep (I'm a real sucker for good silver filigree work ).
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