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Old 31st May 2014, 09:34 AM   #1
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Default The Musandam Axe. The Jerrs Axe.

The Musandam Axe. The Jerrs Axe.

What is this strange Northern Enclave at the Straits of Hormuz separated from Oman proper and peopled by a seemingly different tribal group...amongst others, the "Shehuh"...giving us The Shehi work-knife as well as the topic weapon ...The Musandam Axe or Jerrs ?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; Pictured below the main map and examples of Jerrs Axe heads from Richardson and Dorr. The Oman Cultural Foundation Volumes on Omani Artefacts.
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Old 1st June 2014, 09:07 AM   #2
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A picture showing full details of the axeheads from The Richardson and Dorr and a page from the Independant newspaper showing the working area in a workshop making Jerrs (Gerrs) on this occasion in the UAE part of Musandam. The feet and toes are often employed as another hand to steady the work piece whilst it is being turned or cut... in this case a pattern is being cut in the shaft with a hacksaw.. In such rudimentary workshops you will seldom see a workbench.
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Old 1st June 2014, 09:11 AM   #3
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Old 1st June 2014, 12:55 PM   #4
Lee
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Thumbs up I like nice axes...

Thank you for sharing these! I must say that I had been completely ignorant of their existence and that I find them most interesting and attractive.
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Old 2nd June 2014, 07:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee
Thank you for sharing these! I must say that I had been completely ignorant of their existence and that I find them most interesting and attractive.



Salaams Lee ~I dug up a newspaper relic on the subject which I thought was well written. In addition there is a similar axe carried in North East Oman in the Wahibah sands called a Quddum axe. Virtually the same idea though less decorative and on a plainer shaft.

Here is the article from 2003 which I found on http://www.bladeforums.com/forums/s...legend-of-Jerz~

Quote’’ The legend of the Jerz - the Musandam axe-head
The Legend of the Jerz
By Viju James, Oman Observer. 2003.

Ancient tools put to artistic use.

IT is difficult to imagine that there is a corner of the Sultanate where there is an accessory that is more popular than the ubiquitous khanjar. Travel north, visit the Musandam region and you come face to face with the jerz — a hatchet the likes of which is not seen anywhere else in the Sultanate. The pride of place given to the khanjar in other regions of the Sultanate is reserved for the jerz in this region. The jerz is more than a piece of hardware — it is carried by men much like the khanjar in other parts of the country.

Any talk of the jerz has to go hand in hand with the story of the people of Musandam and the Shihuh tribe that has lived here in splendid isolation for centuries. They oriented themselves to life in a harsh terrain and developed a lifestyle that complemented the steep mountain slopes on one side and the seas on the other. During the winter months the people lived high up in the mountains in what is called the bait al qufl or the house of locks. In summer they came down to the plains to fish, grow vegetables and harvest dates.

The men of the Shihuh tribe carried the jerz, a small axe-head on a long stick. They used the implement for many purposes — it chopped the firewood, provided the grip for climbing and came in handy as a walking stick to step over the stones. To complement the jerz they also carried the special khasabi knife called the peshak. There is nothing on record to support the origins of the jerz.

How did the people of this region come to own this finely decorated hatchet? Was it brought to the shores of Musandam by sailors from other lands or was it picked up by the people of Musandam in the course of voyages down the Arabian Gulf and out into the Indian Ocean? Or was it developed by an artistic smith keen to showcase his skills as a good metal worker and an artist? The antecedents of the jerz are covered in mist. There are no records to indicate how it came to be an integral tool in this society. The quest to find where this tiny hardware surfaced from and who influenced the design and the fine decoration on the blade and the handle draws a blank.

The jerz and the peshak were important for life in the rugged terrain. On the steep mountain slopes, the men used the jerz as a walking stick with the metal head held in the hand. They also used the jerz as a prop to hold sacks carried over the shoulder. In this position the jerz enabled the owner to carry heavy bags of provisions or firewood up the steep slopes. Most importantly the hatchet came in handy to ward off surprise attacks from the caracal lynx and leopards that frequented the area. The jerz is a piece of hardware unique to Musandam.

The design of the jerz is not a copy of any other hatchet from any part of the world or from any period in history. The precursor of the jerz goes back to the 2nd millennium BC. The etched V design, the inlay work and the diamond design on the blade are distinctive. Jerz handles were made from the wood of the Arabian Almond (Amygdalus arabica) or from sidr wood — (Ziziphus spinachristi) quite common in this region. The entire implement is just under a metre in length and a few centimetres in diameter.

The blade of the jerz is fixed on a wooden shaft about a metre long and 2cms in diameter.

Brass rings 3cms high are placed at the bottom of the shaft to protect it from wear. The handle is decorated by cutting lines and crosses into the wood. The axe-shaped head about 5 cms wide is fashioned from intricately engraved steel. The incision and inlay distinguish the jerz. In the past prayers were inserted into the jerz to cast away evil spirits. The ornamentation of the blade of the jerz was usually with criss-cross designs and chevron stripes.

Paola Costa studied the Shihuh tribe in detail during the early eighties. At that time he mentioned that the last of the jerz makers Rashid bin Seif Al Ahamsi of Bayah died in December 1986. For a while the jerz was imported from India and Pakistan but lacked the finish of the product made by hand locally. Till a few months ago it was presumed that the craft had literally perished with him. Mr. Mohamed Al Tobi Director of Domestic Tourism shared the good news that three new people are making the jerz in Khasab.

He also mentioned that the jerz will be exhibited at the newly opened museum in the Khasab fort. In other words every effort will be made to see that the legend of the jerz lives on. The modern jerz is possibly made on the forge. This makes the oldest samples of the handmade jerz a collector’s piece. The importance of the jerz can be gauged from the fact that it is the logo for an army regiment. People of the area also use the crossed hatchet as a decorative embellishment for the front façade of their homes. The local municipality has also put the jerz to use to decorate a roundabout in the area.

The jerz is in for a new life. Khasab is being promoted as a new destination for both domestic and international tourism. With the restoration of the Khasab fort and the packaging of Khasab as a holiday destination more and more people are likely to see the jerz and hopefully carry it home as a souvenir of their visit to the region. A local handicraft store also seems to have plans to turn the jerz into a palm-size souvenir that people would love to possess.

Oman Observer 30th December 2003” Unquote

In general terms this is an interesting article though there is in fact another region in Oman where such a weapon is used (see para 1) and as a defensive axe it is indeed useful ..Not only against wild animals such as snakes and scorpions but human agressors as well;The pounds per square inch hitting power at the axe tip on such a long shaft is massive. Naturally the combination of walking stick/camel stick, carrying stick and weapon is useful in the tough terrain of the mountains of Musandam.

I understand that Dr Waleed of Al Ain Museum has a treatise on axe heads though as yet I have not viewed that.

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Old 2nd June 2014, 09:45 AM   #6
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"The design of the jerz is not a copy of any other hatchet from any part of the world or from any period in history"



Well, it is far from being unique:-)

It is remarkably similar to the Carpathian shepherd's axe, - Valaska, Fokos etc, depending on whether the owner is Czech, Hungarial, Ukrainian ( Hutsul ) etc.

Mountain climbers even now use modifications of an ancient Alps shepherd's implement, the Alpenstock.

Possibly, the Jerz originated in the mountain areas of the region as a walking stick/ tool and the owners kept using it even during there yearly migrations to the coastal areas.
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Old 3rd June 2014, 07:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
"The design of the jerz is not a copy of any other hatchet from any part of the world or from any period in history"



Well, it is far from being unique:-)

It is remarkably similar to the Carpathian shepherd's axe, - Valaska, Fokos etc, depending on whether the owner is Czech, Hungarial, Ukrainian ( Hutsul ) etc.

Mountain climbers even now use modifications of an ancient Alps shepherd's implement, the Alpenstock.

Possibly, the Jerz originated in the mountain areas of the region as a walking stick/ tool and the owners kept using it even during there yearly migrations to the coastal areas.



Oh I quite agree Ariel...which is why I said "In General terms this was an interesting article" .. In my opinion axes are much more broadly spread than the newspaper writer could possibly have imagined...I studied Luristani Axes for a while and the linkages to other tribal styles is potentially vast... The Axe is spread more widely even in the Arabian peninsular as stated the North Eastern desert of the Omani Wahabi region has its own version... not as decorated but of the same shape and style..Axes go on and on...via the saddle axe form and ad infinitum..
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Old 24th June 2014, 04:05 PM   #8
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A gentleman from Musandam passed by the other day and I was able to discover which were the main tribes there... as well as the 4 main groupings please realise that there are scores of sub tribes not identified here... but here are the main 4 to note..roughly in terms of size largest first:

1. Al Duhoori.
2. Al Shihuh.
3. AL Hibsi.
4. Bani Shumaili.

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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 24th June 2014, 08:00 PM   #9
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This is very interesting, and set me off thinking (not least ... thinking about how to get a copy of that book !).
This axe head had me puzzled, and I put it down as being from India, but could it in fact be from Oman ? The flaring shape of the cutting end is very different from the examples you illustrate, but the decoration seems to be quite similar.
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Old 24th June 2014, 09:23 PM   #10
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This one looks Turkoman to me.... I had one very similar some time back.
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Old 25th June 2014, 08:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LJ
This is very interesting, and set me off thinking (not least ... thinking about how to get a copy of that book !).
This axe head had me puzzled, and I put it down as being from India, but could it in fact be from Oman ? The flaring shape of the cutting end is very different from the examples you illustrate, but the decoration seems to be quite similar.



Salaams LJ, Yes similar in decorative essentials but no hammer and the leading edge is also curved... I would agree with Indian saddle axe perhaps... Comments welcome ... Nice axe by the way...

Oh now I remember ... go to Library and see ...http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...highlight=tabar Note that at #4 there is a back up reference... That seems to nail it down...Tabar Axe; Indian.

David R do you have a photo ?

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi

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Old 25th June 2014, 05:38 PM   #12
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Very many thanks for drawing attention to that earlier post.

Well, as they say "wise men think alike", even if we were both wrong in thinking the axes were from Muscat. Still, it is nice to have a firm opinion on the true, Indian, origin of the axes. It would be even NICER if I could find one of those axes illustrated in your first message !
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Old 29th May 2015, 02:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
The Musandam Axe. The Jerrs Axe.

What is this strange Northern Enclave at the Straits of Hormuz separated from Oman proper and peopled by a seemingly different tribal group...amongst others, the "Shehuh"...giving us The Shehi work-knife as well as the topic weapon ...The Musandam Axe or Jerrs ?

Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

Note; Pictured below the main map and examples of Jerrs Axe heads from Richardson and Dorr. The Oman Cultural Foundation Volumes on Omani Artefacts.


Salaams all and a note to library on a point just discovered whilst reading ...

The word Gurz was Persian for mace .... This would appear to be the root of the Mussandam word for their axe....Jerrs.... see http://archive.org/stream/CloseComb...Period_djvu.txt by SHIHAB AL-SARRA1-

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 5th June 2019, 05:28 PM   #14
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Some more Jerrs axes from the Mussandam.
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Old 7th September 2019, 04:04 PM   #15
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Some axes from the local Souk..
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Old 7th September 2019, 04:14 PM   #16
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This has to be the best Mussandam Axe I have seen to date and seems to be a laminated blade ..From the private collection of Hussain Ahli Probably the finest stick maker in the region.
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Old 7th September 2019, 06:22 PM   #17
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Ibrahiim thank you for posting these! While not particularly familiar with most axes and hafted weapons, these very much remind me of a type of axe used by the Kalash tribes of Chitral regions in N. India. These tribes were previously known as Kafirs and of what is now Nuristan.
What I recall is they had a small head and very long haft like this.

The cross influences are most interesting, and it seems there are similar kinds of long hafted axe in Eastern Europe as well.
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Old 8th September 2019, 02:08 PM   #18
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Salaams Jim, At #5 the story unfolds; Was it brought to the shores of Musandam by sailors from other lands or was it picked up by the people of Musandam in the course of voyages down the Arabian Gulf and out into the Indian Ocean? Or was it developed by an artistic smith keen to showcase his skills as a good metal worker and an artist? The antecedents of the jerz are covered in mist. There are no records to indicate how it came to be an integral tool in this society. The quest to find where this tiny hardware surfaced from and who influenced the design and the fine decoration on the blade and the handle draws a blank.

Later in that article the focus seems to be toward a 2nd Milenium BC origin and I may have noted that the curator of al ain Museum conducted a study on the weapon. It is perhaps related to other axes across the Gulf in Luristan for example and onward to India and Northwards to Europe though it is here in Arabia that this weapon is now embedded as almost an Icon of The Mussandam. Regards Ibrahim al Balooshi.
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Old 8th September 2019, 08:22 PM   #19
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I collected this utility axe in Eastern Sudan, likely at El Fao, in 1985. The type is used by herders to hinge acacia tree limbs so their camels can feed on the leaves. It looks remarkably like the subject axes, but in a much cruder fit for purpose finish. As you wonder, where is the origin of the design/type?
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Old 9th September 2019, 02:10 PM   #20
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Thank You Edster for the excellent examples clearly related in form.
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