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Old 20th December 2016, 10:12 PM   #1
TVV
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Default Zanzibari (?) Saif for Comment

I am guessing this is from Eastern Africa rather than the Maghreb based on the tilt in the pommel. There also seems to have been a metal piece in the pommel which is now missing. The guard is a little unusual and made of brass, no D ring. The blade has no markings at all and is similar to some naval cutlass blades in style. The whole sword weighs 529 grams (18.5 oz) and is 89 cm long (35 inches) the blade 73.5 cm (29 inches).

The hilt is of some kind of dark horn: feel much thinner compared to Moroccan saifs and also seems like the Zanzibari hilts tend to be polished.

Teodor
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Old 21st December 2016, 10:05 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I am guessing this is from Eastern Africa rather than the Maghreb based on the tilt in the pommel. There also seems to have been a metal piece in the pommel which is now missing. The guard is a little unusual and made of brass, no D ring. The blade has no markings at all and is similar to some naval cutlass blades in style. The whole sword weighs 529 grams (18.5 oz) and is 89 cm long (35 inches) the blade 73.5 cm (29 inches).

The hilt is of some kind of dark horn: feel much thinner compared to Moroccan saifs and also seems like the Zanzibari hilts tend to be polished.

Teodor


Salaams Teodor, I agree since it does not display any of the usual decorative detail of a Moroccan Nimcha and has the hilt and curved base to the knuckleguard.
In support I place library resource detail and a key thread http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=nimcha for readers to cross check. See also Butin charts at that reference.
I have to say the IIXII STYLING TO THE HILT IS INTERESTING...
...and I think the hilt is Rhino.
Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 21st December 2016, 06:59 PM   #3
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Hi Teodor,
Do you think that the knuckle guard and quillons are relatively new made replacements compared with the hilt itself? They look to me to be a bit thin compared with those normally seen.
I agree with Ibrahiim that the hilt COULD be rhino, and it also features the " turned down" shape often/usually found on Zanzibari Nimcha.
Some pics of a Zanzibari hilt to compare.
Stu
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Old 21st December 2016, 08:21 PM   #4
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Could it be Algierean?

Those had 2 down-turned quillons instead of 3 on Moroccan and Zanzibari.
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Old 21st December 2016, 09:10 PM   #5
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In looking to Buttin (1933), in the photos of a good number of these swords which we refer to colloquially as 'nimcha' they are described only as sa'if. In the plate with the familiar 'ring' or 'loop' guard and the distinctive peak atop the pommel of the hilt, these are described only as 'Arab' sa'if with no mention of Zanzibar. These are mostly labeled with optimism as 17th c with one (996) even to end of 16th.
It must be remembered this research and material was compiled probably in early years of 20th c.

The Moroccan examples (Maghrebi, incuding both Morocco and Algeria) are also described as sa'if with the pommel flatter and no peak. There is no loop or ring guard, just the downturned multi quillon system.

The only 'Zanzibar' designation seemed to derive from mostly collector terms which seems to have appeared in the book by Alain Jacob in the 1980s I think. Louis-Pierre Cavalliere in his paper on these a number of years ago also included that term.

I think Ibrahiim found the most compelling evidence linking these peaked pommel sabres with ring loop guard and some without with the linking of local material culture motif from Zanzibar on one of these. I think the form may be most properly served by 'Arab' however they seem most prevalent in that trade from India to Oman and Red Sea...from there of course to Zanzibar.

I agree the brass work on the guard on this one posted is 'thin' and clearly made 'in the style of'.
The 'X' and lines type of motif is seen stamped in the forte of some examples of these nimcha variations; they are seen on some knives and items believed from Afghan regions (some mistaken for the 'Royal Seal' Mazir I Sharif); as well as on some kaskara and Ethiopian cases if I recall.

While the blade here is of course 19th century sabre of trade or military type probably German, the hilt is much more modern recalling styles and motif from the Arab trade in the India-Arabia-Red Sea networks.
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Old 21st December 2016, 10:09 PM   #6
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I would go down Jim's route. It could be one of those curious hybrids that Yemen and the Red Sea coast often produce. Also, I would not rule out Sumatra or somewhere like that, produced for or under the influence of the Arab trading communities there that were once quite significant.
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Old 21st December 2016, 11:21 PM   #7
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Thanks Richard. Actually my first encounter with these loop guard types was in the 90s and I was informed the one I bought had come from an old arsenal in Yemen and was one of around 40 there. These were said to have come from Zanzibar. Given the trade routes and supply from there to Red Sea ports, and along the Arabian entrepots that seemed quite plausible.
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Old 22nd December 2016, 02:13 AM   #8
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Gentlemen,

Thank you for your comments, some very good observations and questions.

I believe the hilt, as far as the horn part is concerned, is as old as the blade. Are the brass fittings newer? It is possible, but hard for me to tell for sure. I am attaching two pictures of a sword with a similar hilt, which I believe was sold in one of Auctions Imperial past auctions. I hope Oliver would not mind me using those images for comparison purposes here. The guard is very similar, down to the X pattern on the knuckle bow.

Richard could be on to something as well. The brass fittings do have a certain SE Asian feel to them. Besides, when it comes to the blade, the closest one I have in my collection is on a piso podang, from the other end of the Indian Ocean, but certainly within the trade network of Arab and Swahili traders from the coasts of East Africa.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 22nd December 2016, 05:22 PM   #9
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SE Asia was very much an extension of the trade networks being discussed from East Africa and Red Sea to India.....and from there eastward. Trade was of course not from one location to another in extreme distances, but interaction in ports of call and entrepots throughout these networks. It is well known that trade blades commonly seen in Africa, Arabia and India are found in SE Asia just as shown in the piso podang. I have seen these with the same 'Assad Adullah' Persian trade blades seen in Bedouin sabres.

The diffusion of all aspects of cultures and nations diffused constantly through these routes, which presents the ever present conundrums we face in trying to classify many weapon forms.

The excellent example of the sa'if form we term 'nimcha' shown by Stu seems to me the 'classic' form we regard as Zanzibari but as discussed certainly of far broader scope in actual use. The iron guard and beautifully fluted grips are features indicating earlier example with solid character of such weapons genuinely in use and worn accordingly.

These examples being discussed in the original post with good old blades, but refurbished with thin, rudimentary mounts in easily worked brass, and with scribed in motif recalling other symbols and marks are clearly more modern creations.

In the curious motif being noted, the X and lines, these may well be aesthetically adopted devices which appealed to the fabricators who furbished these weapons. In the case of the example shown in comparison by Teodor, interestingly the same close in downturned quillons are seen, and the noted 'X' motif present on the thin brass mounts.
While not suggesting a connection, I would note that these X's with dots inside each segment were also a cypher with Masonic associations (known as the 'pigpen' cypher) used in numeric codes along with others.
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Old 22nd December 2016, 06:48 PM   #10
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The second lot of pics posted by Teodor also IMHO show a later addition of a guard to an original hilt. Whilst the decoration on the knuckle guard and quillons is similar in both cases, the actual guard itself would, in my opinion not be much use in protecting the users hand due to the thin metal used.
Though obviously not the "original" guard, none the less the maker has spent some time to nicely decorate his work.
Maybe we could term this a "tribal" sword. I have a number of these which show grades of making, ranging from quite good to really rough.
Stu
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Old 22nd December 2016, 07:46 PM   #11
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I think 'tribal' as good a term as any. In more recent times it seems swords were put together from old components for no better reason than the notion of military fashioned groups wearing them in a traditional sense.
The swords from Yemen were simply ersatz weapons for such wear during the many insurgencies there in the civil wars etc. Rank and file did not always have firearms so any weapon would do.

Also, in a 'parade' context, a large showing of 'forces' wearing swords in ceremonial or other elaborate events would be most impressive. However, these weapons despite using sound old blades, were not serviceable as far as combat weapons.
Think of a contingent of mounted forces in some colonial region riding in review and all wearing swords which look good, but close inspection not so much.

Ethnographic weapons likely have a good many weapons of traditional forms put together in more recent times in these kinds of capacities.
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Old 23rd December 2016, 07:04 AM   #12
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We really know very little about these swords. For other arms and armor, we have period artwork, provenance examples in collections, archeological finds, fencing manuals and of course, multiple articles and books on the subject. Not the case when it comes to these swords from Eastern Africa.

Elgood does not illustrate them, as his book does not expand to the Arab colonies along Eastern Africa. Spring does not even mention the weapons of Zanzibar and the other Arab trading posts, as his book is focused on pure African forms only and not on any he considers to be introduced from outside. Hales has some very nice examples and an interesting picture from the Comoros, where this hilt style was also popular well into the 19th century. And of course, we have Buttin's plates. There are occasional museum exhibit catalogues where a few of these swords are shown and invariably ascribed to the Maghreb in error.

I believe the hilt form evolved over the years. To me, Stu's sword looks like it belongs to a much older style from the 18th century or even earlier, when contact with the Portuguese influenced the complex guard shape with its D-ring. As we can see on the ivory hilted status symbol examples, the D-ring is gone, replaced by 3 quillons. It is possible that at some point during the 19th century, some less elaborate, more munitions grade examples had simplified guards.

As for the sword hand protection issue, I am not sure it was as important to the wearers of these swords during the 19th century as we are making it out to be. We know that with the ascent of Oman in the region, the other popular sword style was that of what we refer to as kattara, as can be seen on pictures of Tippu Tip and other prominent people from the Swahili coast in the late19th century. Of course, the kattara has no guard whatsoever. I guess the locals felt that blocking with a buckler was sufficient, or hand protection for the sword hand may not have been deemed crucial in an era where firearms were taking over as the primary weapon.

I guess, all we can do at this point is simply keep collecting photos and keep collecting examples of various quality and style until we start putting the puzzle together little by little. Of course, all of this is skewed by the prevalence of higher end examples: munitions grade items were far more likely to be discarded once functionally obsolete as there was very little incentive to keep them. The same applies to photos as most of the ones we have are staged portraits of notables and their families.

It is not easy, but learning is part of the fun.
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Old 23rd December 2016, 12:57 PM   #13
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Teodor,
Wonderfully thought out and well written synopsis on these sword conundrums!! You have hit perfectly on the dilemmas of trying to adequately study and classify these examples, and I completely agree in the hopes that we can keep the discussion going here.

As you well put it, not easy, but a lot of fun learning here together

Thank you,
Jim
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Old 25th December 2016, 03:57 PM   #14
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See http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=NIMCHA where the three charts of Buttin clearly show weapons of different areas but no mention on the charts of Nimcha. They all illustrate what we consider as Nimcha but the charts are by no means clear... There are however many examples and possibly many years work to exactly untangle all the details though there are weapons from both areas Morocco and Zanzibar which have D Rings and from both areas weapons without... The D ring is thus not a deciding variable...though in both areas there may be influence from Portugal or close by in the addition of D rings... To deepen the problem Buttin places a third chart netting in other weapons in the Indian Ocean and also Sri Lankan Kastane...etc. The huge number of "Nimcha" styles makes the study of this form well adorned with examples so we actually do know a lot about them although there is much to be clarified... Buttin has placed it all in front of us but I fear we have not seen the wood for the trees

Comparing Omani weapons with these swords is decidedly unstable since they are unrelated to the Omani Dancer. I cannot agree that the Omani flexible dancer is in any way or form related to a curved bladed Knuckle Guarded item...designed for fighting whilst the Omani dancer is certainly not despite its Terrs and Sayf mock battle contest..There is some suggestion in one Buttin Chart that a Omani Shamshir form may be related although I prefer to look at The Persian Shamshir for that link through the Baluch style already discussed. It may however be linked...Buttin shows several distinctly maritime cutlass blade types on Nimcha forms...probably imported from Europe...moreover his fine work opens up more research potential than it answers making this one of the great conundrums we have yet to crack.

If only they could talk !!

Regards,
Ibrahiim al Balooshi.

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Old 25th December 2016, 07:19 PM   #15
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Ibrahim, I am afraid that I am among many here that do not share your belief that the conical hilt Omani saifs were not battle swords. Here is a photo of German trophies from the Arab uprising in 1888. It is interesting in that apart from the daggers, there is a variety of swords: to the left you can clearly see an Omani saif, and there is also a Zanzibari hilted sword, along with a saif from the Hadramaut and finally, there also appears to be a shamshir, but it is hard to see. Tippu Tip's famous photo also has him wearing an Omani saif.

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Old 25th December 2016, 09:30 PM   #16
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Heres the thing, it is difficult to say that a certain form of sword was or was not ever used in combat, as in times of war or insurgence many implements and otherwise unexpectedly chosen arms become ersatz weaponry.

In groupings of weapons gathered as trophies after conflicts and battles, any weapon whether used in the interaction or simply taken as booty from various sources are lumped together and assumed actually used. Naturally the embellishment displaying these trophies portrays them all as 'taken in battle'. I cannot even recount the number of weapons researched that have proven them far from the stories attached to them.

The confusion between these conical hilted swords with good solid European blades, and those which have been fitted with much lighter blades intended specifically for parade and ceremonial events has become almost legion. These swords were worn as status symbols by Omanis in their Zanzibari sphere and these were indeed fitted with heavier European blades, in many cases well into the 20th century.
These examples could easily be presumed to have been used in combat, but the lighter 'dance' versions most certainly and emphatically were not.
The presence of these swords among gatherings of booty does not prove they were blooded weapons. It was much the same in Sudan after those campaigns....the numbers of kaskaras 'taken in battle' would prove that countless thousands of Ansar were vanquished in that campaign. It was the souvenier industry which produced these 'trophies' .

Burton (1884), wrote after his time in Zanzibar some years before regarding the conical swords of Omani's there, "...the usual shape carried by the Arab gentlemen, is three feet to three and a half feet long, the long tang tapers toward the hilt, and is cased in wood and leather. The pommel is cylindrical and the grip wants guard and quillons. Demmin (1877, p.396) finds it difficult to understand how this singular weapon could be wielded.
IT SERVES MOSTLY FOR SHOW, and when wanted is used like a quarterstaff with both hands. But the Zanzibaris sword is always clumsy, as dangerous to the wielder as the old blade of the Gauls and ancient Britons".
Fig, 183b, p.166.

Could one of these have been used in combat....of course, if overrun or attacked, who wouldn't use whatever they had. These accoutrements, just as any court sword or parade sword might be used as a defensive weapon in the moment. But, made and intended for use in warfare, probably not.
Swords were secondary weapons in that respect, subordinate to firearms, and as such were shorter, as hangers, and most likely sabres.
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Old 26th December 2016, 01:09 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Ibrahim, I am afraid that I am among many here that do not share your belief that the conical hilt Omani saifs were not battle swords. Here is a photo of German trophies from the Arab uprising in 1888. It is interesting in that apart from the daggers, there is a variety of swords: to the left you can clearly see an Omani saif, and there is also a Zanzibari hilted sword, along with a saif from the Hadramaut and finally, there also appears to be a shamshir, but it is hard to see. Tippu Tip's famous photo also has him wearing an Omani saif.

Teodor



What is present in your excellent exhibit are some weapons and a dancing sword...It should be noted that even as late as about 1955 tribals turned up to a fight (The Buraimi Oasis Confrontation) with several weapons Martini Henry swords khanjars spears...but one of them was a non weapon. The Dancing sword; which was primarily for pageant...parading past the ruler...buzzing in the air ...and for the mock fight which was a single point competition where exponents tried to touch the opponents thumb(on the shield hand) with the flat spatulate sword tip. Other occasions are both Eid celebrations and weddings and occasions that VIP are present. Normally these swords were cheaply produced for the masses however, horses for courses, some were quite ornate displaying a certain wealth and position of the owner. The sword used in combat was primarily the Old Omani Battle Sword or Sayf Yamaani that became so famous it was given an Iconographic hilt identical to the Hilt on the Royal Khanjar. The dancer was graced with both edges razor sharp which was a spin off from the Sayf Yamaani..as was the rounded tip...and the Terrs Shield...but with a very thin flexible blade which could bend double unlike the Sayf Yamaani which was stiff...and used for hacking.

The main point is that the features of the Battle Sword or Sayf Yamaani were deliberately included in the design of the dancing sword but that its role was as a pageantry sword carried by soldiers, tribal infantry and civilians alike but only for pageants...many of which are currently played out in a traditional dance form called The Funoon.

Tippu Tip had many swords...mainly the dancing variety. He was massively wealthy being virtually governor of most of Central Africa where he was supreme merchant of slavery and Ivory.

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Old 26th December 2016, 06:02 PM   #18
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With the sabre in the original post here, it seems apparent that while it is in the form of the traditional type sa'if, even with an original grip and sturdy old blade. However, the sword has been refurbished in modern times with far substandard thin brass mounts, and seems clearly to have been intended as a representative weapon for use perhaps in parade or some sort of ceremonial wear.
Although the original elements may certainly have been 'combative', it is unlikely that in its present state the sword would be intended for same.

In collecting regulation military swords, I recall in the case of British swords, particularly infantry and often cavalry, the officers would often have swords which were intended for combat regarded as 'fighting swords'. They would typically not carry their decorative and embellished parade, dress or levee swords into battle. I recall certain patterns such as the 1796 infantry officers dress pattern which resembles the small sword hilt, and officers were apparently taking them into campaign in the Peninsula...to their dismay, and declared them the worst sword ever for battle.

With the Omani sa'if (often called kattara), while mounted with European blades of serviceable heft, these were worn as status accoutrements often finely embellished with silver repousse and fine decoration. The merchants and slavers wearing these were not with combat forces nor involved in such conditions. As seen in Zanzibar by Burton, a swordsman, who agreed with Demmin, 'how could these be wielded in combat?'.

Which brings to mind more on the open, unguarded hilt. While it appears conical, it is actually flattened much in the manner of the hilt of the khanjhar, a handsome dagger worn as a status symbol in Arabia but which could certainly have been used defensively in a singular situation . But would these have been used as an attack weapon in combat, unlikely I think.
This even more so as the modern versions are beautiful in hilt and decoration, but the blades are two pieces of thin steel melded together.

The Hadhramati sa'if as seen in the grouping of arms taken in 1888 is again, a dress weapon worn in similar manner, as many of these repousse embellished swords of these regions. These hilts would be hard to hold in battle, at least the ones I have handled in my opinion.

The point is that to me it seems that whether a weapon is judged as intended as a combat arm, or a dress accoutrement, a parade item or accessory or otherwise, must be done by individual merit. Weapons similar in form may have the character of combat weapons visually, but not be substantial enough for actual use.
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Old 27th December 2016, 04:30 PM   #19
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I still have difficulty to believe that 19 century Omanis, a definitely not rich people, had separate swords for battle and for dancing. Why couldn't they dance with their battle swords, a distinctly non-traumatic ( for the blade) activity?
Sword dances were ubiquitous in many societies ( Turks, Caucasians, Cossacks) . Nowhere were special "dancing swords" present.

Regulation European swords is a different kettle of fish: various patterns were designed for different uniforms, and this was dictated by the rank. Simple soldiers ( in a crude way approximate to tribal warriors) had one sword only, if that.

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Old 27th December 2016, 05:53 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I still have difficulty to believe that 19 century Omanis, a definitely not rich people, had separate swords for battle and for dancing. Why couldn't they dance with their battle swords, a distinctly non-traumatic ( for the blade) activity?
Sword dances were ubiquitous in many societies ( Turks, Caucasians, Cossacks) . Nowhere were special "dancing swords" present.

Regulation European swords is a different kettle of fish: various patterns were designed for different uniforms, and this was dictated by the rank. Simple soldiers ( in a crude way approximate to tribal warriors) had one sword only, if that.


I see what Ariel is saying here, and he makes a very good point. It is well noted that dances involving swords were certainly present in many cultures and nationalities, and it does beg the question, 'why a separate sword to accommodate a particular ceremony?'.

Actually, at the outset of these types of rituals brandishing swords they probably were once part of either a kind of hyping up psychologically prior to battle or in many cases, traditional recalling of great battles and heritage in same. In the former, of course actual battle weapons were likely used where in the latter case, often in more modern times swords had become traditional accoutrements rather than serviceable weapons. These typcally of course took the place of the older, actual combat arms.
In todays Highland sword dance, the traditional basket hilts are simply made in the style of the old forms, but certainly not battle swords.

If I recall correctly from the many discussions we have had on this topic, the traditional pageantry known as the Funoon involves a sword ceremony where these distinctly Omani style conical hilted weapons are used.
The desired effects of many swordsmen in an impressive drill in unison calls for not only the flashing of highly polished blades, but the vibrato whirring sound of these very flexible blades held and purposely shaken for that sound. The aperture in the pommels of these were probably for colorful festoons as well as wrist attachment.

The average Omani would not only have not had battle swords, but not the dance swords either, in fact would not have had weapons at all in most cases other than perhaps heirlooms or a dagger.
These dance swords were produced specifically for these events at some point in the 18th century as the al Bussaidi dynasty developed not only celebratory regalia but promoted spectacular traditional events.

The style of these swords heralded the familiar highly embellished hilts of the swaggering merchants and persons of notoriety, which indeed were held in high esteem and part of the ruling and powerful elite. Their swords were however, most often fitted with high quality blades from many sources as well as heirloom and presentation instances. The dance versions of their swords were simply made in recognition of these familiar swords but with blades purposed for effect rather than combative use.

The well known battle swords of their own distinct form with the 'winged' guard, but cylindrical hilt and peaked dome pommel, were primarily from the interior of Oman, Nizwa, where the Ibathi's did maintain armed forces.
The Omani coastal regions, Muscat, were focused primarily on trade and commercial diplomacy.

Regarding the European regulation sword analogy, the idea was simply to illustrate that swords of specific form were often for dress, while more suitable and sturdier examples used by the same officer for battle. As officers not only could afford such selection, they were also given the latitude to do so.
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Old 27th December 2016, 07:38 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
I see what Ariel is saying here, and he makes a very good point. It is well noted that dances involving swords were certainly present in many cultures and nationalities, and it does beg the question, 'why a separate sword to accommodate a particular ceremony?'.

Actually, at the outset of these types of rituals brandishing swords they probably were once part of either a kind of hyping up psychologically prior to battle or in many cases, traditional recalling of great battles and heritage in same. In the former, of course actual battle weapons were likely used where in the latter case, often in more modern times swords had become traditional accoutrements rather than serviceable weapons. These typcally of course took the place of the older, actual combat arms.
In todays Highland sword dance, the traditional basket hilts are simply made in the style of the old forms, but certainly not battle swords.

If I recall correctly from the many discussions we have had on this topic, the traditional pageantry known as the Funoon involves a sword ceremony where these distinctly Omani style conical hilted weapons are used.
The desired effects of many swordsmen in an impressive drill in unison calls for not only the flashing of highly polished blades, but the vibrato whirring sound of these very flexible blades held and purposely shaken for that sound. The aperture in the pommels of these were probably for colorful festoons as well as wrist attachment.

The average Omani would not only have not had battle swords, but not the dance swords either, in fact would not have had weapons at all in most cases other than perhaps heirlooms or a dagger.
These dance swords were produced specifically for these events at some point in the 18th century as the al Bussaidi dynasty developed not only celebratory regalia but promoted spectacular traditional events.

The style of these swords heralded the familiar highly embellished hilts of the swaggering merchants and persons of notoriety, which indeed were held in high esteem and part of the ruling and powerful elite. Their swords were however, most often fitted with high quality blades from many sources as well as heirloom and presentation instances. The dance versions of their swords were simply made in recognition of these familiar swords but with blades purposed for effect rather than combative use.

The well known battle swords of their own distinct form with the 'winged' guard, but cylindrical hilt and peaked dome pommel, were primarily from the interior of Oman, Nizwa, where the Ibathi's did maintain armed forces.
The Omani coastal regions, Muscat, were focused primarily on trade and commercial diplomacy.

Regarding the European regulation sword analogy, the idea was simply to illustrate that swords of specific form were often for dress, while more suitable and sturdier examples used by the same officer for battle. As officers not only could afford such selection, they were also given the latitude to do so.


Perfectly explained Jim to which I would add; A huge production campaign was needed to get the nation behind the Sultan and expensive battle swords being out of the question people turned to a cheap but effective model.. The Dancing Sword. This was done mainly in the reign of The Sultan of Zanzibar or Saaid The Great. It is the reason that the Omani contingent carried these swords...The Mangas of Zanzibar. The net effect however was to feed back to Oman proper the habit of using this as the Pageantry Sword..Essentially it can be used in a number of distinct areas..
1. Religious ...At both Eids.
2. Social Events....At Weddings.
3. Political gatherings...Nothing is so rousing as thousands of tribals shimmering these swords in appreciation of a leader..or VIP.
4. Salutations to the ruler...All tribal infantry / Soldiers in the Sultans guards carried these as saluting or marching past the Ruler in salute. It was a very common occurrence.
5. Tradition. To enact a large section of dances from the Funoon...This was how information was passed down the ages as people could not read or write... The Traditions are a backbone component of music, poetry and dance in a specific style of Omani history story telling.

Essentially why this sword happened was because of the drive behind it as a saluting sword in honour of The Sultan.( Saiid The Great) It was never intended as a fighting weapon. Basically for the masses it was generally a cheap saluting accoutrement. And it still is.
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Old 27th December 2016, 07:47 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
I still have difficulty to believe that 19 century Omanis, a definitely not rich people, had separate swords for battle and for dancing. Why couldn't they dance with their battle swords, a distinctly non-traumatic ( for the blade) activity?
Sword dances were ubiquitous in many societies ( Turks, Caucasians, Cossacks) . Nowhere were special "dancing swords" present.

Regulation European swords is a different kettle of fish: various patterns were designed for different uniforms, and this was dictated by the rank. Simple soldiers ( in a crude way approximate to tribal warriors) had one sword only, if that.



The Sayf Yamaani was an expensive to produce and very dangerous to throw around at pageants weapon..The Dancing sword however, did inherit components from it like the Terrs Shield...Razor sharp edges ...a flat spatulate tip.....a round tip...It was designed as a non lethal, cheap pageantry sword uniting the masses behind the Sultan.
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Old 27th December 2016, 08:28 PM   #23
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Well, as Alice would say, curiosier and curiosier...
I hear your points, but I am still puzzled.
Perhaps , in the 19 century Oman was an oasis of tranquility, but the neighboring areas were not. In what is now Saudi Arabia clans clashed all the time, and swords were as embedded in the daily life as kaffiyas. In Yemen, jambiyas are as needed for male attire as pants., and until recently their blades were of fighting quality. Elgood wrote that Hungarian blades were highly prized there in part for their ability to emit sounds during dancing; a hint that dancing was performed with real battle swords.
No Khevsur, Georgian or Zeibek had a special dancing sword, and they danced a lot.

But you must have access to information that is not available to the foreigners...... be it as it may.
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Old 28th December 2016, 03:07 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ariel
Well, as Alice would say, curiosier and curiosier...
I hear your points, but I am still puzzled.
Perhaps , in the 19 century Oman was an oasis of tranquility, but the neighboring areas were not. In what is now Saudi Arabia clans clashed all the time, and swords were as embedded in the daily life as kaffiyas. In Yemen, jambiyas are as needed for male attire as pants., and until recently their blades were of fighting quality. Elgood wrote that Hungarian blades were highly prized there in part for their ability to emit sounds during dancing; a hint that dancing was performed with real battle swords.
No Khevsur, Georgian or Zeibek had a special dancing sword, and they danced a lot.

But you must have access to information that is not available to the foreigners...... be it as it may.



IN THE 19TH C. Oman apart from a very narrow window of prosperity was very poor..No oil in those days...No schools, clinics, hospitals, roads or anything else ...until about 1970.
Black slaves in irons were still obtainable here in Buraimi in 1960.

People somewhat underestimate the situation and tend to sideline the evidence; for example of the Funoon ... I don't blame you however, since it is very much a touch of Alice...In fact the best way to consider the different Genre is as a series of Pantomimes. Education didn't exist..reading and writing was about next to nothing...so the traditions were passed down in Poetry, Dance, Singing and those performances involving the flexible dancing sword. Funoon essentially means The Traditions.

...I indicate above the different functions in which this accoutrement was involved and although some swords were richly adorned in the case of VIPs items its primary use was as explained and it never saw a battle ..except from the viewpoint as waving it in support of the leader..or in its role in the mock fight

When needed Oman had a classic battle Sword... The Sayf Yamaani... plus spears, daggers and the usual fire arms of the day.
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Old 28th December 2016, 06:05 PM   #25
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Although it seems that we are digressing from the original post in this thread, a Zanzibar nimcha with very thin brass mounts, the subject of the use of swords in combat vs, in pageantry still remains on point. The examples and instances included by way of analogy are of other forms, but the principle still applies.

The subject of Arabian use and preference of Hungarian blades is well noted, and I have owned and handled Arabian sabers with these blades. While regarded as Hungarian, these blades were typically Solingen or Styrian made (Ostrowski, "The Polish Saber") and the ones I have handled were not particularly flexible, certainly not in the degree required in the Omani dance.
However, I very much agree that actual battle swords were certainly used in dancing or pre combat fervor in very live situations, and probably in a celebratory manner post combat. This of course was probably true in other events using actual battle swords in other nationalities and cultures outside the Omani sphere, in fact I had noted this was likely the origin of the Omani dance. In seems that this performance was altered by producing even more flexible blades in order to enhance the effects desired.

One of the key factors sought in actual combat blades is flexibility, in fact many European blades were tested to see if they could be bent far out of shape and return to original shape . This is essential in blades for combat use as a rigid blade will be subject to breaking in extreme impact and shock.
However, in extremes such as with the Omani dance versions, these blades are flimsy as opposed to flexible, and would be of little use in combat.

What is being confused is the many examples of the conical hilt Omani swords mounted with substantial European and other blades. These were as often explained, worn by individuals of standing and influence in the Omani sphere, particularly merchants and slavers, who were not involved in these performances any more than in any military or combative affairs. These were entirely civil or in effect court type swords despite fully serviceable blades, and very much status oriented, rather than combat ready .

The numbers of these Omani swords produced in more recent times for commercial purposes have further clouded the issue as these have become interpolated with actual earlier examples worn as status symbols in these civil circumstances. It seems these began to circulate around 20 years ago as when I obtained one, they were still rarely seen.
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Old 28th December 2016, 07:48 PM   #26
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Ras al Khaimah began to churn them out about 30 years ago. In the case of Omani Souks they more or less exploded into life after 1970 making them very common from then. To allow the common man access to these swords they were produced in great numbers especially for Zanzibari Omanis (Mangas) some time in the mid 19th C.

In Oman proper these swords were worked by wandering gypsies called Zutoot...but since the Zutoot were absorbed into Omani society in the early 70s; that dwindled . A Factory exists making vast numbers in Salalah..The emphasis is on cheap mass production for the masses even today. The same system exists today as it did when they were invented likely in the first quarter of the 19th C by the Ruler. This also points to a style etched into society where the original form is rigidly followed as it enters the well respected Funun Traditional genre.

Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 28th December 2016 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 28th December 2016, 08:54 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
These were as often explained, worn by individuals of standing and influence in the Omani sphere, particularly merchants and slavers, who were not involved ... in any military or combative affairs. These were entirely civil or in effect court type swords despite fully serviceable blades, and very much status oriented, rather than combat ready .


I am not sure about the merchants, but the slavers seem to have been involved in quite a lot of "combative affairs". Obviously, the locals did not become slaves willingly, but on top of the resistance they offered, the Arabs in Central Africa were involved in some serious campaigns: Tippu Tip's son Sefu waged a war with Belgian colonial troops in Congo, and the British led a war in the area around lake Malawi against an Arab slaver called Mlozi. It would appears that swords were more than just part of the dress during those times.
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Old 29th December 2016, 03:33 AM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
I am not sure about the merchants, but the slavers seem to have been involved in quite a lot of "combative affairs". Obviously, the locals did not become slaves willingly, but on top of the resistance they offered, the Arabs in Central Africa were involved in some serious campaigns: Tippu Tip's son Sefu waged a war with Belgian colonial troops in Congo, and the British led a war in the area around lake Malawi against an Arab slaver called Mlozi. It would appears that swords were more than just part of the dress during those times.



Very well noted, and you are right, the merchants would have been in quite non combative situations as they were situated in entrepots and metropolitan areas of commerce. These persons were interested in affluence and status, and wore these embellished conical hilt swords with swagger.

The slavers were indeed the more rugged individuals in expeditions far into the interior through highly contested colonial territories and engaged in an even more contested commerce, slavery. I don't think that the weapons used in these circumstances were any more regulated or patterned in any way, however I would expect that they were chosen for serviceability as well as durability. For example it would seem that machete like blades would fare better in jungle areas than awkward broadsword blades.
In the rugged areas of colonial new Spain, the simple heavy bladed sword called the espada ancha served more as a utility arm used much like a machete, but certainly doubled as a weapon as required.

The Omani swords bladed for dance pageantry of course would never have been taken into the interior, and we cannot be certain that the status laden examples worn by merchants and elite never appeared there. However, such swords would seem a bit out of place in these conditions and with such threats.
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Old 8th January 2017, 09:52 AM   #29
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Searching my photo base I found a close lookalike to the project sword as below. This one came from Muscat Souk with a fairly accurate trace to the souk in Sanaa before it became embroiled in a war. The blade looks European with the added clue of hogs back, eyelash or bitemarks ...
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Old 9th January 2017, 07:15 PM   #30
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Thank you Ibrahim, the sword you posted is indeed similar in the use of brass as material for the guard and the band below the guard. However, the guard is more complex than the one on my sword, and with the three prongs looks Maghrebi, does not it? I understand that as far back as you can trace this sword it has been in South Arabia, and not in North Africa.

Regards,
Teodor
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