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Old 31st January 2008, 07:46 PM   #1
Norman McCormick
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Default Burmese dagger ?

Hello,
Just got this dagger. Overall length 13 inches blade length 8 1/4 inches. The hilt is octagonal in cross section and made from ivory, the scabbard furnishings and bolster, I think, are of silver. I have the usual questions, where? and when?, also does anybody have an illustration of how these daggers were worn.
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Norman.
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Old 31st January 2008, 08:13 PM   #2
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Sweet!

Looks early 20th century to me lets see what the dha gang has to say?


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Old 31st January 2008, 08:50 PM   #3
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Nice piece. That is a "Shan" dha hmyaung. The people called the Shan by the Burmese call themselves Tai Yuan (northern Tai), and live in an area across eastern Burma, southern Yunnan province (China), northern Thailand, and Laos. These guys are worn more at the western end of the territory.

It should have a cord wrapped around the scabbard near the throat, with a loop - a mini version of the cord baldric on a dha-shay (sword length). The cord is looped over the waist sash at the left side, with the dagger hanging down, as shown in the photo below.

I tend to think that the round cross-sectioned scabbards denote an origin more to the north, in Yunnan, but I have no particular basis for that other than the fact that one of the two that I own was collected in Yunnan:
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Old 1st February 2008, 04:38 PM   #4
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Many thanks for the great info gents, I had seen this type of weapon with the scabbard terminating in an ovoid shape rather than circular and wondered if this was a regional variation. I've noticed the grips vary as well, is this a regional thing or a matter of what takes the makers or owners fancy? Mark, thanks for the photo it shows the suspension arrangement quite clearly. Would this have been used as an everyday knife or would something less elaborate be used? Is it possible to pin down a more precise date for this piece or is it quite difficult to assign an age?
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Norman.
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Old 1st February 2008, 04:49 PM   #5
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Very nice example Norman. Not much to say after Mark's excellent analysis.
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Old 1st February 2008, 06:55 PM   #6
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I really don't know if the round vs flattened scabbard tip is a regional variation. The round tip is less common, but not exactly rare. It does go along with the spear, as opposed to the upswept, tip. My assumption is that form follows function with the scabbards, the round tip not being too well-suited for containing an upswept blade. What is interesting about both yours and mine is that aside from the shape of the scabbard, the other elements are fairly standard in design. There are some decorative elements that you see that are definitely Chinese in style, but I don't see those here.

The ovoid grip is a fairly common type, and is even seen on dha-shay. But again, I just don't know if it has any significance other than personal taste.

A dha-hmyaung is an essential accessory in Shan male dress. It is an every-day utility knife, and the degree/costliness of decoration is a reflection of the status of the owner. So even a fancy one like yours would have been worn as an every-day accessory. Dating them is very hard (at least for me). I have yet to find any reliable "tells" for even approximate dates on Burmese weapons, other than the strong likelihood that a sword would have been made either pre-1886 or post-1948 - there was a ban on the making and bearing of weapons during the British colonial period in Burma. We do have some basic stylistic indicators for the age of Thai daab, but nothing comperable for Burma.
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Old 1st February 2008, 07:34 PM   #7
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Thanks again.
Regards,
Norman.
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Old 3rd February 2008, 10:16 PM   #8
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One thing does strike me as a little odd...the largest scabbard fitting is typically seen as a chape mount or mouth mount. Sorta unusual to see it there, but again, just may be a matter of the owner's taste.
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Old 5th February 2008, 02:11 PM   #9
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The octagonal handle 's not uncommon for this region.
This example is a recently made lanna knife.

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