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Old 22nd November 2017, 06:13 PM   #1
TVV
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Default Moroccan Saif with a British (?) Hanger Blade

Here is a Moroccan Saif, or what we as collectors commonly refer to as "nimcha". The blade might actually fall loosely into the "nimcha" category, as it is 27.25 inches long (69 cm) and based on the fox markings stamped on both sides, it probably originated as a British hanger or cutlass.

The guard is also interesting, as it is of the type with the two inner quillons bent at a 90 degree angle to the blade, as opposed to running parallel to it. I found a similarly marked Moroccan sword in Oriental Arms Sold Items archive, with the more common guard form. Also, the fox on the one sold by Oriental Arms is running in the opposite direction.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 22nd November 2017, 08:31 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Interesting to see a British blade in one of these, though they are certainly known in this context. Actually this appears to be the 'fox' mark used in England as opposed to the 'running wolf' mark famed in German blades.

The 'fox' was used in England originally in the Shotley Bridge works near Durham in the north in the late 17th c., and in response to the German wolf used earlier in the century with German smiths at Hounslow outside of London.

In this case, the blade appears 18th century, and may be one applied in Birmingham c.1750s. Usually these bushy tail fox marks have the initials SH for Samuel Harvey, but it is known that another maker, Dawes, also used the fox but probably these were blank.

There was notable trade by England with Morocco in the 17th century, and there are instances of English merchants wearing 'nimcha'. Whether this might be one such example, or a blade which ended up in the Moroccan context would be hard to say, but the connection is clear.

** see currently running thread on Shotley Bridge for more on these marks.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 09:15 PM   #3
Norman McCormick
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Hi Teodor,
You may find this thread of interest. http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...&highlight=1742
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 10:45 PM   #4
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The side langets bent to form a circle perpendicular to the blade are characteristic of Omani “Zanzibar” saifs.
The greatest majority of Moroccan saifs ( “nimchas”) sport trade european blades. Thus, I do not find it unusual to see a British one. I think we even saw here a Moroccan Koummya ( a very peculiar blade!) with British marks. My guess only Flyssas were always local.
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Old 22nd November 2017, 11:24 PM   #5
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Jim and Norman,

Thank you very much - I read the threads on the Shotley Bridge swordsmiths, and the thread about Norman's M1742 hanger, as well as Jim's notes in the post on the running wolf mark in the Blade Markings Associated with European Makers thread. Thank you for confirming that this blade almost certainly started as a British hanger in the second half of the 18th century, before making it to the Maghreb to receive its current mounts.

Ariel,

I too am wondering about the reason for the unusual quillons bent perpendicularly to the blade. The hilt is most certainly Maghrebi: the form of the grip and the decoration of the white metal band under the guard are Moroccan in style. Could this have some chronological (earlier vs. later style) or geographical significance, or could it be a vestige from hilts with D-ring guards like those from Zanzibar? While less common, we have seen this type of guard before, like for example on the much higher quality sword posted by Tatyana in the link below:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=4782

Sincerely,
Teodor
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Old 23rd November 2017, 01:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TVV
Jim and Norman,
or could it be a vestige from hilts with D-ring guards like those from Zanzibar? While less common, we have seen this type of guard before, like for example on the much higher quality sword posted by Tatyana in the link below:
r


Hi Teodor,

Yes you are right.
Here is another one from the 18th c. with the SH fox.

Best,
Kubur
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Old 23rd November 2017, 03:07 AM   #7
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Excellent Kubur!!! Thank you, here is the more well known fox from Birmingham with SH (Samuel Harvey) and thank you for the entry in the panel of markings.
* excellent note on the fluer de lis used in England as well! Is this from Gilkerson?

The fox without initials as I noted is in my opinion for John Dawes of Birmingham, but he did not initial his.

Trying to look back into discussions and research over the years on these sa'if, and the term 'nimcha/nimsha' which is not actually Arabic, but Persian loosely for half , or small sword. In many cases these are mounted with full length blades, so effectively a misnomer, but the 'nimcha' term is primarily a western term from collectors...locally they are sa'if.

There seems to have been a great deal of debate over classification of these hilts as to regional attribution, but none of it conclusive. For the most part the Buttin (1933) references to these swords is 'Arab', and the 'Zanzibari' assessment as far as a type of hilt is unsubstantiated.
There have been examples which have decoration corroborated with other material culture decoration, but these pertain to incidental case where a distinctly Zanzibar decorated example was at hand.

The loop guard is but one of it seems three hilt configurations, all are essentially Maghrebi.
One has the three drooping quillons; one has the loop guard over the blade at forte; the other has vertical 'pitones' extending from two drooping quillon terminals.
There do not seem to be pragmatic solutions as far as purposes for these other than design affectations. The ideas for blade catching etc are always at hand, but not well defined.
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Old 23rd November 2017, 07:20 AM   #8
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Kubur,

Very nice, thank you as well for adding another example, this one with the Samuel Harvey marking. It seems plausible that a number of British hangers, probably after becoming surplus, made it to the Maghreb and where subsequently rehilted according to local tastes.

Jim,

Thank you for your notes. To make matters complicated, I believe there is a distinct version of these hilts that was used in Zanzibar and the Omani Eastern African possessions. In fact, on p. 237 of his book, Hales shows a photograph of the Vizier of the Comoros (not formally part of the Omani Empire, but under heavy Omani influence via Zanzibar) where the Vizier's guards have swords with hilts like the one I am attaching from Oriental Arms sold archive.

I believe that in other threads it has been shown that the version with two of the quillons forming a D-ring is also Omani/Zanzibari. If you look at hilt form alone, there is also similarity to saifs from Southern Yemen, many of which may have been produced all the way in India and exported to Yemen.

There is a connection, somehow, between these hilts from opposite costs of Africa, but it might be better served in another thread.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 23rd November 2017, 11:09 AM   #9
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Reference;
A.http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ighlight=nimcha


Great thread... very much in support of the various threads on Moroccan Saif and on the Shotley and other centres in England. ...However~ It is my view that a lot of this is in fact still being penciled into the margin for example; the SH inside the bushy tail fox is Samuel Harvey either Snr or Jnr of Birmingham. The Shotley Bridge wolf mark is either a copy of the Solingen/ Passau mark on imported Solingen blades or was struck by the German sword makers at Shotley Bridge. There is some conjecture as to Hounslow using the bushy tail fox and other sword makers but it is still unfurling...

The Moroccan saif was used by English military Bands of London e.g.Tobias Blose is painted
carrying one (Ref A) thus these English blades were seen on Moroccan hilts.

If these blades were being brought into North Africa I see no reason why they could not have been used as many blades came flooding in on the trade blade route.

The Piton guard on TVVs first at #1 is Moroccan. The hilt above with a formal cross guard and turned down pommel had a chain guard still showing the pin on the pommel where it was attached. ...and three pronged top to the pommel more in fashion with the Red Sea Saudia variant ..Reference A. Refers.

One key indicator is the peened spigot on top of the pommel which on Zanzibari weapons looks like a turtle. Usually on other types it is a simple round stud; occasionally decorated.

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Old 23rd November 2017, 05:02 PM   #10
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Very well noted guys, and I was remiss in noting that Ibrahiim indeed did present some remarkable research toward the comparison of local material culture from Zanazibar (the comb) to the decorative motif on some nimchas.
Also, he showed the 'turtle' style pommel cap on a good number of examples and that this may recognize the significance of these in the cultures there in Zanzibar.

I believe that the Buttin references were particularly prevalent in my comments that of the nimcha hilt designs, none of them were specifically attributable to Zanzibar. Actually to be sure, in my thinking none of the designs were attributable regionally beyond the Maghrebi designation.

With the D ring loop over the blade type, long generally held to be Zanzibari, it does seem that this designation, for me at least, came from one I acquired some years back. Artzi indicated it was part of a number of these from a Yemeni arsenal, and these had been from production in Zanzibar sent there for some conflicts and warfare which were ongoing decades prior.

In retrospect, I believe that was correct, and I believe these 'D loop' guards are referred to by Alain Jacob as 'Zanzibari' as well. However, subsequently as I acquired the Buttin reference (1933), and in private conversations with his grandson, the term 'Arab' was collectively used to describe these sa'if.

As I later realized, the term 'Arab' was directed not only the those who inhabit the Arabian peninsula, but to those who occupy many regions colonially which includes of course the North African Maghreb.

I took it then that the 'nimcha' (its term explained earlier as a Persian word not used locally) was indeed a Maghrebi form, whose style extended to the western and Arab regions of Southern India, as well as to the Pan Arab trade regions including Zanzibar. It is notable that one distinct version of these kinds of hilts with three protrusions at pommel back is Hadramauti, fron those regions in Yemen.

The style of hilt with the pitons (their purpose effectively unknown) does seem of course Maghrebi. There is speculation and debate on this curious affectation but nothing conclusive .

In all, there does seem to be credence in the suggestion by Tirri (2003) that there were indeed arms assembly locations in Zanzibar, which would have been the source for these loop guard examples of the 'nimcha', as noted by Artzi as I mentioned earlier. Whether these were in form indigenous to there alone remains unclear, but it does seem a notable number did originate there.

I had forgotten that Buttin's writing predated the warfare in Yemen by decades, so he would not have been aware of the later situation with Zanzibar. Now the question would be, just where did the influence for these loop guards in the Zanzibar hilts; and the curious pitons in the Moroccan examples come from?

As for the use of English blades, that situation I think has been well explained here, the clear contacts between England and the Maghreb from early 17th c. onward.
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Old 24th November 2017, 11:32 AM   #11
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TVV
Quote:
I too am wondering about the reason for the unusual quillons bent perpendicularly to the blade. The hilt is most certainly Maghrebi: the form of the grip and the decoration of the white metal band under the guard are Moroccan in style. Could this have some chronological (earlier vs. later style) or geographical significance


Jim McDougall
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As I later realized, the term 'Arab' was directed not only the those who inhabit the Arabian peninsula, but to those who occupy many regions colonially which includes of course the North African Maghreb.


In his article Les poignards et les sabres marocains (in revue Hespéris XXVI, 1939, pp 1-28 & plates I-X), Buttin makes the following statements:
The pitones, and the D ring serve as protection for the hand against a blow sliding down the flat of the blade. The former are a Spanish influence on Moroccan sabres and a rare occurance, while the latter is even rarer, but not unusual in the Arab variant.
He makes a clear distinction between Maghrebis and Arabs from the Peninsula.
This type of sabre came to the Maghreb with the conquest of North Africa by the Arabs.
The Maghrebi hilt retains the form of early Arab examples.
He goes on to describe at length the differences between Maghrebi and Arab hilts.

Regards,
Andreas

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Old 25th November 2017, 03:57 PM   #12
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Default Butins Charts

Butin was not only and excellent weapons author but lived in Morocco. It can be seen that he named these charts carefully...

1.One is Moroccan.and other African arms.
2.The other is Arabian...
3.The Third is other Oriental variants.


Both structure and blade size are comparable in each chart.

He produced accurate charts viz;
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