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Old 2nd May 2008, 04:46 PM   #1
Berkley
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Default silver mounted file knife

I just received this knife from a seller who had no idea what it was, as evident from the caption to the seller's picture gallery, which does have a number of views from all angles. The blade, as I hope you can see from my scan, is made from an old file. The scabbard construction, leather over wood, is similar to that used for Nepalese kukris. The knife is very solidly made and functional. I would be interested in hearing any thoughts about its possible origin and age.
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Old 2nd May 2008, 05:11 PM   #2
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I believe this is an Arab knife referred to as shafra. Here is a link for one on Artzi's website and he has a couple of other examples if you utilize the search function but all 3 with silver handle. However, the handle decoration on this one is not off of typical Arab decoration. If you read Artzi's description he comments how these are often mistaken as Nepalese due to Stone and Egerton.

http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=1891
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Old 2nd May 2008, 06:54 PM   #3
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The Egerton reference is to figure 348, Plate IX, "Nepalese Arms" from "Indian and Oriental Arms and Armour" by Lord Egerton of Tatton (1896). Egerton describes it simply as "KNIFE; abruptly curved, grooved blade; silvered hilt. Nepal. L. 11 in." I have not found the Stone reference.
Several years ago John Powell had a somewhat similar knife which he believed to be Nepalese. If I recall correctly, he thought it was called a bank. Stone shows a bank which looks unlike either this knife or the shafras shown by Artzi, described as "A Mahratta knife with a sickle-shaped blade and straight handle.... The Wallace Catalogue describes other forms of knife under this name." I do not have access to the Wallace Catalogue, but would be interested to know what it says. As you say, this does not appear to be Arab silver work. The shape of the blade when vertical does look somewhat like a jambiya, and the arrangement of the ornaments on the handle is somewhat like I have seen on some jambiya hilts.
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Old 3rd May 2008, 01:25 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RSWORD
I believe this is an Arab knife referred to as shafra. Here is a link for one on Artzi's website and he has a couple of other examples if you utilize the search function but all 3 with silver handle. However, the handle decoration on this one is not off of typical Arab decoration. If you read Artzi's description he comments how these are often mistaken as Nepalese due to Stone and Egerton.

http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=1891

I second the motion.
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Old 4th May 2008, 03:48 PM   #5
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There are aspects to the decoration that are rather similar to these weapons from the Himalayan lands. Remarkably so, I go with Berkley and Egerton.
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Old 4th May 2008, 07:33 PM   #6
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I notion that motion and go with the shafra.....

BTW - the mounts look like a mix of brass,copper, and white metal or tin....
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Old 4th May 2008, 07:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
BTW - the mounts look like a mix of brass,copper, and white metal or tin....
Brass and copper, but I believe what looks like white metal is low-grade silver. Application of a silver polishing cloth brings up a nice luster, but the tarnish is more grey than the blackish oxidation on silver of greater purity. .
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Old 4th May 2008, 07:59 PM   #8
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Does the metal matter more than the form?
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Old 4th May 2008, 08:30 PM   #9
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Not for purposes of identification, but I'll take a quantity of silver over an equivalent amount of white metal any day .
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Old 6th May 2008, 05:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Berkley
Not for purposes of identification, but I'll take a quantity of silver over an equivalent amount of white metal any day .

Dido.......
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Old 27th July 2009, 03:26 AM   #11
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Default Back again

At the suggestion of Jim McDougall, I am resurrecting this thread in search of additional comments and insights. The link to the seller's pictures in my initial post no longer is valid, so I am attaching some of those here. I still share Tim's opinion that the decoration is from some Himalayan region.
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Old 27th July 2009, 05:03 AM   #12
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Hi Berkeley,
Thank you for posting this, and I'm glad we get another shot at this!
I seldom disagree with Artzi's extremely accurate assessments, and this does have the distinct appearance of the shafra, however I think there may be an explanation for the conflicting identifications in yet another conundrum created via the trade routes between India and Arabia.

Also, the note by John Powell, another man I have always had great respect for for his outstanding work on the weapons of Nepal, in terming this a 'bank' may have been referencing the 'hook' type dynamic of the blade. The most commonly known bank is of course a crescent shaped hook blade usually described as a sickle form.

In "Islamic Weapons" Maghreb to Mughul" (A. Tirri, 2003) on p. 95, fig. 56, there are two knives of the 18th-19th c. termed shafra/matwa and of the Arabian Peninsula. These have the distinct form seen on this knife, with the cylindrical handle type hilt, the blade with the sharply angled hook, however these blades have the distinct raised central ridge of janbiyyas.
These are shown classified as Indo-Arab, suggesting a relationship in the form of course with India, and probably referencing this variance.

I am inclined to agree that the floral motif and silverwork appears to be of Nepali-Tibetan type, and for these influences to be found in Nepal-Bengal regions connected to trade into Hyderabad, where profound connections to the Arabian Peninsula have long been well established is not unusual.
Clearly, this piece is more likely later, but reflecting those influences.

In our earlier communication I noted the gile blade of the Afar in Ethiopian regions seems to have this type of angled blade. It is interesting to note the diffusion continuing to the east probably reflecting these same influences via the Red Sea trade.

Thanks again for posting this, and as always, I look forward to other thoughts.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 28th July 2009, 01:40 AM   #13
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Jim,
Thank you very much for your thoughtful and scholarly comments. You have finally galvanized me into ordering a copy of Tirri's book.
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Old 28th July 2009, 01:49 AM   #14
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You're very welcome Berk! It was great to look further into this one, and I always look forward to more from those who collect in these areas.

The Tirri book really is a beautifully photographed book which focuses on the grade of weapons most often encountered by collectors, and therefore serves as a comprehensive guidebook. As in most references, there are some points of contention, and one wishes there were more cited references to support some of the identification and captions, but I do find it most helpful in many cases.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 28th July 2009, 03:03 AM   #15
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Hello, here's some more material to the debate.

In "Arms and Armour of Arabia" p.78, Elgood discusses the shafra, also known as a sikkin, al-khusa, rish or matwa, in various parts of the Arabian peninsula. It is a curved single edged knife, often worn behind the jambiya. They are often decorated with silver.

Of particular notice:
Omani silverworking centres include Nizwa, Rustaq, Ibir, Sur, and Bahla. Silverwork in Rustaq is identifiable by its flower motif.

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Old 28th July 2009, 06:23 AM   #16
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Default Arabian I would think also

As has been suggested by others here, I would also say Arabian, and probably a Shafra. As suggested by Emmanuel, this type of knife is often worn as a "back knife" to the Khanjar/Jambiya, but this one is bigger than those of I seen worn in this way. Similar to the Shafra in shape, is the 19th century Al Mahri Khanjar, from the Al Marah region of southern Arabia. Size of this item is approx same as the one in this post.
Regards Stuart
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Old 28th July 2009, 03:20 PM   #17
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Emanuel and Stuart, thank you so much for these outstanding contributions.
This is exactly what I had hoped would evolve, supporting references and more similar examples.
Nice work on the reference from Elgood, Emanuel! I had completely neglected consulting that most important source (oops), and you picked up the ball beautifully.

Stuart, thank you for the detailed information on these interesting knives and for adding the regional notation. It is really great when these threads become comprehensive data on a weapon type that we can refer to in future research, sort of a running research file.

It would seem we have established a good base of support for the Arabian attribution, and have little beyond the Egerton illustration toward the Nepalese/Bengali possibility. Without further support for that side, it would seem clear this is indeed a shafra type knife from Arabia.

Thank you so much guys!
All the best,
Jim

It would be interesting to know more on the range of terms on these weapons in Arabia that seem varied according to regions. Hopefully our linguists versed in Arabian might help?
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Old 28th July 2009, 11:20 PM   #18
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another arab knife with the primary edge on the inside of the curve is the north west african koummya

also a much shorter false edge on the outside of the curve. this one was marked tunisia 1933 by a previous owner via a small nail punched inscription on the grip near the blade end. (i'm not terribly fond of the large grip, it is not comfortable - the original poster's one looks much more practical.) it has an 8.25in. blade...
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Old 29th July 2009, 12:19 AM   #19
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Talking

Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
Dido.......


And Aeneas .
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Old 29th July 2009, 01:29 AM   #20
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I also want to add one other thought to the discussion.

Like Arab and Turkish jambiyas, this piece is decorated on one side only . The back side is against the body. To my knowledge, Tibetan and Nepalese pieces on their hilts do not do the same.
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Old 29th July 2009, 04:17 AM   #21
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I believe the Himalayan Hypothesis has been pretty thoroughly and convincingly put to rest. Many thanks to all who have contributed to the discussion.
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Old 11th August 2009, 03:31 AM   #22
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Smile True ID I think

This thread has been playing on my mind as to the true identity of the piece in question, and I think I have the answer. Found this in Elgoods book Arabian Arms which I feel conclusively settles the argument.
Those (including myself) who settled on SHAFRA are also correct, but as has been previously mentioned here, the Shafra is the usual name given to the small knife which sits behind the Jambiya/Khanjar.
The correct name for this piece appears to be AL KHUSA, which according to the text is the name given in Northern Arabia, and SHAFRA in that area is regarded as the knife worn behind the Jambiya/Khanjar. In the south and northeast however the term Shafra is used for both.
The drawings show how the Khusa is worn, either on a belt or shoulder bandolier.
Regards Stuart
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Old 12th August 2009, 07:31 PM   #23
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Default Nepali or Arab ??

Pease have a look at this set:





The Jambiya dagger in this set is most surely Arab, so will be the Shafra. (For a similar set see also Tirri p 95, Fig 56).

Years ago I had a long discussion with John Powell regarding the origin of this knife. He had a similar knife in his collection and supported the Nepali origin. Unfortunately we never agreed. Yet, after all I do believe in the Arab origin
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Old 12th August 2009, 08:42 PM   #24
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When I originally posted this I asked John Powell for his thoughts about it, and he replied as follows:
Quote:
I never did get to the bottom of this, but Artzi and I had many discussions about these side knives. While they appear with or connected to some Omani pieces there are many with Indian/Nepali markings. Trade items? Who knows, but I would disregard Egerton and stick with the mid-east for origin.
Stuart's illustration from Elgood is convincing as far as I am concerned also.
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Old 13th August 2009, 05:09 AM   #25
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Now that it has arrived I will post further on this particular knife when I get some pics. In my opinion it is NOT a back knife for any Jambiya/Khanjar as it is just too big. Berk---you have email coming, and Artzi ---That is a REAL NICE pair of knives whatever they are called.
Regards Stuart
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Old 15th August 2009, 04:59 AM   #26
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Default The Shafra Conundrum

OK here we go............. I am probably going to raise some healthy discussion with what follows, and hope I do.
I am of the opinion that we are all calling different varieties of knife SHAFRA as it would appear that the various Arab Tribes called different knives by the same names depending on their particular geographic tribal location.
Hence the item shown by Artzi is a SHAFRA, and is a double edged dagger. The item shown in Egertons sketchs above is also called a SHAFRA, but appears to be single edged. The back knife found with Khanjar/Jambiya is also known as SHAFRA and is single edged, but with a straight blade, rather than "hooked". Also the back knives are smaller/shorter than the "dagger" variety, and are likely used as utility knives. ALL back knife scabbards I have seen attached to Khanjar scabbards are a folded piece of leather, laced along the curved bottom edge, suggesting a straight single edged blade.
The item which started this thread off, and has since been identified (probably) as a Khusa, also has a scabbard of the above type, but is far too big to ever have been a back knife. The whole measures 13'' and has a blade of 8". It is a VERY similar item to the Al Mahri Khanjar which has a handle of the same length, but a blade of 12". Both are single edged and the internal edge is the sharp one. I have one Khanjar with its back knife present, and this knife is 9 1/2" overall with a blade of 5 1/2".
Some pics herewith.
Regards Stuart
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Old 17th August 2009, 04:57 AM   #27
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Bump
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Old 12th September 2019, 03:54 PM   #28
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It was decided by the forum members (and I approved too) that these knives were Shafra or Kusha... and Cameron and the MET were idiots...
Then can you explain this knife?
And please "no dance" on trade routes between Yemen, Tibet and Nepal... The silver chain is typical from kukris...
and then I think we have two kind of knives very similar but from different origins... A good example of what was decided was wrong but also a good example that research is not concluding... This stament applies to me too
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Old 12th September 2019, 04:06 PM   #29
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Kubur, I believe the knife you posted has obvious differences in decoration, construction, suspension and even blade shape from the one that started the thread. It is like posting a khukri in a thread on Bulgarian shepherd's knives. I am really not sure what you are trying to accomplish here.

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Old 12th September 2019, 10:22 PM   #30
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Reliance on Egerton’s book is overrated.
Let’s not forget that he was tasked to write a catalog of collection he himself did not assemble. He had to rely on notes from multiple British military and civilian personnel serving for the East India Company. Likely, many of those were not collected by them, but were “second hand” objects with very uncertain provenance.
The same plate showing this knife and titled as weapons of Nepal, contains image of an Ottoman yataghan. How did it get there we can no longer know.

On the other hand, in the catalogue of his own collection Egerton is meticulously clear as to the provenance and the date / place of acquisition of weapons bought personally by him.
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