Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Mare Rosu 28th July 2007 01:43 PM

Ivory hilt dagger with "Tears" and a "Smiley?"
4 Attachment(s)
This arrived this week and I need some help.
What I know is:
Has an Ivory, of some type,hilt.
Crucible steel, wootz, blade.
Has steel balls in the handle,Tears, and has a "smiley" cut into the hilt.
What I like to know is what is it called, age, blade type, and name of the dagger?
What purpose is the cut in the hilt that I call a "smiley"? :)
The cut is also into the hilt strap as it is raised up on the upper side of the cut, as well as in the Ivory.
Thank you

CharlesS 28th July 2007 02:20 PM

This dagger is an example of an Indo-Persian 'zirah bouk', or 'mail(armor) piercer'.

It's an exceptional quality example, if slightly smaller than most.

kronckew 28th July 2007 07:32 PM

similar zira bouk, koftgari hand grip, pattern welded blade - 11 in. overall
i suspect it is a bit newer than yours ;)

i have a Kard with the same 'C' cut on the lower portion of the grip which is also cut into the tang such that the tang aft of the cut is a mm or so higher from the cut to the pommel end, the step is noticeable.

Jens Nordlunde 29th July 2007 09:30 AM

Gene, nice Zirah-bhonk, nice pictures:).

The blades can be of different lengths, Stone writes that the blade shown in his book is 6.5 inch’s.

In Indian and Oriental Armour by Lord Egerton of Tatton, I found this in a note on page 138, under #717. “The Z.S. Collection [Musee de Tzarskoe-Selo du Collection D’Armes, St. Petersborg, Russia. It seems as if there are three of these daggers in the collection, but only one is shown in a drawing]. ‘Zirah-bhonk’ (mail piercer) knife of fine Damascus steel, short with a conical point. It is used for piercing through the rings of a coat of mail. One of these knifes is hollowed out along the back, and the grove filled with small pearls which runs backwards and forwards in handling the weapon. It is said en Persian poetry that they represent the tears of the wounded.

In a dagger at the Soltykoff Collection [a Russian prince], there is a grove in the blade filled with a number of small rubies, so that when the dagger is raised the stones glitter like drops of blood. India is perhaps of all countries that which has endowed cruelty with the utmost grace (Industrial Arts, Burty).

The handle of these knives is usually of walrus-tooth ivory which is preferred to that of the elephant as being less likely to split.“

Anthony C. Tirri in Islamic Weapons shows one, on page 214 #151 and writes Persian/North Indian, but only Stone gives a measure of the blade. I do remember having seen one or two with rather big blades, but I think most of the blades were moderate in size.

In Memorials from the Jaypore Exhibition 1883 by Hendley. You can see the same type of knife, the hilt is ivory, this knife was made by a Jaypore armourer, and was sent to the exhibition from the Jaypore armoury (Jaypore/Jeypore/Jaipur was also called Amber). Lt.-colonel Thomas Holbein Hendly had many good friends amongst the Maharajas in Rajasthan, and one of them was Maharaja Madho Singh of Jaypore – at the time of the exhibition the Maharaja was in his twenties. I have seen his data given to 1880-1922, but I am uncertain of, if this is his birth-death dates, or the time he ruled.

Your dagger has Persian influence, but I believe it to be Indian, and this tells us that a likely place to look for its origin will be, Rajasthan, Punjab or, maybe even towards NW frontier, but not to the south. The hilt is interesting, and the bearings/balls running at the back of the hilt is unusual. Congratulations Gene – and don’t forget to enjoy the day:).

Mare Rosu 29th July 2007 01:22 PM

Well now I have got the name for my dagger (at least two spellings )
( CharlesS and Jens)and found out that there are other daggers with the "C' cut,(Kronckew, thank you all.
You know when Jens talks everyone listens (or should). His postings are, in my opinion, some of the best going!. His post on my dagger is just outstanding.
Now after I have said that about Jens I now will tell you that my "new" dagger has three pol reversals on it's 5" blade!! I just hope Jens will not start to ask his, noted for, hard questions about the Magnetic properties of the blade. ;) I hesitate to say this but will take pictures of the blade with three compasses (I still have my supply :) ) on the blade and post them here,showing all three needles point in a different direction from it's neighbor compass. This is just to show that it exist on this dagger as the thinking behind it is explained in Jens Classic post on Magnetic properties.
Kronckew, can you take a picture of the "C" on you kard? perhaps we can get an answer as to it's purpose and why it was used.
Gene (having a great day)

Jens Nordlunde 29th July 2007 02:59 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Thanks for the nice words Gene, but you are way too kind, all I did was to look in some of my books and add a few words:o.

I have had a look in the books I have on Persian arms – no Zirah-Bhonk. This is strange, as Stone writes it is Persian, but maybe he was mistaken. I did however find one somewhat similar in ‘Weapons of the Islamic World’, it is a catalogue made for an exhibition at The Islamic Gallery in King Faisal Foundation Centre, Riyadh, 1991, page 97 #96. If the text on the picture can’t be read, here it is. ‘An Indian dagger decorated in Johar flakes. The blade and the hilt are both gilded in Kashmiri style. Indian XIVth century A.H. (19th century AD).

kronckew 29th July 2007 03:42 PM

hi mare,

here's an overall picture, you can make out the 'C' fairly well.

here's a closeup

(the 'ethnographic' arms at the top of the picture belong to Millie (aka. Balto Millenium), my irish 45mph couch potato)

Jens Nordlunde 29th July 2007 04:25 PM

I have seen the ’C’ (smiley) before, but mostly they are not so far down the hilt, those i have seen are almost as if they are a rest to the little finger, but it can not be so in this case – or the little finger must have been veeery big. Even more so, that it on Gene’s hilt is marked with a colour. It does have a meaning, or they would not have made it, but I have a blank spot I am afraid. I am however looking forward to a picture of the magnetic fields. Gene, I was afraid you had sold your collection of compasses after the last big test;).

Come to think of it Gene, is there any decoration at the base of the blade? I don’t know how many balls there are supposed to be, but how many are there in your hilt? The shut seems to be rather big, can the balls fall out?

Mare Rosu 29th July 2007 06:22 PM

4 Attachment(s)
Kronckew, great pictures you posted, like you dog also, being a dog nut, what breed is it?.
The "Smiley" on your kard is about the same place as it is on mine.
Not in the "pinkie" finger area that Jens has seen before.
I have never seen that cut on a hilt before and hope some of the forum folks Could shed some more light on it. Wounder if it is a maker's mark?
Jens the dark area inside the "smiley" cleaned off as it was just dirt. Used Ren Wax and it came off.
I also did a quick clean on the blade and an acid etch. Found what I think is a temper line on the blade (see pictures), but nothing else, the crucible steel pattern did show up rather nicely though. You can also see a forging crack on the blade.
Jens the slot for the balls/tears is rather large but the ball will not come out and there are 12 steel balls in the slot. I, at first counted 13 but did a recount and there are 12, no Jens one did not fall out.
Anyone got any idea how the ball were placed in the slots?

kronckew 29th July 2007 08:23 PM

hi mare,
caution thread veer ahead:

Millie is a retired NGC greyhound, she raced up till 2004 and was a grade A1 just before she was injured and stopped racing (she won her next to last race at 10:1 & made her owner a bundle, then hurt her foot next race when another dog collided with her. i adopted her a few months later to be a companion for me and my other (male) greyhound, Blue - a blue brindle)
Blue was found as a stray puppie & i've had him since he was 10Mo. - he's never raced.
Both on the spare bed: (both are about 65lb each of pure muscle)

end of thread veer zone: we now return you to our normally scheduled subject.

re the balls: i suspect that the channel was cut into the grip, the balls added then the metal cover was set into the grip to retain them. clever craftsmanship could have notched the recess in the ivory such that a slightly sprung hooked area on the retainer clicked into place without need of cement...

kai 30th July 2007 08:46 AM

Hello Gene,

Just as an aside: the magnetic field seems to follow the blades curve - is it possible that the (relatively) low forging temperature of wootz allows an original ingot to remain magnetized? That still wouldn't explain the reversal though!

I know that a magnetized steel needle becomes depolarized when heated to glowing red - what about dendritic steel though? Need to pull out my compass and test another recurved blade...


Jens Nordlunde 30th July 2007 04:42 PM

Nice kard you have Kronckew, and you are right, it is the same type of smiley. Do you have any idea; even a guess would do at this time, of what the meaning can be? I believe the channel in which the balls run must have been made finished before the balls were entered. If the front had been more open in a place, and when the balls were in place had to be hammered back in place, it could easily have happened that the part being hammered at could/would have been hammered a bit too much down, and spoil the running of the balls. To my opinion the place where the balls were entered must be hidden by one of the grip shells.

Well Gene, you surely have a nice collection of compasses as well as weapons, and you are a specialist in finding blades with a multiply of poles:). Do you demand a compass reading before you buy, or do you make the test when you have the weapon? It looks rather confusing, and maybe Kai is onto something, but on the other hand, I thought that iron/steel would loose the magnetism then you hit it. It is some time ago I read this thread but the answer to the question should be hidden in one of the posts.

rand 30th July 2007 05:41 PM

Magnetic directions
Fascinating posts,

Jens, what a well researched reply, was a pleasure to read.

Am I correct that the compass's point towards the thickest part of the blade is, namesly the tip and the bolsa?


Jens Nordlunde 30th July 2007 09:47 PM

Thank you Rand, but like I wrote to Gene, it was only a few books and a little time. I know/understand, unfortunately, very little about the magnetism, but lodestone fascinates me – the time span it has been known and used, and the believes in this metal – fascinates me.

When it comes to the compass reading please ask Gene:p.

Mare Rosu 31st July 2007 07:30 PM

Here we go again!
7 Attachment(s)
Very nice dogs you have, say hi to Millie and Blue for me.
I probed the inside of the slot wit a dentist tool and could not find any protrusion on the slot walls. The only seam on the chamber holding the steel ball is on the upper blade end of the chamber, it is one piece until it get to other end where the small "ring" is attached between the two wings of the hilt.

You are correct on the magnetic field following the blade contour;see photograph. If anyone hasn't done so yet, you need to read Jens "Classic" post on "Magnetic Weapons"
Get a pot of coffee or any other type of adult beverage and start finding about magnetic weapons. :p

My supply of compasses will come in handy if I ever start a survival class ;)
Do you think that my "magnetic" personalty has anything to do with my daggers? Could be now :D

I agree with you on Jen's postings he is very astute and knowledgeable and he will share that with other folks, all very good traits, I say.
Yes you are also correct on you observation on the needle points on the dagger. Also see the pictures.

Jens I a not trying to rehash you Magnetic Weapons post but did want to show anyone new about this dagger. I am now an expert on using iron fillings ;)


Jens Nordlunde 31st July 2007 09:42 PM

Gene, you are not only good at using iron fillings, you also take very good pictures. I have tried using iron fillings, but it was quite a mess, so I gave it up. I am really not quite sure how to read your compasses or you iron filling pictures, so I will have to go back to the original thread and start reading it again. Thank you for the pictures.
Do I see a bird at the base of the blade?

Mare Rosu 1st August 2007 12:49 AM

BIRD, What type?
2 Attachment(s)
Yes Jens there is a bird on each side of the dagger.
I know your are a "Flower" person ;) but can you, or anyone else tell me the identity/type of bird it is? Looks like a long bill Raven to me :D
Thanks for the kind words on my pictures.

rand 1st August 2007 07:02 AM

Iron filings and bird

The picture showing the magnetic fields relating to the blade is fascinating.

Regarding the bird, I believe the peacock was the pet of the God of War, so that may be a good choice...... Makes a good story anyway.


kronckew 1st August 2007 10:58 AM

my initial impression is also a peacock

Jens Nordlunde 1st August 2007 05:00 PM

I would have said a raven, but after having read Rand's and Kronckew's posts, and having had another look at the bird, I think it may be a peacock after all, due to the way the tail feathers are made. Besides from being a royal bird, and a pet of the God of war, the peacock is a very good watch bird and will make a lot of noice if intruders try to get in where they have nothing to do.

rand 1st August 2007 10:15 PM

Metalwork on Bolsa & Tang
Its also interesting that the bird is chiseled into the bolsa and the work on it matches the cut out for the tears of the wounded. Looks like the same tools marks to me.


Jens Nordlunde 1st August 2007 10:29 PM

Yes Rand, in this case it is, most likely, that the same man made the whole knife - interesting.

rand 2nd August 2007 06:58 AM

The Far Field- Magnetic field in wootz
Found and article about the magnetic field in wootz... based on a 16th Persian dagger purchased from Leo Figiel...


kronckew 2nd August 2007 07:45 AM

the graphic mag plot appears to be a fractal much like this mandelbrot plot.

chaos theory in action....

Andrew 2nd August 2007 02:31 PM


Originally Posted by rand
Found and article about the magnetic field in wootz... based on a 16th Persian dagger purchased from Leo Figiel...


That article contains some terms I am unfamiliar with: "Yesodic entities", "the Darks", "Briahtic structures".

kronckew 2nd August 2007 03:28 PM

Have a look at the related web page: HERE

looks a bit piscatorial to me. someone forgot to take their meds and hasn't properly grounded their tinfoil hat. or they're trying to apply some serious traction to our legs.....

i like the kard in the illustration which is NOT the one in the article, just 'similar'

:D :D

i have a related question: how do you spell 'spoof' ?

Mare Rosu 3rd August 2007 08:15 PM

Man, go away for a day or two and looks what happens to this thread! ;)
Starting at the top and working down.

Rand; Kronckew; Jens, Thank you for the bird (be careful now) information, so we now all agree it is a Peacock.

Rand, just where in the world? did you come up with that story on Figiel's blade? some strange information.
only to be toped by Kronckew post on the even more stranger information!

Andrew at least you got your information about the meanings of those words, so did I, I just hope you understand it better than I do, which is not at all :confused:

"At some point, far in the past, cross-Domain contact between Yesod and Briah was established. This may be a natural phenomenon or may be (hard as it is to believe) the result of an intelligent manipulation of natural laws by the Darks."

Hard to believe?? He sure got that right, man, that is some heavy stuff going on here.
I think Rivkin needs to post, and tell us just what is going on with all of this
stuff ;)
I thank (I think) Rand and Kronckew for the information, I just need to lay down for awhile.

rand 3rd August 2007 08:27 PM

Far Field
Hey Gene,

Came across that Far Field Figiel Dagger page on the net quite by accident when researching square kufic calligraphy and comapring 16th century work to 18 century work, just happened to be following this thread by coincidence and posted a link to it.

There does remain the possiblitiy that some blades have a magnetic field from the type of forging process. We could use an expert in this field here....

The dark stuff is very far fetched...

Magnetically charged yours with multidirectional opposed fields,

"What is the name given to describe the phenomenon in which there are dimensional changes associated with the magnetization of a material such as Fe, Ni, Co, etc.


"Luke, come to the dark side" lol (Star Wars)

rand 5th August 2007 08:58 PM


Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
Thanks for the nice words Gene, but you are way too kind, all I did was to look in some of my books and add a few words:o.

I have had a look in the books I have on Persian arms – no Zirah-Bhonk. This is strange, as Stone writes it is Persian, but maybe he was mistaken. I did however find one somewhat similar in ‘Weapons of the Islamic World’, it is a catalogue made for an exhibition at The Islamic Gallery in King Faisal Foundation Centre, Riyadh, 1991, page 97 #96. If the text on the picture can’t be read, here it is. ‘An Indian dagger decorated in Johar flakes. The blade and the hilt are both gilded in Kashmiri style. Indian XIVth century A.H. (19th century AD).

Stone acknowledges that his work may have errors to be corrected later, he knew his book was part of a beginning to the understanding and appreciation of arms and armor.

Edgerton has a similar admission in his book on Indian Arms and Armor.


Jens Nordlunde 5th August 2007 09:25 PM

Rand, does this mean that you think this dagger is likely to come from the NNW, rather than from Persia - I do, but I can't prove it yet.
Yes, there are errors in Stone as well as in Egerton, but they have given us a lot of knowledge as well, and writing books like they did, without errors would be almost impossible, even to day, as many of the 'newer' books also have errors.

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