Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Anton1 27th February 2020 09:04 PM

Lohar from Afghanistan
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I was wondering if anyone can give me more information about this lohar from Afghanistan. How old do you think it might me?

mahratt 28th February 2020 04:12 AM

Hi Anton

I like this lohar. I think it was made in the early 20th century. However, I see a completely non-typical handle ... It seems to me that the original handle has been replaced ...

Ian 28th February 2020 12:30 PM

Hi Anton:

Some time back I tried to find out how far back these decorative axes went. Best I could determine they were made mostly in the latter part of the 19th C into the first half of the 20th C, with the folding versions appearing in the early 20th C. Typically, the non-folding variety, like your example, has a wooden handle. Mahratt may well be correct that a wooden handle has been replaced on yours.


Jens Nordlunde 28th February 2020 04:00 PM

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Here is a picture from Stone, and a quote from his A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armour. In All Countries and in all Times.

LOHAR. A small pick used in place of a sword by the Banochie tribe, a Khyber tribe. Each man makes his own and decorates the handle with inlays of silver and brass. Each individual has his own pattterns which differ from those used by others, though all are similar.

Stone writes in the text to the illustration. 'The handle and the back of the blade are inlaid with silver.

This is interesting, as he points out that the decoration is only at the back of the blade - and not on both sides.

ariel 28th February 2020 05:33 PM

I agree with Jens.

Lohar was a custom-made implement and its size, materials and decoration were a one-time-only reflection of its master's wishes at a particular moment.
Folding Lohar was mechanically standard in terms of its mode of folding , but that was the only common feature . A master of solid ( not folding) Lohars had no such limitations and could create anything his imagination and available materials dictated.
Also, since we have no idea what Lohar was for ( ice-pick? sugar-"head" pick? sickle? a fighting implement similar to the previously discussed allegedly anti-cavalry giant Spanish one? a multifunction one? ) it is impossible to guess the particulars of its construction.
I tend to think that the presented example is likely to be fully genuine.

As to the age, Afghani weapons, especially from the Khyber area, were rarely dated. I have seen ch'huras dated mid-second half of 20th century, but the greatest majority can be any time from 19th ( or even earlier) to modern. I am aware of 19th century ch'huras in old collections, but have yet to encounter a genuinely old dated Lohar, but ....hope springs eternal :-)

mahratt 29th February 2020 11:48 AM

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Afghans (of Tajik origin) called the above-described lohar as daas (داس) and identified as an agricultural implement (information from modern Afghans). Apparently "daas" is a distorted Tajik word "dos". This word is related to agricultural implements. Sickle was a harvesting tool for the Uzbeks called "urok" or "urak" by the Uzbeks, the Tajiks called it "dos" and "dost". Such sickles are widely spread in Central Asia and described by many researchers and in its different parts . For example a similar sickle existed on the territory of present day Kyrgyzstan called orok .
Afghanistan was not ignored. "Trade tools used by the Afghans are of types widespread in the Western and Central Asia, and Northern India ... The Afghans called sickle as a lor" . The most interesting for us is that all of the abovementioned sickles differ from each other by names, their appearance and materials used for manufacturing are almost identical. And they are much alike to a considered lohar. A curved iron blade with internal sharpening merging into a narrow iron sickle pin where wooden handle is mounted underneath, circular in section . We believe that «lohar» described by Stone is an ordinary sickle traditionally used by the Afghans; they called it lor (Drawing of the sickle used by the people of Afghanistan.) On a related note it is possible that the term «lohar» arisen due to the fact that the word "lor" standing for sickle, was heard and wrote incorrectly and reached Stone in a distorted form.
Sickles being similar in shape often differ in size: "According to the purpose the Tajiks of Afghanistan subdivided sickles into sickles to harvest various herbage "dos and kadrav", sickle to harvest bread crops "dos and gandumdaravi", sickle to cut trees branches ... " . An important point is a small size of sickle blade in XIX- early XX century (10-15 cm) related to high cost of iron . Not least important is that the sickle for the Central Asian people is not only an agricultural tool but also a sacred object used in various ceremonies.
For example when the first stripping from cowshed they put sickle or ax, in case of no sickle, under the doorstep so that the animals' "souls were stronger than iron" . During one of the rites Boboi Dekhon (patron of agriculture) called for the blessing of the spirit-patron into the new farmer and passed sickle over to the boy's hands . Dance with sickles is also known reproducing harvest process that was performed by men solely and exclusively and dance of "Stork" performed by women and also associated with the fertility cult . A sickle was used to cut the cord of newborn in some areas . Sickle was considered a reliable protection from evil spirits .
In a similar way to the abovementioned sickles we believe that the lohars initially described by Stone were used as sickles to harvest. Large samples were the sickles. Occurring of richly decorated small samples with a hilt made of bone, unsuitable for its primary function - cutting of stems, most likely due to the fact that these objects were used during various ceremonies in the families. And they acted as dwelling decoration in the daily time. This besides explains why they are decorated with only one hand and on the other hand they are smooth.
Were lohars used as weapons? Absolutely they were. There are a number of evidences for it. For example there was a proverb among locals in the valley of Bannu: "A sickle is an Afghan knife for a real man" ,where a sickle was directly associated with a knife. It appears that sickles were not only a criminal weapon ,but also a weapon of intra-tribal fights when solving domestic conflicts, Bellew writes about (Bellew H. W. Journal of a Political Mission to Afghanistan is an account of a mission undertaken by Henry Burnett Lumsden, a British officer in the Indian army, to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1857, London, Smith, Elder and co., 1862; Currie F. The Indian Criminal Codes, London, 1872) ,it was used in the battles between the tribes as well (men of the Talla and the Wazirs) when a sickle was used as well as bladed weapon (sword) .

More information can be found in my book: "Edged Weapons of Afghanistan":

mariusgmioc 29th February 2020 12:43 PM

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and the Japanese Kama...

Ibrahiim al Balooshi 29th February 2020 12:57 PM

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The Folding Version of the Lohar.

I am fairly sure that the modern application of copied Lohar today includes many that are for sale in the famous Chicken Street Kabul Souk...It is a subject the young apprentices in many workshops will be tasked with making..Here it is in its folding version. :shrug:

I just wanted to add that the superb detail presented by Mahratt is excellent background into this tool/weapon of Afghanistan.

Kubur 29th February 2020 01:38 PM


Originally Posted by Ibrahiim al Balooshi
I just wanted to add that the superb detail presented by Mahratt is excellent background into this tool/weapon of Afghanistan.

this guy wrote a book and devoted more than 40 pages to this topic, p. 392-435. He is THE expert.

Stone's Glossary
I think it's a good proof to say that your Lohar is original and very similar in Stone's book.
About 'The handle and the back of the blade are inlaid with silver.
In fact it was probably the front as many arms are decorated on one side, the side exposed and not the back side.

Jim McDougall 29th February 2020 04:39 PM

I'd like to also second the comments on the work of Dima, his brilliant book, and his scholarship as evidenced by this outstanding study of the 'lohar'.
I recall years ago trying to study these, and in a kind of 'red herring' event, thought that the term was for the language and term 'lohar' used to describe itinerant blacksmiths who traveled these regions and fashioned these (as thought) and other tools and weaponry(?).

Stone believed these to be indiginous to the Bannuchi tribes inside the Khyber area, and that the men fashioned their own 'lohar' in personalized fashion.
That would seem rather suspect as such skills are not inherent in every man.

These are fascinating implements, whatever capacity in which they are regarded, and excellent ethnographic items from these Afghan regions.
As always, whether agricultural or utility item, these served as well as weapons of opportunity or warfare. The rank and file of many tribal forces often relied on tools and implements as their weapons as needed.

I would note that these 'lohar' seem to often be of rather small size, but I have always thought that made them ideal for concealment within the folds of clothing. This would serve well in the times with weapons forbidden by occupying forces as well as use by assassins.
The 'pick' type blade would well penetrate a turban with force of a haft.

Outstanding work Dima!! Thank you for the references as well!

Ian 1st March 2020 10:28 AM

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My (non-folding) example. I would estimate late 19th C. The hilt has a wooden core with brass adornments.



Ian 1st March 2020 10:36 AM

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And a folding type for comparison.



Ian 1st March 2020 11:04 AM


Originally Posted by Jens Nordlunde
... Stone writes in the text to the illustration. 'The handle and the back of the blade are inlaid with silver.

This is interesting, as he points out that the decoration is only at the back of the blade - and not on both sides.

Jens, if you look at all the other examples posted here, the orientation of the Stone example is reversed. One possibility is that the Stone picture has been transposed, another is that the Stone example is a left-handed version of this weapon/tool. In each of the other examples, the decoration is on the front of the blade, so I think it is more likely that the Stone picture is indeed a left-handed version.


ariel 1st March 2020 11:34 AM

Can we guess the dominant function of a Lohar by the configuration of its edge/tip?

Most of the examples shown here are hawkbills ( talons) with somewhat concave edge. That would imply their function as mainly cutting implements ( sickles, for example ). The last two folders shown by Ian have clip points, more suitable for precise breaking up, chipping at or picking at something hard, such as ice ( in a way, a zagnol-type ).

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