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Old 15th January 2021, 04:02 AM   #1
Skiendubh
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Default Khyber knife?

Years ago, I bought a "Khyber Knife". It is 23" overall, with an 18" blade, of typical profile. However, recently I found out that Khyber Knives are 'T' shape in cross section, mine is flat. So, is this a non typical Khyber Knife, a blade from another region which is of similar profile, but flat, or is it a nicely made, and aged , fake? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 15th January 2021, 07:58 PM   #2
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Pictures would be useful if you can upload them.
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Old 17th January 2021, 09:59 AM   #3
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Skiendubh:

If you are having trouble uploading files, please read the sticky near the top of the Ethnographic Forum index about uploading pictures. If you still have problems please PM me and we can sort it out. Please note the maximum file sizes allowed--this is the most common problem with uploading files.

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Old 11th February 2021, 12:37 AM   #4
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Thank you Bob A and Ian, for your replies. I did try to upload a picture, unsuccessfully. I'm sorry Ian, but I didn't know where to find the sticky note, whatever that is, and what is a PM? Can you supply a more easy to follow instruction for a newbie like myself to follow? I tried to ask FAQ for an answer, no luck there either. Your help is greatly appreciated. Skiendubh.
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Old 12th February 2021, 12:47 PM   #5
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Posting Images Instructions
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Old 12th February 2021, 01:13 PM   #6
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Go to "Ethnographic Weapons" third post down. You will have to resize your pictures to less than 1280 on the largest side.



Sorry duplicate instructions. Delete if possible.

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Old 19th March 2021, 01:54 AM   #7
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Default Khyber knife?

Here is the picture of my "Khyber"? knife. Hopefully someone will recognize what it is.
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Old 20th March 2021, 12:30 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
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Welcome to the forum! Excellent pen name, skean dubh!!!

Your weapon is of course the well known Afghan 'Khyber knife', which is an odd term as these are essentially deadly short swords and often quite large, far beyond the 'knife' description.

In the Afghan regions, these were used by various tribes throughout the Khyber Agency of the British Raj, which while including the Khyber Pass proper, also the surrounding regions. So it is difficult to assign a specific region or tribe to single weapons unless there is specific motif in decoration.

These were used throughout the 19th century and well into modern times, but remain indigenous to Afghanistan, where locally they are termed 'silliwar', hence the colloquial British term 'salawar yataghan'.

Yours is probably end of 19th c.into 20th and used tribally during the many Afghan wars and insurgences from 1879 onward. The use of these is most well known with the Afridi and Waziri tribes, and are mentioned as Khyber knives by Kipling in his well known prose.
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Old 20th March 2021, 04:29 PM   #9
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It's not a typical piece certainly.... but you do get a fair bit of variation with tribal weapons. The hilt makes me suspect that it was made closer to central Asia than those usually seen.
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Old 20th March 2021, 05:02 PM   #10
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On the blade there is a hole near the hilt.
Perhaps this means reusing the blade,
and explains the not a typical form blade for this Khyber knife
the hole is a trace from the langeta of the hilt of the Khanda or Firangi sword (?)

Last edited by Saracen; 20th March 2021 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 21st March 2021, 12:29 AM   #11
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Holes like this make me strongly associate with Soviet provincial museums. Through them, objects were attached to the wall so that they would not be stolen.
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Old 21st March 2021, 12:41 AM   #12
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Yes), and at the bottom right in the photo is the bolt with which this khyber knife was attached to the wall)
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Old 22nd March 2021, 08:23 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saracen
Yes), and at the bottom right in the photo is the bolt with which this khyber knife was attached to the wall)
? - Bolt Looks a bit big for the hole

I'd go for the Russian museum theory. The lack of a T-spine is unusual, never seen one like that before. Grip looks a bit chunky & odd near the pommel end too. Museum replica from a picture? Looks more like a largish pesh kabz (which also usually had a T-Spine), also a 'khyber' area knife/sword.

More dimensions/weight would help, blade thickness at the grip and near the tip (ie. is it distal tapered), is it sharp? Full exposed tang or hidden tang, end peened? Shame there is no scabbard, it helps define it.

(I believe they were T-spined because the blades were fairly thin, and generally not the best steel. It added rigidity and allowed for a thinner, finer edge angle for slicing rather than stabbing.) See also What is a Khyber Knife

Mine for example. A more typical one. Note the very slight S recurve to the spine, one reason they are considered by some to be Salawar Yataghans. 22 in. blade, 5.5 in. grip:
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Last edited by kronckew; 22nd March 2021 at 09:07 AM.
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Old 22nd March 2021, 11:05 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
? - Bolt Looks a bit big for the hole
This is not a problem for Soviet workers in provincial museums.
I like Ren Ren's idea too, but reusing old blades is not a rare thing.
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Old 22nd March 2021, 12:40 PM   #15
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Thank you Saracen! These are interesting examples.
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Old 22nd June 2021, 11:51 PM   #16
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Default Khyber knife?

Thank you for your comments. I have heard that holes were drilled by the English to mount blades on their walls. So the Russians did this as well, or maybe the English didn't drill the holes, just the Russians? Thank you. The bolt in the picture holds my machine vice to a lump of timber, which gives stability and ease of manipulating various jobs in a more secure manner than the old reliable Mark 1, five finger vice. The blade isn't really flat, but kinda oval, it is sharp along one edge, with a consistent bevel of 0.250" and has a semi [ butter knife? ] sharp back edge , about 5" long, before it tapers out to a 0.100" thickness at the hilt, and the blade also distally tapers, it is 0.150" at the hilt, and is 0.125 just back from the point. The tang is full profile, with slabs of wood held by 3 pins, and the handle does taper towards the butt. At the the butt, it is 1.325" and where the metal starts, the wood is 1.125". I think that this answers the questions in your comments. About my name, I was told that sgian dubh is celt for black knife/sword, and that black could be interpreted as covert. I use skien as it is phonically correct, as well, and sgiandubh is/has been used by other people as their nom de plume. So once again, a big thank you to all.
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Old 23rd June 2021, 02:41 AM   #17
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Default Khyber knife?

I thank all of you people for your replies. So, on the whole, I take it that the consensus is that I do have an atypical Khyber knife?

Anyhow, for my replies.

Firstly, skien dubh is celtic for black knife/sword. I read that dubh can also refer to something hidden/covert, and it was a hidden/covert blade when worn in the sock of a Scot, and maybe Irish? It is usually written as sgian dubh, but this is usually already taken, so I use this alternate phonetic spelling as my nom de plume.

As for the hole in the blade, which is 0.125" in diameter, I was informed that it was used by the English to mount blades on their walls, so you say that it was also used by the Russians. Or was it just the Russians? Good to know anyway.

The bolt in the picture is used to mount my machine vice to a lump of wood, which gives a mobile and reasonably stable work place to hold pieces to work on. Not ideal, but a whole lot better than the Mark 1 mobile vice. a.k.a. Hand.

More measurements. The blade is 18” long, and 1.970” wide at the base. As seen, it tapers gradually towards the point, and the taper increases within the last inch or so, to the point. The cross section of the blade isn't really flat, more flat/oval ish, The edge is sharp and is the entire length of one side, and has a 0.250” bevel associated with it. It has a 'butter knife' sharp swage/false edge, is 5” long, which then tapers out to 0.100” wide at the hilt. The blade does have a distill taper, and starts at 0.150” at the hilt, going down to 0.125” measured at 0.500” [ where the bevels of both edges start ] back from the point.

The handle is 4.950" from the blade to the butt, and has a full profile tang with the bolsters attached to the hilt, don't know how, as I cannot see any rivets or solder. The wood is attached by 3 rivets. The wood also tapers, starting at 1.175” behind the bolsters, and goes to 1.375” thick, 0.750” from the butt.

It had a basic wooden scabbard, which followed the shape of the blade. which was covered in thin black leather, same as a Kukeri scabbard normally uses. It was in extremely poor condition, so I discarded it.

I have also heard that English doctors of the era commented about the normal habit of using these blades was to slash the enemies, and rarely, if ever, were they used to stab, though the shape cries out that they were really well designed to stab with. My opinion. And the fact that my blade is flat, as opposed to the normal 't' cross section blades, is why I wondered if it really is a Khyber knife or not. One time I cleaned the blade and thought that I saw it was patterned, like wootz steel. Though I haven't seen it since that one time. Imagination?
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Old 24th June 2021, 09:38 AM   #18
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There is not much rhyme and reason to Afghani traditional weapons. Tribes had their local peculiar features, to which even their own village armorers subscribed quite loosely. And taking into account that similar swords were manufactured across the country, up north in various emirates in what is now Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, other “stans” , India and Persia, by everyone with a hammer and an anvil ( or even a more or less flat boulder), the variability must have been enormous. Indeed, some are straight, some are recurved, diferent sizes , widths etc. I have seen pictures of contemporary Uzbeki bazaars where similar items were sold from a knife stand as just butcher knives. However, a false edge you describe is another non=traditional feature. Usually, these “ khybers” had no false edges. Would be nice to be able to see it photographed. How thick is the blade? It is a modestly unusual “khyber”, but khyber it is. Age-wise it is likely between 1830 and 1930: not a lot of cultural revolutions happened in that bizarre part of the world,,,,
In general, better pics of the different sides of the handle might be interesting. Is it wooden? Any losses?

I have been to a couple of old British bars with Indian and Afghani swords nailed to the wall. Provincial Russian museums have no monopoly on such a way of assuring that the visitors would not hack each other to pieces. I do not think that this blade was ever mounted on a “khanda” handle: the hole is quite off-center and neatly drilled. I am with the nail croud:-), a
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Old 24th June 2021, 05:34 PM   #19
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I agree that this Khyber knife could have been nailed to the wall, since there are so many of you, supporters of this idea, and Ariel is with you )
Only the secondary use of the blade is really not uncommon.
In two photos from oriental-arms, the drawings around the holes show that they were made on a hot blade during its manufacture (thanks to the eagle eye of RenRen ).
And it is unlikely that anyone raised a hand to nail it to the wall of the bar with two nails.
And on a seriously resharpening, reformatted blade it is useless to try to understand whether there was a hole in the center.
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Old 24th June 2021, 07:17 PM   #20
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In addition to being off center, the hole is far too close to the bolster to support the “ basket” khanda handle theory.
I checked my 5 “khanda” handle swords ; the rivets on all of them are 8-12 cm away from the base. That makes a good engineering sense: the farther away on the blade is the support point ( the rivet), the more forceful should be the blow to the blade to dislodge it. Also, I cannot recall ever seeing a “khyber” with the “ khanda” handle, although some modern Indian forgers might have created something like that:-)
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Old 24th June 2021, 08:50 PM   #21
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Alternatively: the khanda (firangi) blade was broken at the hilt, and the khyber knife handle was formed again closer to the hole.
And the bartender didn't even have to drill a hole to nail the khyber knife to the wall
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Old 25th June 2021, 02:47 AM   #22
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I am just curious, WHY in the world would a 'Khyber' be mounted with a khanda hilt? or even a tulwar hilt?

The fact that this blade is a variant with the typical T-spine absent does not disqualify it as being of the form and probably from anywhere in the Afghan regions where these were used.

The only other Khyber blades that had 'other ' hilts mounted on them were the military style forms produced in the Machin Khana in Kabul post 2nd Afghan war (1879-80)..These were for the tribal forces serving in para military police character policing tribal areas, and while many of these had standard military blades.....many tribesmen preferred their own blades.

Throughout the Northwest Frontier and well into the Khyber Agency, there were many itinerant blacksmiths and metal workers who could have produced such similar blades following this profile, but without necessary means to produce the finer details such as the T back.

With the holes, on the examples shown with vestigial 'tunkou' as seen on yataghan blades etc. being filled with gold metal is a very old feature seen on some Islamic blades, and supposed to have certain talismanic associations. In the case of old Mamluk blades some had anywhere from one to seven holes filled in this manner.
While the other seems to have the hole in the tunkou and filled with silver metal.

There are cases of blades in the Sudan having holes drilled and filled with gold metal (probably copper) in this manner.

It is tempting to think of the British term for the Khyber as 'silliwar yataghan' and colloquially 'Khyber knife'. The Afghan term (not sure which dialect) for these is silliwar. The yataghan appellation seems odd and interesting to see examples with the tunkou feature.

The attached is an example of the 'military' style hilt as produced in Machin Khana mounted with tribal blade, the doves are a Persian affinity, which of course was prevalent in these regions.
Below that is an example of the 'military' style sword produced at Machin Khana, with the Royal Stamp and dated 1890.
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Last edited by Jim McDougall; 25th June 2021 at 03:04 AM.
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Old 25th June 2021, 01:35 PM   #23
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The local name of the Afgani short straight or recurved sword T-bladed ( Brits called it “ khyber knife”) is Selavah.

There is a short sword in Dekkan ( straight or recurved, T-bladed) called Sailaba.

Short Kazakh and Kirghiz sword with straight or curved blade : Selebe or Seleve .

Old cossack side weapon with short and heavy blade was called suleba or (diminutive- affectionate form ) selyabka or sulebka.


One can not unreasonably hypothesize that all of these patterns and names stem from the Central-Asian source with Turkic roots and were brought to the Indo-Afghani areal with Babur in the 16th century.
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Old 25th June 2021, 02:14 PM   #24
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Jim,
I presume that your last post contained photos of two different weapons. Am I correct? The upper one does not show the entire blade: thus we cannot be sure whether it has a native “ khyber” blade.
But the lower one is just a mass-produced military version with a blade known to us since 1879. It has nothing to do with the focus of this discussion, i.e. Afghani “ selavah”.It is a pureiy European short sword imported from different sources or, less likely, forged in some local workshop as a copy of it. The stamp might have been put in the Kabuli Mashin Khana or elsewhere.
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Old 25th June 2021, 04:02 PM   #25
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Ariel,
Thank you so much for the clarification on the regional terms for these swords. It has only been in recent years that the actual term used locally for the 'Khyber knife' became known, and quite honestly I was unclear on the spelling and etymology of the term, selavah....which I recalled phonetically as silliwar (?).

The term 'salawar yataghan' was for many years expressed as a sort of collective term for these in general discussions, and I always wondered what 'salawar' was (I actually thought it might be a place at one time).
Then the term 'yataghan' seemed bizarre as clearly this huge knife had obviously had nothing to do with the yataghan form. I thought perhaps some sort of 'Hobson-Jobson' term the British came up with.
Colloquially however, they referred to this as a 'Khyber knife'....again defying literal reason as typically they were more of a sword with blade of knife shape.

On the illustrations, I should have made it more clear, and shown the entire blade on the 'dove enlaid' Khyber, though it seemed obvious as one had a bone grip. My intent was to show the type of hilt which was in cases placed on the Khyber blades, and I thought that the back fuller (which creates the T spine) was visible enough to distinquish .

The second weapon is very different, and indeed a 'production' model from the Machin Khana (1890), again the objective was to show where this alternative hilt form sometimes placed on Khyber's came from , and why.
Since we were discussing 'alternative' hilts being mounted on Khyber knives, it seemed pertinent and a salient factor.

It has never been entirely clear where these heavy and deeply channeled blades came from, but they were indeed used in the assembly of these swords at Machin Khana (c.1890s) where the royal stamp was added.
As the Machin Khana was primarily British subsidized and the focus on production was on rifles, I always thought this might be the reason for the 'bayonet' like construction of the hilt, much like 'sword bayonets'.
Again, I digress

attached, full Khyber previously noted.

And return to the original question...why in the world would anyone put a khanda hilt on a Khyber?
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Old 25th June 2021, 06:45 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Since we were discussing 'alternative' hilts being mounted on Khyber knives, it seemed pertinent and a salient factor.
Hi, Jim. Probably my English played a cruel joke, but we are not discussing alternative hilts installed on the Khyber knife.
I was talking about the khanda blade or, perhaps, firangi blade, which after a breakdown, was transformed, reworked, reformatted, resharpening into a khyber knife blade and received a corresponding handle for khyber knife. From the broken blade of khanda the khyber knife blade was made. This is indicated in my opinion by the hole on the blade, the absence of a T-bladed and an uncharacteristic sharpening of the tip. I'm sorry if I was inaccurate at first.
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Old 25th June 2021, 10:06 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saracen View Post
Hi, Jim. Probably my English played a cruel joke, but we are not discussing alternative hilts installed on the Khyber knife.
I was talking about the khanda blade or, perhaps, firangi blade, which after a breakdown, was transformed, reworked, reformatted, resharpening into a khyber knife blade and received a corresponding handle for khyber knife. From the broken blade of khanda the khyber knife blade was made. This is indicated in my opinion by the hole on the blade, the absence of a T-bladed and an uncharacteristic sharpening of the tip. I'm sorry if I was inaccurate at first.

Ahah!
Thank you for the explanation, and I was totally off on the wrong course.
That sounds like a viable theory, and of course as with many blades they are reworked and reprofiled in so many cases. I am often known to pursue unusual lines of thinking, as my wife says, chasing zebras when I hear hoof beats. Thank you for your patience
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Old 25th June 2021, 11:06 PM   #28
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This is completely my fault. I couldn't explain my thought.
Thank you for "reprofiled"
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