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Old 10th January 2022, 02:40 PM   #1
Yvain
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Default African (?) knife

Hi everyone !


I recently bought an interesting knife, with a nice handle, but I'm having trouble determining what it is exactly.


I've seen somewhat similar daggers described as "moorish daggers" with no further information (http://www.africanarms.com/gallery?m...m-mali-39-2-cm). It also has some similarities with some faca de ponta, but the sheath looks rather african in my eyes. Someone in a group suggested that it was a Yoruba knife, but I haven't been able to find something similar.


The handle is heavy and made out of bronze with a hard wood (ebony ?) insert. The sheath is made out of leather with some textile covering, maybe red velvet originally.


I've started cleaning the blade that was deeply pitted and rusted, it has a "wavy" engraved design near the spine on both sides. The whole knife is 36.4cm long.

Thanks in advance for your help and let me know if you need any more pictures or information !
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Old 10th January 2022, 09:20 PM   #2
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An South American dagger, I guess Brazilian, I have seen 19th century Faca de Pontas like this, Mineira knife could be an other possibility.
See this threads: http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...azilian+dagger
http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...azilian+dagger
The handle construction and the bolster are give aways for me.
Very nice knife.
Attached some 19th century Faca de Pontas from my collection.

From up to down: 32,4 cm, 39 cm, 32,5 cm, 18 cm

Regards,
Detlef
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Last edited by Sajen; 10th January 2022 at 09:47 PM.
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Old 10th January 2022, 09:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
I've seen somewhat similar daggers described as "moorish daggers" with no further information (http://www.africanarms.com/gallery?m...m-mali-39-2-cm).
Wolf-Dieter is wrong in this case, the shown dagger is clearly a Faca de Ponta. The scabbard is also very typical for a FdP.
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Old 10th January 2022, 09:40 PM   #4
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Can you show a picture from the bolster like this?
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Old 11th January 2022, 07:25 AM   #5
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I agree with Sajen. Very much a Spanish-style knife with a South American hilt. Most likely from Brazil. The blade profile is a little different from the common 20th C versions of the faca da ponta, but it may be an older historical form. Trade between Spanish colonies was common, and of course such trade was the norm between Spain and its colonies. That such knives ended up in northern and western Africa is quite understandable.
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Old 11th January 2022, 08:11 AM   #6
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Thanks! 🙂



So most likely a South American knife with a West African sheath? That's quite a travel for a knife!



Here is a picture of the bolster :
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Old 11th January 2022, 08:21 AM   #7
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A Spanish knife from the Spanish Sahara. 1880 something to mid 20th century.
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Old 11th January 2022, 08:57 AM   #8
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Adding a picture of the back of the sheath, it has a Mandingo flavor to it in my opinion
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Old 11th January 2022, 03:11 PM   #9
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Also the fastening of the belt loops somehow reminds Mali .....
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Old 11th January 2022, 04:47 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
Here is a picture of the bolster :
Yes, very similar. It's somewhat typical.
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Old 11th January 2022, 04:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Simmons View Post
1880 something to mid 20th century.
Hello Tim,

First date I would agree, second is too late. Late date around 1910 would be my guess.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 11th January 2022, 04:55 PM   #12
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Hello all,

I am not sure if the scabbard is West African work. Could even be a replacement scabbard from South America.
Many West African knife scabbards have a wooden core so far I have seen.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 12th January 2022, 09:57 AM   #13
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Hi Detlef,



While the origin of the knife itself is still somewhat mysterious, I'm pretty sure the sheath is African.


In addition to the general look of it, the belt loops and their fastening are typically African (for example : https://www.quaibranly.fr/fr/explore...-gaine/page/6/) as well as the stitching and type of leather used.


I might add that I picked this knife from a lot of North-West African, see picture attached.
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Old 12th January 2022, 11:39 AM   #14
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Dealers frequently lump items together in groups and get descriptions and origins completely wrong. A past owner may have added the loops to a sheath meant to be shoved in behind a belt, like most South American knives. The subject knife doesn't seem to fit in the group of knives in the last post.
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Old 12th January 2022, 06:04 PM   #15
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Hi Yvain,

Possible, you have it in hand!

It could be that the knife right from the one in question is a Faca de Ponta as well but I need to see the blade.

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 12th January 2022, 08:47 PM   #16
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Well, while searching for similar sheaths to make some comparisons, I did found something very interesting, namely the first picture below. Sadly, I wasn't able to find its source or anymore information about it besides the file name ("mandingo short sword old african dagger antique knife"), but I think this is still a very interesting find for several reasons.


First, and even without seeing the blade, it is a way closer match to my knife than any faca de ponta I've seen before : the handle is very similar in shape, seems to be entirely made out of bronze/brass, and with the same central turned, dark wood insert ; at first I even thought it was an old picture of my knife before noticing some slight differences. Second very interesting point : the sheath, which is also in a very distinctive african fashion, similar to what can be seen on some Mandingo/Malian knives.


It's not much, but it is definitely adding weight to Tim Simmons theory, and I would love if he could tell me more about it.


Kronckew :


This lot was sold by a private seller, not a dealer, and considering the comparable state of all of the knives, I'm led to believe that the lot wasn't created yesterday, but I might be wrong. Regarding the sheath, I don't think the loops were added later : the leather is similar to what was used on the rest of the sheath and shows similar wear, it is also a very common fastening method on african knives (see examples below) ; also, the embroidered motives made out of thin leather strips reminds me of what can be found on some Mandingo knives sheaths.


Detlef :

I also have a picture with the knives out of their sheaths, but I don't think the knife to the right of mine is a faca de ponta.




Anyway, thanks a lot to all of you for your help and suggestions, this is very interesting !
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Old 13th January 2022, 05:10 AM   #17
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Hello Yvain,
The knife that you referenced belongs to me and is almost an exact match, except mine, is larger, almost a sword. The craftsmanship is excellent, and the scabbard is almost identical except that it doesn't have the loops, however, this could be due to the poor condition of my sheath and they may have fallen off. The scabbard is leather, with a burlap-type cloth insert as is yours; there isn't any evidence that it had a wooden lining.
The pommel has a minaret tower look to it which would indicate its Islamic influence and since the Mandingo People are 99% Muslim, this certainly wouldn't detract from its attribution to these people.
I found this weapon to be well made, sturdy and I would guess a very efficient fighting knife.
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Old 13th January 2022, 06:15 AM   #18
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Yvain,

The knife is a Chinese dagger, often called pirate dagger.
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Old 13th January 2022, 08:41 AM   #19
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Wow that's amazing Drac2k!



I didn't expect the actual owner of it to show up! Do you happen to have better pictures of it, and would you mind sharing them here? Do you have any additional information about its provenance?
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Old 13th January 2022, 10:45 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
Yvain,

The knife is a Chinese dagger, often called pirate dagger.
I agree, this is a pirate dagger from the Vietnam-China border. The Chinese attribute these items to the Zhuang people, and the Vietnamese to the Nung people.
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Old 13th January 2022, 10:48 AM   #21
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I would not make any judgements based on a scabbard, dealers have a habit of mix and match.

I was once offered a really nice small Dha, in a steel bayonet scabbard, and I asked if he had the original that came with it. He did, and so I bought the piece.... he had swapped scabbards because he thought the steel bayonet scabbard made it more saleable.
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Old 13th January 2022, 11:06 AM   #22
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David,



While I definitely agree with you on the principle, I think that it might be more significant in this case, since the sheath fits the knife perfectly (even following the shape of the blade), and, more importantly, since at least one other example (Drac2k's sword) displays a similar sheath. More pictures of Drac2k's sword would certainly allow us to learn more on the subject.
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Old 13th January 2022, 03:03 PM   #23
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Sure thing. While all things are possible, my bet is on African; also the scabbard fits perfectly(what is left of it).
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Old 13th January 2022, 06:35 PM   #24
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Thank you very much for the pictures Drac2k ! It's truly amazing how similar they are, did a quick and dirty comparison between the two. How long is the sword approximately ?

Regarding the sheath, it definitely looks African (Mandingo ?) to me, and I'm starting to doubt that two very similar faca de ponta somehow ending up in African sheaths is a coincidence. I definitely need do to more research !
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Old 14th January 2022, 08:18 PM   #25
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Enclosed is photo of scabbard from Mali with a typical cord fastening
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Old 14th January 2022, 08:46 PM   #26
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I wonder to what extent we are being led astray by perceived similarities, possibly due to a common origin, and possibly due to convergent evolution.... I am thinking of the stacked grips, which do have differences in construction, and appearance.
I also wonder to what extent the European blade makers were finishing their product, were they fitting the hilts up to the markets taste, or just exporting bare blades.
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Old 17th January 2022, 06:21 PM   #27
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Default Don't Dismiss African Origin

Hi All,

I think that Yvain's knife is very likely African. I found a website (http://www.africanarms.com/gallery?a...nife&ba-page=3) which shows a group of five daggers listed as Manding. The leftmost and center daggers in the set look so much like faca de ponta that frankly, if either dagger were to be accompanied by a characteristic fdp sheath, I don't think anyone would have too much problem seeing them as Brazilian fdp. The above website has other Manding examples that look a lot like fdp. The site also shows an actual fdp and says, "This is a Brazilian so-called Faca de Ponta, around 1900, you can see here the Spanish influence in Africa as well as in South America". It should also be noted that a huge portion of Brazil's population has African ancestry, much of it Manding.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 17th January 2022, 10:10 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT View Post
Hi All,

I think that Yvain's knife is very likely African. I found a website (http://www.africanarms.com/gallery?a...nife&ba-page=3) which shows a group of five daggers listed as Manding. The leftmost and center daggers in the set look so much like faca de ponta that frankly, if either dagger were to be accompanied by a characteristic fdp sheath, I don't think anyone would have too much problem seeing them as Brazilian fdp. The above website has other Manding examples that look a lot like fdp. The site also shows an actual fdp and says, "This is a Brazilian so-called Faca de Ponta, around 1900, you can see here the Spanish influence in Africa as well as in South America". It should also be noted that a huge portion of Brazil's population has African ancestry, much of it Manding.
Hello Rob,

When you look closely you can see the differences, especially where the handle meets the visible blade. Old facas also have a thick bolster, often with brass or german silver.
But for sure you can see the influence.
BTW, the shown faca on this site is the one mentioned above.

Best regards,
Detlef
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Old 18th January 2022, 01:24 AM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
... When you look closely you can see the differences, especially where the handle meets the visible blade. Old facas also have a thick bolster, often with brass or German silver.
But for sure you can see the influence. ...
i agree with the differences noted by Detlef. Faca da ponta typically have a brass (yellow or white) wrapped bolster and somewhat different hilt styles to those shown from Mali, the latter showing some adaptations of the Spanish style embodied in faca. There is a class of larger 18-19th C Spanish knives, often called "Mediterranean knives," that share some similarities with the faca da ponta. These Mediterranean knives have a short, brass-wrapped bolster and come in thin brass sheaths that are highly engraved. They are not very common, but are a nicely made decorative knife. A picture is attached from the Ashoka Arts web site.

.
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Old 18th January 2022, 03:16 AM   #30
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Yvain, sorry about the late reply; the blade is 16" long x 2" wide with a total length of 21" long.
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