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Old 8th May 2022, 05:54 AM   #91
Jim McDougall
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Default Comparitive examples

Wanted to add these three with notes:
1. This is what may best be called 'Maghrebi' as these are found from Algeria to Morocco, but typically they are known to collectors as Moroccan sa'if.
The mark at the forte is located in the same place as typically these are found on Algerian examples (Briggs, 1965). There are varied marks but significance unclear.
2. This is the so called 'Zanzibar' form, which term seems to have developed in the 80s and possibly from numbers of these which were apparently sent into Yemen from there. This was one of about 40 discovered in a Yemeni arsenal (?).
The markings of three crosses on the blade may be interpretations of German blade markings.As previously noted, Buttin (1933) makes no notice of these being peculiar to Zanzibar and terms them Arab sa'if only.

3. A sa'if of 19th c.(possibly earlier) Hadhramaut, according to Elgood and Lebedynsky, which may have silverwork from Hyderabad. There appear to be two hilt forms, the one with canted pommel and hand nock, and this more karabela form. Hadhramaut is of course a Yemeni region.

The pages are from Elgood ("Arms and Armor of Arabia" 1994) and Buttin, collection catalog 1933.
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Old 8th May 2022, 02:15 PM   #92
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Wonderful grouping!! These are excellent examples of these sa'if of the Arab sphere. It is important to note that this does not mean 'Arabian' as in Arabia proper, but in the places where Arabs populate the regions, not meaning to get into ethnic discussion.
By the same token, the Moroccan example has long been known colloquially as a 'nimcha', by collectors, but overall, these are all simply termed sa'if.

These are likely 19th century but could be earlier, especially the one you note as Yemeni, which is actually more to the Hadhramaut regions (as described in Elgood, "Arms & Armour of Arabia".
Thanks! As it happens a copy of that book is on its way to me now from the US. Took me longer to find a copy of the book that I could afford than the actual sword! Look forward to reading it.

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The example with extended crossguard ring has also been somehow classified in collectors circles as 'zanzibari', however in Buttin (1933) these are noted as Arab sa'if, with no mention of Zanzibar. Naturally these were present there, but by no means were they exclusively from there. It seems this classification appeared in a number of references in 1980s.

The blades on these are invariably trade blades, German of course, and the blades are typically early 19th c. These were most typically acquired from Bedouin traders by armorers mounting blades into hilts in locations often in Yemen. With the Moroccan examples (which were often Algerian as well) these were mounted with trade blades, and armorers often added the 'sickle marks' approximating the so called 'Genoan' marks.

The straight blade on the 'Zanzibar' example is of a type of trade blade usually into Ethiopia late 19th c. which usually ended up traded into Yemeni markets. These were often mounted in Yemen on silver hilts of a different form. Ethiopian swords often went into Arabia as the Arabs were after the rhino horn typically on the Ethiopian shotels for their kahdjhar daggers.
Ah, very interesting. I thought there might be a connection to the Omani kattara (although the tip on the Zanzibar is not as rounded), and I knew a lot of the Moroccan blades are European, but I hadn't made the link between the straight bladed Zanzibar saif to the Ethiopian market. The straight bladed gurade swords I've seen usually have different styles of fullering.

EDIT: And to add, I really like how that red contrasts with the silver on that karabela's scabbard! You see that on Dha scabbards sometimes as well.
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Old 8th May 2022, 05:21 PM   #93
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By far the best book on North African swords and daggers is:

Eric Claude “The small catalog of Moroccan and Algerian edged weapons”

It is a bilingual French/English private edition limited to 200 copies. Published in 2020.
I was lucky to order it when it just came out. Not on Bookfinder as of today.
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Old 8th May 2022, 07:40 PM   #94
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Interestingly, the Omani 'kattara' (another collector oriented term, these are simply termed, again, sa'if). The curved blade version of these open hilts of somewhat flattened cylindrical style are actually the 'kattara', and these are usually with German trade blades.

The open hilt broadswords regarded as kattara over the years with the rounded tip are typically with very thin, flexible blades as used in the traditional dance ceremonies...however these were popular with Omani merchants and prominent figures as status aligned accoutrements, these often had trade blades.

In Burton (1884) these 'kattara' open hilt swords are noted as 'Zanzibar' swords, just as listed in Demmin (1877), however they are profoundly Omani and found in the Omani ruled Sultanate of Zanzibar.

Its great you have the Elgood book coming! It is one of the few references which direct us through the mysteries of Arabian arms, and Robert Elgood is one of the most tenacious and thorough researchers.

The Moroccan (Maghrebi) version of these sa'ifs indeed used all manner of trade blades. These have even been found with ANDREA FERARA broadsword blades and other European examples. These were long termed (incorrectly) 'nimcha' which has become a colloquially used term for them.

The 'Zanzibar' type of Arab sa'if as discussed, was present in Zanzibar in degree, much as were many forms, as this was a busy trade entrepot. However while there are some examples with motif distinguishing the Zanzibar location, others are simply corresponding to hilt forms known from western India into the Arab sphere. As noted, the trade blades into Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) often filtered into trade centers in Aden and Yemen. It is not surprising to see them on various type hilts.

The Ethiopian shotels with straight blades, like most of these trade blade variations had different fullering in accord with which suppliers were providing them. There were mostly British with many German types. Many of these blades coming into Harar to Armenian merchants were inscribed with Amharic inscriptions and Lion of Judah, so often Arabian swords from Yemen are found with these. The term gurade typically typically refers to European style stirrup hilt sabers provided into Ethiopian military strata.

Thank you for the note on the red over silver banding. Elgood notes this as a Hadhramati characteristic coming from swords mounted in Hyderabad India in accord with their mercenary forces active there. These kinds of styles found as far as SE Asia, and even Central Asia (Uzbekistan) are often found in the Indian subcontinent conduit. A distinctly Arab feature however in the silver work is the element known as the aghrab (=scorpion), which aligns with the evil eye superstitions.

In pics:
An Omani 'dance' sa'if as used in Zanzibar Funoon ceremony. These have commonly become known as 'kattara'.
Next is likely a Manding saber from Mali, but this is remarkably similar to the curved sabers also from Zanzibar which are actually deemed 'kattara' by the Omanis. These are noted to often have German 'cavalry' blades.
It is interesting to see the similarity of the cylindrical hilt of Manding sabers with this type of pommel........trade caravans westward which often had Zanzibar origins traveled through the interior carrying Omani influences into the Sahara, especially Timbuktu (Mali). Here eastward influences from as far as Morocco interacted traveling eastward back to Zanzibar.
Moroccan s'boula are known in Zanzibar (Burton calls them Zanzibar swords), so the cross diffusion of these weapons is certainly viable.
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Old 8th May 2022, 09:26 PM   #95
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Werecow, this is a really nice Zanzibari, or probably more appropriately, East African saif. Great to see it complete with its wooden scabbard. It is interesting that these swords almost never have any blade marks.

I know nimcha refers to the overall sword size, but since I do not have a better word to describe this hilt type, I will keep using the term "nimcha" here. When it comes to the difference between Maghrebi, Arab and East African nimcha hilts, the shape of the grip and especially the angle at which the pommel is tilted is in my experience more important in determining the area of origin than the presence or lack of a guard ring. Some Maghrebi examples, especially earlier ones have a guard ring. Then there are some examples from Oman/Zanzibar and the Comoros without a guard ring at all.

Here are my few examples, of which the one with the straight, single edged blade has no guard ring and a sort of a "crab claw" like guard instead.
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Old 9th May 2022, 08:50 PM   #96
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I think that's actually the first nimcha/saif I've seen with a backsword blade! Very interesting. EDIT: Actually, there are a couple on the first pages of this very thread! My memory is not great. }|:oP

I've seen a few of the Manding swords with straight blades as well. Sometimes it's easy to get them confused, especially when they are not the kind with the bulbous scabbards. Case in point:



Contrast with:


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Old 15th February 2024, 11:27 PM   #97
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Default Movement and influence of sword style across The Indian Ocean.

And as a gentle bump to bring this thread into focuss with details being looked at in other related work including Nimcha, Moplah, Karabela Kasthane, etc etc...

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Old 16th February 2024, 12:39 AM   #98
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Default Design movement across the Indian Ocean.

I wanted to bump this thread so it can be easily refered to on looking at design features and with detail on sword style movement across the Indian Ocean and beyond...

And as a gentle bump to bring this thread into focuss with details being looked at in other related work including Nimcha, Moplah, Karabela, Kasthane, as well as Moroccan, North African and Ottoman variants etc...

It should be noted that "The Pirate Coast" by Sir Charles Belgrave (1966) on page 189 reminds us that it was the Pirate situation in and around The Indian Ocean which was vitally important to controlling the waves in the region 150 years before he published his book The Pirate Coast in the mid 1960s... thus it is reasonable to assume that Piracy was an important influence on sword design style across the region. ADDED To that it is likely that Slavery was a root cause in turbo charging sword design and movement to and from the great entre ports such as Zanzibar thus the reign of Oman over that part of the globe through Saaid The Great is instrumental in our understanding in that regard...

One specific style that hardly seemed to exist prior to his rule is what we know as the Nimcha...however this is not what the local people called it. In Oman for example this was and is still known as Habashi or Hibashi... and is well illustrated by Butin (but incorrectly named) in his charts of swords in this thread. Butin does however draw very accurately the broader end section of about 12 inches to the tip which closely resembles the Moplah form from the Malibar Coast.. The chart showing this broader Yelman is at thread top right and left of his chart at xxx1
...
As a conundrum the similarity with the Moroccan Nimcha is quite uncanny... and in the case of the link to swords of the Great Bands of London and from a book I read by the late Anthony North and carried on the waist of Thomas Blose ...A Captain of that era... (this seems to be related to the Moroccan form) further amazing is the likeness in hilt form and quillons to an Ottoman style however what the link is between African and Arabian forms is a little foggy to say the least except to say somewhat blandly that the styles are essentially related across frontiers loosely by trade, exploration and war to which I would add religion and slavery...

My aim in this post is to commence the launch of a series of thoughts by taking the Zanzibari Nimcha design feature one by one to see where influence from whatever source can be identified...

Thus I will open with the Scabbard... which is identified as Omani Style with distinctive leather sworls in a circular design seen on Omani Sayf and Kittara scabbards... identical and not seen on other nations scabbards.

Post 16 above and other pictures dotted around on this thread show many similarities in Nimcha design both types given a sort of grouping by Butin into African and Arabian types with charts again shown at thread and interestingly showing the broader Yelaman on Chart xxx11.Top right and Left. It is suggested and in support of Jims research that this is Moplah influence from across the Indian Ocean on the Malibar Coast..

Who gave the name Nimcha to this weapon? Butin seems to have taken the view that these were all Nimcha types but we know that none of the local peoples called them Nimcha...a term perhaps coined after the short coat ...or waist coat of the Baluchi mercenaries working for Saaiid The Great in the Indian Ocean. Omanis call the type Habashi. Nimcha seems to be a collectors name.

The main hilt shape appears to be very similar to the Turkish Palash style including the general format of the grip pommel and cross guard knuckle guard and turned down quillons but with a much less broad blade which in the Turkish type is a massive cleaver like blade. See thread for examples.

Hilt design also includes a more lavish expertise known to have been iused by artesans in Zanzibar in the art of Ivory adornment usually seen on hand held mirrors and illustrated on the hilt seen here at post. The style is also shown on thread of a mirror from Zanzibar in that style. I wouild expect this to adorn a VIP or rulers sword or an important trader or sea captain. See also how this hilt has spread to places in the Indian Ocean by viewing a similar hilt from the New Caledonia Islands...
at Thread. Post 64.....
From gravure tirée de l'Illustration, 1891,
le sultan Said Athmann, chef des rebelles d'Anjoun,
interné en Nouvelle-Calédonie.


Atop the Zanzibar pommel is a turtle which is the same type as lives around the tropical Island of Zanzibar...thus is a signature design feature of the location...and suggests something related to Oceans and or Sailing?and related to Zanzibar.

A Royal Insignia...!!!! Next is a quite remarkable signature feature representing the signature of HM Saaiid The Great himself ...See picture below for exact example and details of the entire hilt... On thread is the signature of the ruler and further there is an Omani sword hilt with this kriss cross format which is what I suggest also a basic signature
using silver stiching ofdten seen on Omani Sayf and Kittara swords hilts...and repeated on Khanjar belts....... and view the sword makers effort in reproducing a follow the dots style of design. This is accurate insofar as down to the minute blemishes seemingly tiny floral decoration possibly inspired by the herbs growing on Zanzibar...between the letters which are of course in Arabic... read from right to left and done geometrically on each quillon ...The quillon of the edged cutting blade under the knuckle guard is the correct one to read and at thread is an almost exact perfect example of the Rulers signature at least in part..

For the reasons above I place this post proving the Zanzibari Oman nature of this weapon and underpin its Zanzibari origin because of the design style including the Turtle format above the Pommel,the lavish Ivory Zanzibar adornment on some Nimcha and the Omani Origin of the leather scabbard...on I suggest a formal, regimental sword probably Omani Zanzibari Naval by definition and a weapon made up primarily through influence across the Indian Ocean...and Oman and carrying the Rulers signature on the Quillons..My initial thoughts on these words were that they spelled BAHR...which means SEA...but having looked at the rulers signature I would switch to that construct..

Peter Hudson.
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Old 16th February 2024, 01:03 PM   #99
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Peter thank you for bumping this thread here so perhaps it can coincide with the interesting results with the 'Arab Nimchas of the Pirate Coast' thread.
It seems there has been notable progress in advancing the general awareness and identification of these swords thanks to the valuable input from everyone who has contributed.

Thank you as well for itemizing the various elements, as these might be discussed and reviewed singly with the possible influences involved.
There are so many subtle symbolic religious and sometimes talismanic devices often incorporated with decoration that perhaps might provide support for more specific identifications.
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Old 16th February 2024, 08:03 PM   #100
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Originally Posted by Jim McDougall View Post
Peter thank you for bumping this thread here so perhaps it can coincide with the interesting results with the 'Arab Nimchas of the Pirate Coast' thread.
It seems there has been notable progress in advancing the general awareness and identification of these swords thanks to the valuable input from everyone who has contributed.

Thank you as well for itemizing the various elements, as these might be discussed and reviewed singly with the possible influences involved.
There are so many subtle symbolic religious and sometimes talismanic devices often incorporated with decoration that perhaps might provide support for more specific identifications.
Thanks Jim, I note the book "The Pirate Coast" by Sir Charles Belgrave (1966) you first quoted is also available as a free electronic read on the web and it has much detail of the region. Being all about ocean and seagoing in the Indian Ocean I found it very informative. The thrust of sword style and design transfer was driven by all the usual factors and enhanced by Piracy. Regards, Peter Hudson.
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Old 22nd February 2024, 12:27 AM   #101
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Posts 19 and 24 and several others with partial details on the likely linkages across the Nimcha range including Butins charts (displaying nearly 50 Variants) are here on this thread...The Pallasch style of weapon is central to linking all Nimcha both Arabian and African to likely Ottoman origins particularly in hilt forms.
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Old 22nd February 2024, 12:59 PM   #102
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I wanted to bring together the strengths of both this thread and the thread close to its content Arab Cutlasses of the Pirate Coast ... thus bringing into focus the cross pollination in sword design in a region which developed its Lingua Franka as spoken arabic thus the many items and ways of life that were virtually the same and as well as of a very similar faith...In other words the CULTURAL aspects. In choosing just one additional technology ...that of the Lanteen Sail it states ...Arabs Used Lateen Sails for Muslim-led Fleets
The Arabs used the lateen sail thru the Copts, mostly the crewmen for Muslim-led fleets for centuries. It was the Arabs who developed the lateen sail. Later on, sailors used it in the Mediterranean. Only after the 14th century did the Atlantic and Baltic vessels switch to using the lateen sail. Northern Europe adapted to using the lateen sail in the Late Middle Ages.

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Old 22nd February 2024, 01:07 PM   #103
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Default Just to end on a scenic note on The Indian Ocean

The Cultural aspect of the Lingua Franka was the vital ingredient on design flow of technology weapons building design clothing food jewelery music dance poetry religion in fact almost every aspect of life in The Indian Ocean and related nations.
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Old 22nd February 2024, 04:39 PM   #104
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It was the Arabs who developed the lateen sail. Later on, sailors used it in the Mediterranean...
Regarding the lateen sail, several authors have suggested in the past that it was introduced to the Mediterranean by the Arabs, possibly having originally appeared in India. However, the discovery of new representations and literary references in recent decades has led scholars to push back the appearance of the lateen sail in the Levant to the late Hellenistic or early Roman periods.
The Portuguese around the 15th century adapted this sail to the famous Portuguese caravel, becoming one of the main characteristics of these vessels. It helped the great navigators in their great expeditions, and Vasco da Gama was one of the first to use it for this purpose.
(Casson 1995, p. 243–245, fig. 180–182. Basch 2001, p. 57–64.Campbell 1995, p. 8–11. Pomey 2006, p. 326–329).



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Old 22nd February 2024, 06:23 PM   #105
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Just to refer readers to another region and style not far from Zanzibar and on Library http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showth...24894&page=3at
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