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Old 29th January 2021, 04:34 PM   #1
JoeCanada42
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Default Old Nimcha for Info and to share

Hello This is a nimcha I acquired a few weeks ago from ebay.
I am curious for opinions on age, size, markings, and region of manufacture
the blade only is a little over 26 inch long, and its 1 inch wide.
what type of horn is the handle?
are those morocan berber markings, on the case? and what about the carvings on the blade?
the balance point is just about the center of the blades decorative carvings.
thanks for looking and sharing any info.
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Old 30th January 2021, 01:03 AM   #2
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additional photo
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Old 2nd February 2021, 06:01 AM   #3
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Congratulations on your sword, it is Moroccan from the 19th century. The hilt looks bovine from the pictures.
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Old 2nd February 2021, 02:09 PM   #4
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If I put a torch behind my ears, I'm a rhino...
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Old 2nd February 2021, 06:28 PM   #5
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Thanks TVV, it probably is bovine, would be cool to know which species if possible, I read a little on some other threads, either way its not real rhino,
but, Kubur is right lol

could it be artistic design or just chance that the supposed horn part of the handles form is translucent, and by chance that there is a second horn, maybe the handle shrunk.

either way I really like it , the color and shape, and phenomenon

And the symbols! on the blade, on one side, in the center is a squiggle. wich i think i could have found 1 or 2 interpretations in berber/ amazigh for.
and the symbol on the case is similar to a couple berber symbols also.
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Old 2nd February 2021, 06:38 PM   #6
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Could the blade also be locally forged in the Maghreb/ morocco, or an imported blade?
the fullers look wonky...

and the quillon is definitely the most primitive ive seen on a nimcha, gots a cool look though.
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Old 15th February 2021, 04:06 PM   #7
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has anyone ever seen one of the nimchas made en mass for the siege of Malta?
this sword seems made more for function than for show like some fancy adorned nimchas.

i also get the interpretation the symbols on this blade , were put there to imbue it with functional properties, not as a stasus symbol or decoration.

i figure this squiggly line is for cutting,
the other symbol on opposite side of blade for puncturing /thrusting,
and the scabbard symbol for protection.

how does one date this sword? forgive me i am typing this response and didn't take note of who, but someone said 19C . sounds fair enough but how was this determined I am curious?

Thanks for any input
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Old 15th February 2021, 05:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeCanada42
has anyone ever seen one of the nimchas made en mass for the siege of Malta?

how does one date this sword? forgive me i am typing this response and didn't take note of who, but someone said 19C . sounds fair enough but how was this determined I am curious?

Thanks for any input
The nimcha as a form does not seem to have existed prior to the 16th century, and we are talking late 16th century at best. The nimchas with good provenance that exist in museum collections were captured from Barbary pirates in the mid 17th century, and some as late as the 18th century. There is one nimcha of very high quality in the Hofburg armory in Vienna that Eric Claude has dated to the 16th century, though no reasoning for that dating is provided other than the blade is an old European broadsword blade. Another nimcha in the same museum is a better studied form from the 17th/18th centuries, and I suspect both may date from that period. If someone knows of an earlier example, I would love to see it. The reason I am typing all this is to show that there may not have been many, or any nimchas during the siege of Malta in 1565.

When it comes to dating swords, in the absence of a strong provenance or a date on the blade or the fittings, the only option is to do it by comparing the features of the sword to other examples. This is where the forum search function can be extremely helpful.
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Old 15th February 2021, 06:18 PM   #9
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I agree 100% with the above

And I will add that no elements on your sword can support an early date, 18th or 17th c. So your sword must be late 19th c or even early 20th c.

Your quillons are a bit flat and crude, not the typical water drops from the 19thc.

So either your sword is Berber tribal 19th c. or it's a basic nimcha from the early 20th c.

I vote for the tribal nimcha with local engravings on the blade.

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Old 15th February 2021, 07:09 PM   #10
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thanks TVV & Kubur , I did see many Nimchas on this forum, even the thread with the many Nimchas in the museum. there was a flyssa sold recently by the same person i acquired my Nimcha from, and the flyssa had the same red number markings, so they must have some connection, and I am quite certain my sword is Berber also.

I am just trying to to learn how the age of a nimcha is estimated. i am still unaware of the specific attributes the older vesions would have, besides the rhino horn and being less primitive in look. but because my nimcha looked primitive i thought it could be older,. I will try to take a look at those nimchas you suggested with the provenance.

I read about the seige of Malta somewhere while researching Nimchas and I though , I would like to see what one that old looks like... so ya thanks TVV
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Old 16th February 2021, 11:36 PM   #11
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The materials used are not necessarily a good indicator of age. There are some great rhino hilt examples from the 19th century. The shape of the grip and the guard are more important. Yours are both typical of Moroccan swords from the 19th century. Fortunately, there are a lot of pictures from the 19th centuries of this type of hilt, as well as examples captured by the French and the Spanish in their colonial military conflicts in the area following the Berlin Congress. I am attaching some Spanish trophies. If those were from the Rif War, it would date them to the 1920s.
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Old 17th February 2021, 01:27 AM   #12
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thanks for more input, Those are very nice swords, TVV, with what looks like Rhino , prestige prizes i would think, while my sword appears less fancy to put it nicely, which makes me think maybe the user was more likely to be carrying an older sword.

i did see many with similar bone handles as mine and i could attach a photo, again a much nicer sword.
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Old 17th February 2021, 08:39 AM   #13
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I have always found the 'Maghrebi' sa'if (known as nimchas) fascinating and attractive swords. Teodor (TVV) has studied these probably more than anyone else I know and frankly I have learned a great deal on them from his insights and Kubur's well placed agreement on his comments I agree with as well.

As has been noted, there is little evidence of this hilt form prior to very late 16th century, early 17th. The hilt form probably evolved from Italian forms of the 16th century and diffused through the Arab trade spheres.

The term Maghrebi includes both Morocco and Algeria, where these swords prevailed, and were used by many tribal factions and groups, many of which were of course part of the Berber confederations. They were assembled with varied components following the traditional form hilt and typically with trade blades from various sources.

The reason the 19th century date assessment is most reasonable is that this period is that these were traditionally made up, often remounting older blades, and most recognized and had provenance to the colonial periods, as Teodor has noted.

The notes and suggestions on the symbols and decoration are most interesting, but typically these are most often aesthetically applied in these kinds of contexts. It is always tempting to seek symbolic imbuement on these ethnographic forms, and in some cases (as on the flyssa) they do exist, but not in those on this sword in my opinion.

The 'red numbers' on this example seem to me to correspond to such numbers from museum or collection markings.

The often 'lesser' quality of many of these 'nimchas' does not disqualify them as genuine tribal weapons, as these were still kept and worn traditionally by men in more recent times. Much of the character of these remounted weapons were reliant on the skills and access too materials of the person doing the work.

Attached is my example of nimcha which believe is of course 19th c. probably c.1830s? with the 'tear drop' effect quillon terminals.
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Old 17th February 2021, 02:13 PM   #14
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Nice Sword Jim, Gold embellishment near the hilt? i have seen others done with gold or silver. I was curious if my sword was missing that small piece, maybe someone sold it for scrap if it ever had a piece like that.. not shure what that piece is called.

I cleaned the peace of metal on my scabbard, and i wonder what its made out of? gold gilded silver, or just fancy colored brass..

I found a Website http://ageaeditora.com/en/nimcha-616/

where they have a Nimcha Very similar to mine.

this is what they say about date :
We canīt offer an exact dating of the piece as there is no documentary record of itīs entry in the museum. However, due to itīs geographical origin and that Itīs entrance in the museumīs collection is previous to 1898 (start date of publication of the newsletter of the Commision of Monuments), we can suppose this is a sword manufactured in the 19th century. For this reason Is not too far fetched to suppose that it was used in the North African colonial wars of the second and third quarter of the 19th century. It could be a war spoil or have been purchased as a souvenir.
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Old 17th February 2021, 02:27 PM   #15
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here is the peice of metal on the scabbard after i cleaned it.

it is very similar to many Berber symbols, some for protection against the evil eye.

the symbol on the blade, the squiggly line, doesn't seem much like a decoration being a simple squiggly line in the center of actual floral decorations.

i have also found the squiggly line in Berber as a symbol for metal workers, and a symbol for the snake, a masculine symbol.

when i wield the sword, i really get the impression they were put there for a imbuement purpose.
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Old 17th February 2021, 06:57 PM   #16
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Thank you Joe, it is interesting looking into these sabers which we know as 'nimcha' , but are actually simply termed in the Arab world, sa'if. As shown by Charles Buttin (1933), these Arab sabers are simply known by this term in the many regions they occur in which extended throughout those in the Arab trade and colonial spheres.

It is well known that forms of this type sword became as some point, the collecting community began to regard a certain hilt style with a ring on the guard as a 'Zanzibar' version. We have discovered, that as these same hilts were regarded by Buttin, one of the foremost authorities of his time, as 'Arab sa'if' collectively with these more well known types.
This example (illustrated) is one of these 'zanzibar nimchas' and was apparently among a grouping of these (about 40) acquired in Yemen in the 80s. These were among weapons presumed for use in the ongoing civil unrest in those regions.
Note the triple cross markings on the blade, which seem among the many spurious copies of presumably European markings found on many trade blades.

The next example I add here is an earlier type blade, which is more the falchion types with flared tip which would have been used on sabers perhaps even of those seen at Malta and Lepanto (though this blade is not quite that early). The hilting on this is of the 'karabela' style which comes from Ottoman form of late 16th century and became well known in Turkish and Iraqi areas into Europe.
As seen in "Arms and Armour of Arabia" (Robert Elgood, 1994) these remained in use traditionally well into the 20th century, and much as the form seen in the OP here which certainly found use with the notorious Barbary pirates.....these were used notably by pirates in Muscati regions in Arabia.

As discussed, much earlier blades were often rehilted as they changed hands and in accord with traditionally held design through not only generations, but centuries. As these were typically more ersatz weapons for rank and file, many almost munitions grade, the higher quality of those for higher station persons was obviously more prevalent.
The gold metal band at the base of the grip on the hilt is simply a bolster (not sure of Arabic term) and perhaps approximates the wire wrap on Islamic shamshirs. While decorative, this may have once had pragmatic value in strengthening hilt in cutting blows.
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Old 18th February 2021, 01:35 AM   #17
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Very Cool Info Thanks Jim,
So maybe all Nimchas Are "Arab" saifs, but all Arab saifs are not Nimchas?
That one sword you posted with the Karabela Cross gaurd and wood Handle also more Karabela Shaped. if it was acquired elsewhere would it still be called Nimcha? I dont get how that specific sword is called a Nimcha, Maybe a Saif, but isnt Saif just a broad category word Like Saber.,,, In my Interpretation Nimcha or small sword, is what i would call a Hangar, like a small pirate sword.

and it would look primitive like a pirate sword, like the sword you posted with the crosses on the blade, The more elaborate gold embellished swords aren't really as small swords, and are more Arab styled , Sabre sized, Saif..

just my opinion
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Old 18th February 2021, 01:45 AM   #18
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I find the Nimchas extra forward facing quillons remind me more of portuguese crab swords, then arab sabres. my opinion.
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Old 18th February 2021, 02:47 AM   #19
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All wolves are Canines, all Canines are not dogs. The domestic dog is 98% wolf. lines blur between different members of the same family. Foxes are canines, but not wolves, Maned Wolves are not wolves but are canines.

All nimcha are saif, not all saif are nimcha, some saif are part nimcha. karabala hilts are not nimcha hilts.

All berries are fruits, but not all fruits are berries. A pineapple is a group of berries. a banana is a berry, a strawberry is NOT a berry, blackberries are NOT berries either. Not all fruits are even called fruits. A tomato is a fruit. An avocado is a berry. So is a watermelon.

Who said names have to be logical?
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Old 19th February 2021, 02:28 AM   #20
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Kronckew, I agree with you,
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Old 19th February 2021, 02:47 AM   #21
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I would like to elaborate a little more on my interpretation of the markings on the blade,

first the cutting symbol,, nowadays we use scissors and we cut on the segmented line, in snipping type cuts, (------)

if you cut with a blade, you wave the blade back and forth, in a sawing motion, if you were to draw the cutting motion on a surface , with movement,(~~~~)

Aswell the the squiggly line is even more evident, as a visual representation of cutting ; -
In this experiment I provided for example, wich you are invited to recreate.

for the cut, i drew from the top down , one time is enough to get results, but if you repeat the cut motion a few times the pattern only becomes move evident.

for the puncture, it is self explanitory aswell.
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Old 19th February 2021, 03:43 AM   #22
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Joe, I agree with you that there is likely a meaning behind the decoration on the blade of your nimcha. What looks like floral decoration to us, often had a symbolic meaning to the original owner and the engraver. That being said, I personally do not have any expertise on Moroccan art and culture to allow me to recognize the significance of the motives. The knowledge of the members of this forum is pretty amazing though, and hopefully someone else would be able to give you an answer.
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Old 19th February 2021, 12:25 PM   #23
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Joe, these observations on the possible meanings in the marking motif on the blade of your nimcha are most interesting. While my earlier comments on these kinds of markings were somewhat pragmatic, the deeper meanings in Berber symbolism are indeed perhaps in degree sometimes incorporated into decorative motif on weaponry.

With regard to the 'flyssa', the sword associated with the Kabyle tribes of Berbers in Algeria, the decorative motif on these is a combination of early Byzantine artistic character along with talismanic symbols which indeed have protective purpose against the 'evil eye'. This is a common feature on the weaponry of tribal peoples' folk religion, often in the form of the 'aghrab', a symbolic device seen on Arabian swords.....and in the case of the triangular device in linear design on the flyssa, known as the 'fibula'.

These kinds of symbols and designs are as noted, often found on the edged weaponry of North Africa, which includes of course, a predominantly Berber population.

It is important to note that the Berber designation refers to an ethnic group of many tribal confederations and nations across coastal North Africa typically collectively regarded as 'Imazighen'. The term 'Berber' referring to Barbary, was not generally used until 19th c.

The Berber people are comprised of many tribal confederations, and while largely Muslim, still maintain their own folk religions, dialectic languages and of course symbolisms.

In the "Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons" (Tarussuk & Blair, 1986) in discussion on the 'flyssa', if I recall (the book is not handy at the moment), the authors suggest that much of the symbolism used in the motif of the swords occurs also on the textiles of the Kabyle people.

This would suggest that the symbolism and devices used on Berber weapons in decorative motif may well be found in the larger scope of Berber material culture including textiles, rugs.

Many elements of motif, as previously noted, come from various influences, such as the markings found on European trade blades, such as the 'Genoan' sickle marks, cross and orb and various cosmological devices, moon, stars, sun......though I am not specifying these to only Berber motif. There were likely Ottoman influences, with the curious designs of the 'toughra' perhaps copied in degree.

With the nimcha examples I showed in my post #13, the arc and star at the forte resembles that emblem used to signify 'the Rif' regions of Morocco.
In example #16, the three crosses on the blade of this nimcha appear to have been notably used by the Jabala confederacy of Berbers in Morocco, also in the Rif. These crosses were associated I believe with Raisuli (1871-1925), the noted Sharif of the tribes in the Rif .

Returning to the blade on the example of the OP, these triple fuller blades are well known on nimcha throughout the Barbary regions (from Morocco to Algeria, Tunis and Tripoli) and are imports, mostly perceived as German.

The attached are:
A Moroccan tribesman wearing a s'boula dagger along with photos of one of these, illustrating motif.

Next is a cut down example of one of these triple fuller blades having the crosses and a moon added. Note that these moons in paired form are common on Tuareg blades and Hausa from N. Nigeria through Saharan regions well into Algeria and Sudan. The crosses are well known on the koummya daggers known primarily in Morocco and Algeria.

The map shows the west, northwest regions of Morocco and the Rif, of the Jebala Berbers and tribal groups among them.
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Old 21st February 2021, 06:22 PM   #24
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Thanks, Tvv for the encouragement in thinking the symbols have meaning.
Thank you Jim for Putting together all this great knowledge. I am still interested and researching these triple fuller blades seen as imports.

Jim, it is interesting u mentioned these symbols would appear on the local textiles, because in researching another African symbol I did find it in textiles .
these "Berber" symbols, I find in their Henna body paint, and i have found similarity to Voodoo Veves which I find interesting. particularly the marking on my swords scabbard,- I have so many interpretations I wouldn't know where to start. On my scabbards symbol, the borders are highlighted with border lines which I didn't include in my drawing depiction. after cleaning that piece the border lines around the bordering scroll symbols are more visible. These bordering scrolling symbols ,should also have symbolic name & meaning,(like snake skeleton etc..) like what Tvv said about the floral scrolling depictions.

also I noticed this much earlier & didnt pay it much notice, but it is worth sharing, there is a name and date on the scabbard, the name is not legible anymore, (its English in cursive,) and the date 1891
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Old 21st February 2021, 06:29 PM   #25
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Jim, The S'boula you posted with the Eyes on the handle is very nice, the Scabbard also has very similar symbols to mine.
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Old 22nd February 2021, 01:28 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeCanada42
Thanks, Tvv for the encouragement in thinking the symbols have meaning.
Thank you Jim for Putting together all this great knowledge. I am still interested and researching these triple fuller blades seen as imports.

Jim, it is interesting u mentioned these symbols would appear on the local textiles, because in researching another African symbol I did find it in textiles .
these "Berber" symbols, I find in their Henna body paint, and i have found similarity to Voodoo Veves which I find interesting. particularly the marking on my swords scabbard,- I have so many interpretations I wouldn't know where to start. On my scabbards symbol, the borders are highlighted with border lines which I didn't include in my drawing depiction. after cleaning that piece the border lines around the bordering scroll symbols are more visible. These bordering scrolling symbols ,should also have symbolic name & meaning,(like snake skeleton etc..) like what Tvv said about the floral scrolling depictions.

also I noticed this much earlier & didnt pay it much notice, but it is worth sharing, there is a name and date on the scabbard, the name is not legible anymore, (its English in cursive,) and the date 1891
You bet Joe, Im glad I could add something useful, and welcome the opportunity to learn more on these aspects of these weapons.
Actually, while many of these symbols, motifs and decorations exist in remarkable similarity throughout the vast Berber sphere, they may have differing connotation somewhat depending on the regions and tribal groups.

With the West African symbols from the Vodun religion, many of these, which could have some representation in degree from Berber symbols, have indeed turned up in the 'Voodoo' veves. These Caribbean symbols derive from the Catholic Faith combined with Vodun becoming Santeria.

Naturally all of these are represented throughout the material culture of all these groups in many ways. What is often surprising is that the subject of symbols and markings of these kinds in ethnographic weapons are seldom, if ever, touched on in any depth. The interpretation of these is so highly subjective and deeply arcane that few wish to enter these areas.
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Old 22nd February 2021, 06:18 AM   #27
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My favourite Nimcha, and its star/eyebrow marking, roughly forged/pitted, gold designs on the guard. Wood grip replacement.

Posted originally HERE
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Old 22nd February 2021, 05:34 PM   #28
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The interpretation of these is so highly subjective and deeply arcane that few wish to enter these areas.,, I do like to, even if its just for fun...

Thanks for sharing you sword Kronckew I find it very interesting.
If I had to bet id say the wood handle could be original. looks like it could be 100 or 150 years old, and on a functional weapon id expect the wood handle to last. I dont know enough about the blades it looks older, But when your Nimcha was made assembled I bet it was with the wood handle. It looks like it matches. even the grain in the wood. your handle being of wood, and other nimcha handles with the more significant dragon shapes, remind me of Viking Boats...
Your Nimcha also on The Quillon has the three swirls wich look kinda like waves, matches the wood nautical viking theme, The image of the 3 swirls also look like Thors Hammer. also the actual "tear drop koftgari" on the quillons is very nice, gets me thinking maybe the whole reason the guard on nimchas has 3 prongs and not 2 or 4 may be symbolic. I looked at you original post and wish there was better photos, I suspect you eyelash mark is on the point of balance, and I like how the stars make a distance adequate to accommodate a limb or neck if cutting.

this may seem arcane but I was researching Orisha Gods recently specifically Ogun, and Shango. Shango In particular is significant to many .. is very Similar to Thor superficially.. just maybe "Viking" influence is understated

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Old 22nd February 2021, 09:05 PM   #29
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I've seen Viking jewelery (Thor's Hammer Mjolnir, for one) with similar spirals. (see below) Inote the Hammer head looks a lot like the decorated shape on the crossguard.

Here's a better HDR picture I took tonight, Lighting was not terribly good, might try again tomorrow in daylight. Sword was hung vertically on a ss hook in the finger area & rotated after.
p.s.- the stars & eyelash are on both sides.

Edited: Bit better exposure added:
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