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Old 15th January 2021, 12:21 AM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Bay Area
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Default Nimcha for Comments and Musings on Nimchas

I have always wanted an older nimcha and I believe this one is 18th century or earlier. Buttin shows a similar one as #991 in his catalogue and dates it to the 14th/15th century, but with all due respect to Buttin I feel such dating is off by a few centuries. I am not aware of any evidence of nimchas existing as a form prior to the 16th century.
The grip is entirely encased in brass, which has traces of gilding. There is also green paint or enamel in the recesses. A stone must have once been set on the pommel on the site which faces outward when the sword is worn on the left hip, but it has been lost. The guard is also brass with engraved decoration.
Claude would classify this as an Algerian nimcha, which seems justified based on decoration and some provenanced examples. However, Claude seems to classify any nimcha with an older blade with a pronounced yelman as Algerian regardless of some having Moroccan hilts. Such attribution creates two major assumptions - first, that prior to the 19th century, the nimcha was not used in Morocco and second, that during the 19th century it fell out of use in Algeria. It is plausible that the nimcha did indeed go out of fashion in Algeria and the rest of the nominally Ottoman controlled parts of North Africa, replaced by Ottoman weapons such as palas, kilidjes and shamshirs. But is it also plausible that the nimcha hilt was not used in Morocco until the late 18th century?
The blade is fairly typical of what we see on earlier (or Algerian, if you like that classification) nimchas, with two fullers and a blade which narrows between the ricasso and the yelman. It could be European made, and it has markings on one side, which seem like an attempt at a signature imitation, perhaps by an illiterate smith.
It is interesting to observe the "peaks" on the pommel, similar to peaks on Omani and Eastern African nimchas. The hilts from two opposite sites of Africa are too similar to have been developed independently. Buttin proposes an eastern origin of the nimcha, with the hilt a stylized dragon inspired by weapons such as the Sinhalese kastane. I personally find North's argument for an origin from the Italian storta more convincing, given that certain elements of the quillon block and the entire guard itself were probably directly taken from stortas. That being said, it seems that the nimcha hilt made it to Southern Arabia and the Swahili coastline almost at the same time it appeared in the Mediterranean. This actually makes quite a bit of sense when one considers that the Ottoman expeditions in the Indian Ocean coincided with the height of the Ottoman Naval Power in the Mediterranean during the 16th century - the period the nimcha appears as a form.
Anyway, enough rambling, here are the pictures.
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